Monday, January 10, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It?

In a conversation with editor DL King, she mentioned, a bit hesitantly, that many of my stories are romantic. Not romance, but romantic. While I grumbled a bit, I had to agree with her. I'd like to think I just write whatever scenario strikes me as hot, but apparently the scenario that most often strikes me as erotic is a committed couple rediscovering their relationship and making it stronger. (Rekindle from the Passion anthology is a good example of that) While I rarely write sweetness and light (my Chaos Magic series under my Jay Lygon pen name follows a very troubled relationship), love is always there.

One of the hallmarks of the romance genre is the HFN (happily for now) or HEA (happily ever after) ending. Critics sneer. It smells like formula, and formula stories = hack writing in their opinion. But is that really the case? I don’t think so. Many of my stories end happily for now or possibly happily ever after. It's not that I aim for that sort of ending, but when the characters get along and have fun together, it's reasonable to assume that when they leave the dressing room/hotel room/backseat of the car, they're going to continue the relationship.  Wouldn't you if you clicked with someone and just had great sex? What's unrealistic about that?

After reading some of the comments on Lisabet's post, I agree that seeing someone leave an unhappy relationship is a happy ending. Even if they don't leave it for another lover. Maybe even more so if they don't leave it for another lover. Being happy alone rather than miserable with someone is strength, and I like strong people. On the other hand, we deal with reader's expectations. Someone else in Lisabet's comments mentioned that in a murder mystery, we expect the mystery to be resolved. A murder is chaos and solving it brings back order and sense to life. I don't see a big difference between that and a romantic resolution where people find happiness.

My thoughts on romance are that we make our life choices, but in our imagination, we want to go back to the point where choices weren't made and every possibility was still open. In real life, who has two suitors vying for our heart? That's a common scenario in romance. Choice is there, and the real HFN or HEA is when the main character makes the right choice. Without saying that our current lovers are inadequate, through romance, the reader gets to experience trading up. I also think this is why romance readers are such voracious readers. Once the HEA has been achieved, the choices are gone, so you pick up another book and start over with new possibilities. Also, there's the physical thrill of feeling the joy of a new crush, even if it's through a character. Add to that the fact that women regularly sacrifice their needs for the good of others. Escaping into romance allows them to relax and disconnect from the burdens of the world. Again, I see nothing wrong with that. I think that it's healthy.

Lord knows I'm cynical. I don't have many delusions about people. I'm not a big fan of romance even though, as you can see, I think it deserves a lot more respect than it gets.  I think that some people are much better off being single. I don't think that a wedding is the ending, and I don't think it equals happiness for most people even though a wedding is often portrayed as the end game of love. But I'll admit that when a friend finds someone special, I'm rooting for their happy ever after.   Life is crap enough. I like happiness, and I secretly root for everyone to find it, even characters in books.


  1. Hi Kathleen,

    I like the re-assertion of the right to a happy ending because the characters merit it rather than because the publisher requires it.

    Just because a publisher insists on something doesn't make it wrong.

  2. MIke - if most writers are like me (which may be a long shot) we don't like being told what to do. Never mind if that's what we would have done anyway. The intrusion of the business end before the art part even gets a chance is annoying.

  3. Hi Kathleen

    I tried early on writing romance and found I couldn;t do it, which gave me a lot more respect for the genre. Its interesting what you say about wanting choices, and being able to start over again with each new book. I wonder if a lot of it is wishful thinking on the part of the readers, wanting to go back to a time when the choices were all open and the future was a mystery. I can relate to that.


  4. Hello, Kathleen,

    Not what I expected from your post at all! But I don't disagree with you. I understand, I think, what romance readers want. I just sometimes have a difficult time giving it to them.

    As Garce says, it's really a lot harder to write (effective) romance than you'd think. I definitely am not dissing the genre. (I actually wrote a guest blog post recently explaining why romance might save the world...)

    Thanks for an excellent post!

    Oh, and I definitely agree that the hottest scenes happen between (or among ;^)) people who love each other.

  5. I can't write romance genre. It's hard. Poetry is hard. Mysteries are hard. You have to really love it to do it well. That's why I'll stick with erotica. It's not easy to write sex well, but at least I enjoy the struggle.

  6. I find that if no one expects, or tells me to write a happy, romantic ending, I'm much more likely to come up with it on my own. But, when that constraint is put on at the start, it's much more difficult for me. I'm with Mike and Kathleen, I don't like being told what to do.

    Also, I usually write my hottest sex between strangers, acquaintances or friends. My love sex is sweeter, not nearly as hot--for the most part.


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