No, I’m not talking about cheap novels with the bodice-ripping covers. I’m doing my bi-annual post about writing romance.
Let’s attempt to take a fair approach to the subject of romance novels. There’s no question the topic brings scoffs and eye rolls from the majority of men. Romance traditionally grabs the hearts of females. It’s our gig—that romance thing. However, some women adore sappy romance while other ladies respond to the subtle stuff. Between over-the-top and undercover romance, the very word singes the ears of most males to the point where a more sensitive type man feels uncomfortable admitting to actually liking the thought of a little romance in a relationship or in story—albeit his idea of romance might not correspond to a female’s idea of romance.
Mike Duran did a post on romance some time ago. (Mike’s getting a lot of mileage out of my blog lately.) He intimated that for a man romance doesn’t really exist without the eventual trip to the bedroom—or wherever—for consummation of bodies. This makes sense to me because romance is all about the possibility of physical contact. Some CBA fiction refuses to address this normal desire.
Another reason I don’t think most men “like” romance is because they don’t want to “get in touch” with their vulnerability. No one likes to feel insecure, but men generally hate it more. And sensitive? Manly men balk at being called “sensitive” even when they are. How about inadequacy? When the men in books do it all right, say all the cool things, sweep every living version of a female off their feet? No way is any red-blooded American male going to read that kind of pap and drivel.
Another reason could be all the heart-pounding description associated with attraction. For men it’s quite simple really. You look, you like, you pursue, you conquer. Or not. What’s to write about or read about? All the drama makes for tedium and . . . embarrassment?
Writing instructors and their books repeatedly insist conflict must exist on every page, must be amped up and accelerated. What that can mean for romance is the never ending nauseating battle between guy and girl before the “happy” ending. It’s interesting that primarily only women find this intriguing.
Another flaw or perceived flaw of romance novels is the perfect guy and/or the perfect gal. He says all the right things—or she does all the right things. Or all the wrong things. He’s a bad boy. She’s a good girl. She’s a bad girl. He’s a good guy. Yes. I can testify these are part of the “nothing new under the sun” plot points of romance. However, in order to make these even remotely appealing, the characters must stand out in their authenticity of conduct, dialogue, and situational reactions to be effective or at least appealing. To me anyway.
Romance is something most everyone “feels” at some point in a relationship. It’s a piece of falling in love and maintaining that love. It varies in intensity for every couple. Physical expression of the heart’s love for another is supposed to run deep. The pleasure caps the romance. Discounting romance eliminates an important part of relationship.
Sad to say Christians often struggle in the bedroom just like unbelievers. They lose interest, they resent, they ignore, they play games, they reject, they lust after others outside their marriages. Romance becomes a thing of the past—or something they share with someone else—or something they replace with books and movies.
The motives for reading romance probably vary from escaping one’s reality to accentuating and appreciating the beauty of human love. There’s nothing inherently wrong with romance in real life, but it can take all kinds of wrong turns in literature. I don’t blame men for not wanting to read the typical romance novel. And it’s true: they’re written for women.
I love reading romance from a male author’s perspective. Harry M. Kraus, MD, writes a variety of medical novels. When he tackles romance in his stories, there’s some real pop, and it’s good stuff. Travis Thrasher handles romance from a gut-level perspective, and he’s good at it. Steven James gives a different perspective with the widowed genius-level FBI Geographic Profiler Patrick Bowers who fumbles with his attractions to particular women and can’t quite commit to bona fide pursuit even when the invitation is extended to him.
From a female author’s perspective, I love to take on the male position. I strive to be authentic which is ironic since the majority of novels I write won’t be read by men.
There’s no point in attempting to “woo” the male gender to read romance novels. But there is a point in making those novels authentic to whoever reads them. What that translates to is a variety of choices for romance readers. And since recent discussions all over the writers’ web confront the formulaic offerings produced by CBA, isn’t it time romance writing challenged the “accepted” norms for stories?
Father, romance was your idea. You’re the ultimate authority on all things “love”. Thank you for that, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.