Since Kalayna opened the door last week, let’s talk about love today. Or rather, the hindrance thereof.
I don’t write romance, but I used to read it, a long, long time ago. I started with Harlequins when I was twelve, took a baby step into Barbara Cartland historicals, then accelerated straight into the familiar bodice-rippers of the late seventies. Somewhere around fifteen I remembered that I liked fantasy much better, and never looked back. I don’t mind a little romance in my fantasy, almost as much as I like peppermint with my chocolate. I just don’t care to read a book that’s nothing but romance. So I don’t write it.
I do know how it goes in fiction, though, and lately that’s been bothering me. You see, whether you’re writing romance or fantasy or Westerns or whatever, it seems that romances between characters have come to follow a certain structure. (Please forgive me a short disclaimer – I’m going to be talking about the male-female romantic interaction. I haven’t read enough gay romantic pairings to know whether their authors are following the same patterns, although I suspect it’s so. Those of you who are better-read than I are more than welcome to comment and let me know. *smile*)
That structure seems to go like this:
Woman meets man.
Woman finds man intriguing.
Man seems to find woman intriguing as well.
They begin to enjoy each other’s company, and it looks like happily-ever-after is on its way.
Man does something to anger woman.
Instead of telling man what has upset her, woman refuses to take his calls/changes her email address/moves to a hotel in Colorado to be the winter caretaker.
They spend the next two hundred pages (or sometimes the next three books) dancing around what happened, having conversations that never get to the point and driving the reader bug-nuts.
Fiction doesn’t have to reflect real life, but in this case, I wish it did, just a little bit. I can’t think that everyone except me spent years flirting and dancing around with their eventual love interest before, at last, admitting how they felt. I’m one of those people who, when someone says, “I have something important to talk to you about. I’ll tell you tomorrow,” will go absolutely out of my mind waiting and wondering what the important thing might be. By the time the someone gets around to telling me, I’ve built it into such an apocalyptic catastrophe that nothing the person says could possibly compare. If I thought the man I love has done something terrible, and decided I can’t talk to him about it. I’d be in a strait jacket inside of a week. This extends to my reading life, too. I can’t bear for two characters to keep something important like their feelings from each other. I know that it’s not realistic to expect a character to declare love and have it be requited immediately, but dragging it out over numerous books makes me tired.
So what’s the right time frame? Well, I can’t really say. It depends on the characters and the story you’re telling and what you hope to convey with your story. It also depends on your genre, because some genres have come to be represented by the “will-they-won’t-they”, and readers don’t want to see true love declared before the seventh book. Quite a few of us chimed in on Kalayna’s post the other day saying we hated that indecision, but someone is buying the books, so someone wants it that way. And that’s a point we have to remember – complain all we want, but sales don’t lie. If we want something different from the stories we read, the only way to make the point is with our dollars.
I’m currently working on revising Kestrel’s Dance. Among other thrilling events in the book, Kestrel and Philip finally get together. It happens about halfway through, which I thought was more than enough, but my editor didn’t like it. She felt that the romance shouldn’t have happened so soon. She is, of course, the editor, and therefore privy to an understanding of what will sell that exceeds my own, but I can’t do it her way. I’m not writing a romance, after all. It’s a fantasy adventure, with a side helping of smoochies. So I’m going to fight for the romance to go the way I think it should. In the meantime, why do you think the common romantic structure has become so popular? Would you prefer to see it change? Are things fine the way they are? Let’s talk.