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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Romance Writing and The Single Gal

You wouldn’t believe the number of people that think romance novels give women unrealistic expectations of love in the real world… And as I’m a single gal, it also seems to allow people to carry that misconception over a little so that they believe it also means I shouldn’t know how to write one either!!! One person recently, (who shall remain nameless to save their embarrassment and not mine you understand), when informed by a proud friend of mine that I wrote romance novels, whilst looking surprised, asked; ”Does she have much experience of romance then, I thought she was single?” Sheesh.

I guess to the former set of critics I’m the ideal example to back them up. I read these books from my early teens. In fact, I often kid my mother that her idea of sex education was Mills & Boon and pamphlets from the doctors left strewn around the house. I certainly don’t remember a sit down conversation on the subject! But rather than giving me an unrealistic expectation, I think what they did was make me believe it was possible to still find real love out there in a world that seems determined to make the subject more *practical* or worse still, more physically based. Yes, there is a certain practicality to it in the real world – but I think the fact that my characters often have to deal with some of the everyday troubles reflects how I feel on that subject. And the physical part of it is also important in the stories I tell, so that kinda tells a tale on my opinions too, even though I believe that my characters should be able to stay together when that part eventually fades. But what I believe most of all is that reading romance taught me a lot about human nature, about taking a chance when you maybe wouldn’t, about looking below the surface, and about not settling for second best when the real thing might still be out there…Which ain’t bad lessons to learn in your late teens when you think about it…

Does it mean that I spend my days waiting for a Sheikh or a Billionaire to whisk me off my feet and I won’t settle for anything less while I wait? Not so much. But then neither does reading a romance make me believe that no-one ever needs to go to the bathroom – something that never happens in a category romance. If I was that easily led then I’d have serious kidney problems by now…

My being single has nothing to do with too high an expectation brought on by reading romance, and to suggest that women are so easily led is kinda patronising, don’t you think??? It’s like in some way we have to be labelled dumber for reading romance in the first place and therefore would fall into this terrible trap…

Erm… NOPE.

As to whether or not being single means I’m qualified to write one… well… that’s like suggesting that Terry Pratchett shouldn’t be able to write about the Discworld cos he’s never been on a flat planet carried through space by a giant turtle, or Patricia Cornwell shouldn’t be able to write about the workings of a mass murderers mind because she’s never murdered someone herself! Nah – when it comes to writing romance, for me, it’s all about having an imagination, with an understanding of why people might do the things they do, a fair share of life experience to understand what they might feel at any given time - oh - and a good dose of the kind of discipline needed in order to sit down and write from the beginning all the way to the end thrown in…Being single or being married or even currently being head over heels in love has nothing to do with those things, does it?

Having said that, could this single gal have written a romance when they were given to her in her teens? No. Could she have written one before she understood what it was like to have had a broken heart or having picked the wrong guy somewhere along the way? I don’t think so. Is she less likely to find the kind of hero she now writes about because they subliminally set the bar too high for mankind in real life? Actually, when it comes to men like that not existing in my life that was a given before I even started reading or writing them - really – if you saw where I live you’d understand why…it’s a population thing…and a percentage of guys who would fancy me within that population thing… Move me somewhere with a larger population and I guess my percentages would go up… But I digress...

So, do I write better heroes because I haven’t found one of my own in real life? Well no, I know many authors extremely happily married who write gorgeous heroes!!! And do I only write them to fill a void in my life? Hell no.

Simply, I guess I read and write romance because I believe in happily ever after – which maybe means all the fairy stories I read as a child set up those ‘unrealistic expectations’ and are really to blame. Or maybe Disney Movies. Or Chick-Flicks now…But the truth is, I still believe it can happen. I think it’ll be a sad day when the world stops believing in that possibility, don’t you?

But would I give up writing romance for a real life hero as delicious as some of the ones I create on paper? Mmm… That’s a tough call… I think if he loved me he wouldn’t mind if I passed on my belief in happily ever after to a few more women. After all, believing in romance and the possibility of that happily ever after would be what made me hold out for him in the first place…Right?

So do Romance Novels make your expectations higher? What do you think?

And I'm currently running a competition to win a copy of Breathless! with details over on my Blog if you'd like to have a go! Pop over and answer a nice simple question for me and I'll put your name in the draw...

4 comments:

Jennifer Y. said...

Great post! I am single and I have read romances for years. I don't think that they give me unrealistic expectations at all.

I love the HEA as well...that is what I love about romances...they make me believe in possibilities. Romances may give me hope that I will find my perfect mate, but I realize that the books and characters are fictional...just like the movies...not everything that happens in them will happen in real life. I don't compare real-life men and relationships to romance novel heroes and relationships...it is not fair to anyone (myself included) to do so...IMO.

So the expectation that reading romances gives me is that HEAs are possible...I don't think that is an unrealistic expectation. I realize that not every real-life story ends with a HEA...but it is nice to know that some do and to believe in the possibility that they could.

Sorry for rambling and I apologize if I didn't make sense!

liz said...

Hi,

I agree with both of you. Reading romance novels does not give us reader a unrealistic view. If it did everyone would read/write non-fictional books only. And wouldn't it be boring?

As to what makes someone qualify to write, there is no set rules; after all aren't this books under the label of "fiction" for a reason? One does not have to experience everything to be able to write it. It is like saying authors such as J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) should not write about murders unless she has done it? Or that noone should write paranormal or futuristic books 'cause "the future" has not happened. Or J.K. Rowling should not be writing about Harry Potter?

And if we extend this assumption to everyday life, we can even say that noone should think/jot down plans about any new inventions (tech, medical, etc) 'cause it has never happened? If yes, where would the world be today?

Liz

Trish said...

Jennifer - no rambling going on here that I can see!!! I'm with you all the way on just about everything you've said! It's all about keeping the hope alive isn't it? And we all know if hope is lost....

Liz - LOL - You're so right! But people do so like to place other people into a *box* don't they??? You read sci-fi therefore you're an unrealistic dreamer.... you read only the classics therefore you're a literary snob... you read romance and you're single therefore... You with me? And we're way past the stage of telling others not to have imagination I hope! Not sure I'd much like life on this planet if that ever happened ;)

liz said...

Hey Trish,

I agreed with you...a world with no imagination or hope...not fun...

When I think about some of the snobs, I remember this bookmark I have (dont know where it is) where in the front is a drawing of a stick and figure (in pink and background white). And on the back of the bookmark there are suggested phrases that one can say to those that turn up their noses at romance books...

Cant remember much how the phrases went...but when I find that bookmark, I will come back and share it laters...Some were quite hilarious.


Liz