This week: Romance in Real LifeEdited by: Elle
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As a genre, romance is widely assumed to be fiction, but this needn't be the case. Romantics love to hear about real life 'happily ever afters' and in a world where there is so much doom, gloom and divorce in the media, it is heart warming to hear true stories of love conquering all.
Like all fiction, romance must have enough realism about it that a reader can relate to it. Even paranormal romance. We are all able to suspend our sense of disbelief to a certain degree, but in the end we must be able to relate to the story or the characters in some way. To this end, the very premise of romance - that of two people falling in love and living happily ever after - must be based on a truth that this is possible in real life.
As of 2011, Wikipedia tells us that the divorce rate in the USA is 53%, meaning that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. In the UK, the rate is 47%, in Canada it is 48% and in Australia it is 43%. And I don't recommend getting married in Belgium where the rate is a whopping 71%. With this in mind, has romance and a happily ever after become a fantasy?
We have all been told that scandal sells, so do the readers want to hear about real life marriages that work? Do we think 'happily ever after' is boring? Well, romance writers think it is worth telling true romance stories. In 2011, a group of 67 romance authors banded together to create a collection of writings about finding their own happily ever after - Fall In Love Like A Romance Writer. Some shared how humour played a role in both meeting their hero and keeping their marriage alive. Others shared deeply moving stories of how they overcame tragedies to pursue their happy ending. In other words - their stories were as diverse as any collection of romance novels by 67 different authors.
It is not unusual to hear that readers of romance novels must have 'unrealistic expectations' of relationships, making it less likely for them to be happy and satisfied with a real life relationship. The above-mentioned book clearly blows this theory out of the water. If the writers of romance novels believe real-life heroes exist and that two people truly can find their own happily ever after, then surely a reader can too. Katerina Simms wrote that to suggest that readers of romance novels expect their men to have all the attributes of a stereotypical romance novel hero is 'not dissimilar to assuming that anyone who likes crime dramas, harbours a secret desire to murder people.' One thing I learned on Writing.com is that a great story needs conflict, and that conflict can't have a convenient resolution or the reader is dissatisfied. Melissa Cutlers agrees and adds that 'In great books, the conflict resolution isn’t easy or pain free; it’s messy and hard won and full of lessons on how to handle relationships in our real lives. Experiencing how fictional characters resolve their conflicts empowers us and encourages us to fight for what and who we want, to evolve into better, more authentic versions of ourselves, and give our all in the name of love. Books remind us to talk to each other and resolve our differences because relationships are worth it—we’re worth it.'
Dr Glenn Croston studied research into romance reader's unrealistic expectations (yes, they've researched it!) and came to the conclusion that 'People who have studied this though seem to find the opposite, that readers of romance novels are actually happier overall. One reason might be that their stories are examples of positive psychology. By the end of the story, everything reliably works out. Stories like this can be reassuring, and train our mind to have positive expectations. And when we have positive expectations about the world, we tend to be happier. We have a compelling attraction for stories, psychologists have found, so maybe it’s a good thing if we are drawn to stories with happy endings, and keep on optimistically working toward happiness in our own lives.' There's no denying that there are arguments for both sides and I found quotes by women who believed that reading romance novels ruined their real life relationships, but overall, it appears that science is on the side of the romance reader, with numerous articles claiming studies proved in 2005 'that women who often or always read romance novels are less likely to divorce.'
So, as a reader or a writer of romance, let's prove that romance is not a fantasy and true love is possible in the real world. What's stopping you from writing a true romance story? Whether it's your own, your parents', your grandparents'... Let's put pen to paper and start negating all the paparazzi and show the world that romance is alive and well in the real world.
These Writing.com authors share a glimpse of their own real life relationships with you:
And if you do write a non-fiction romance story, see if it fits the criteria for one of these contests:
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Thanks to everyone who wrote in with feedback and comments for my last newsletter, "Romance/Love Newsletter (March 11, 2015)" :
'I actually read a lot of gay manga and seen a lot of anime with that romance. I also liked how the Mass Effect video games incorporated realistic lesbian/gay/het relationships with all the necessary interactions and sharing of stuff. Compared to that the recent Legend of Korra's Korra dating Asami felt pretty small and miniscule. Subtextually and/or contextually it felt more like a badly written fanfiction to me. I have read even independent publishers' LGBT or het stories so I was not comfortable with out of character or even in-character lesbian romance with Korrasami. This is from someone who loved the gay relationships of Mass Effect. Even like lesbian ships in one of my favourite animes. I do not think even a children's show with violent deaths as in suffocation by drawing air out of lungs should be so vague on the romance front or badly writing of a better lesbian romance. This do not be offended if you like Korrasami. I like different romances so I like good and fleshed out writing in all of them. I myself have written bisexual stories so I feel people can do better in any straight/gay romance writing.' ~ Moon Voyager
'LGBT will have their own following. I doubt those books will be as popular as heterosexual books, but will sell out to those of that genre.' ~ Editing is BLUE
'Thank you for this fantastic newsletter. I would definitely speculate that an author who writes romance featuring either gay or straight couples is less likely to switch it up because to a greater extent in romance than perhaps other genres, it can be tough to write something outside one's realm of personal understanding? That is a pretty solid explanation for why the 2 authors you mentioned had fairly tepid stories about their same sex couples. But it was also an opportunity for them to stretch themselves. They did so to some extent, but they could have gone further. Even without creating separate stories for LGBT couples, authors who very matter-of-factly put LGBT characters in their stories, supported and loved by their families, makes me happy. Normalizing rather than stigmatizing in mainstream fiction. It's at least a step in the right direction.
My YA stories, while not completely romance novels, definitely feature elements of romance.
As for stories featuring LGBT couples, I'm sure I know more, but the only one coming to mind at the moment is Patience and Sarah, by Isabel Miller.
One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva is a lovely YA novel with romantic elements. David Levithan writes wonderful YA stories featuring LGBT couples. Two Boys Kissing features several intertwining stories, including one story with a transgender character.' ~ Mumspie!
'Here's an angle you might not have thought of. Some — most? — of the problem we have with people who seem different is our taboo against staring. The natural thing to do with somebody who is exotic is to pay close attention. They may be different, even dangerous, and they're certainly interesting, but we need an excuse. Enter television. By the time the story is over, we feel as if the strangers are commonplace. For example, if I met a Vulcan tonight, he would seem almost unremarkable; not so one of those African girls with the springs that make their necks long. What I'm saying is, that our media sensationalism may be part of the way that society has of preparing people for the diversity around them.
I think this will continue until such time that LGBT becomes no more exotic, no more its own genre than blond meets redhead. And I think that's a good thing, don't you?' ~ Joto-Kai
'Thanks for mentioning my story, Elle . As for your question - yes, we'll see more LGBT characters in mainstream romance/novels. There's no reason why this shouldn't be the case. Romance is romance no matter the gender of those involved. And at the moment I'm re-reading Social Skills by Sara Alva. It's a college 'first-love' story, but really sweet and natural and well told. I'm also going to recommend a Manga (yes, that's right). Totally Captivated by Hajin Yoo. Very funny, beautifully drawn (not very graphic) and a good story to boot. And love conquers all, which is what I liked most, being a romantic!' ~ Os the Capricorn
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