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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Romance in Fantasy: How Much is Too Much? (ConCarolinas 2014 Writing Panel Notes)

Hey everyone! So I'm back with more notes. Emerald City Comic-Con was amazing, and I can't wait to share the notes I brought back from that trip. But, owing to my less than spectacular summer and fall, I still have everything I learned at last year's ConCarolinas! So, with that in mind, let's have a gander at the first topic ...

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Romance in Fantasy – How Much is Too Much?

Chris A. Jackson, James R. Tuck, Tamsin L. Silver, C.L. Wilson, Susan H. Roddey, Marcia Colette, Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart
Moderator: Janine Spendlove

So, How Much is Too Much (if you’re writing a straight up fantasy novel)?
JT: Love between two people is what makes this whole world happen. If you don’t have love, if your character doesn’t have a connection with another character, then the story doesn’t feel right. Even platonic love.
CJ: RPG fiction is steering away from it, and the fiction suffers.

Romance writers – do you set out to write a romance novel, or does it just happen?
AC: It just happens. She never set out to write a romance novel. Always about the story first. And the stories always seem to have a relationship in them. That’s the kind of story she wants to tell. She writes the story she sets out to read. The interaction between the characters is the part she likes best.
SR: It’s not about writing a romance novel, it’s about writing a story. If the romance happens, that’s how the story was going to naturally progress.
MC: One thing she likes most about the characters is the whole journey. When they set out, you don’t see something happening, then there’s always this sexual tension that builds. She goes with the tension, even if it doesn’t explode until page 200.
Audience comment: The hero becomes worthy of the relationship, worthy of the heroine falling in love with.
AC: It’s okay for her to save him on occasion.
JT: It’s happening in the Deacon Chalk series. Made a conscious decision to write a character that’s completely broken. A girl he meets is the one who saves him.
CL: Sets out to write romance in every single book. Both the fantasy and the romance elements are equally important to the storyline. The woman has to earn her happy ending as well. Both have personal emotional and external issues that together they overcome and they cement a solid lasting relationship. There’s always an external plot but the romance plot drives the action forward and ideally contributes to resolving the external problems as well.

Without Naming Specific Stories, What Are Pet Peeves of Yours?
JS: That rescuing the princess is presented as a reward. It promotes an undercurrent of misogyny.
SR: Finding a book that has so much promise and looks interesting but then the story can’t decide where it wants to go, and you lose sight of the world or the romance because it can’t make up its mind. Especially a romance novels with fantasy elements.
AC: Men with boobs. Loves to read urban fantasy with a good romance. But she’s sick of the urban fantasy stereotype that she has to either be a whiny waif, or a bitchy tomboy who would basically be a guy but has a female name.
JT: Women are strong. They’re vessels of life. If men had babies there would be no people in the world. So the trope of superstrong feminine characters in fantasy doesn’t need to happen. Women are strong enough already. They are stronger in different ways.
JS: Women in the army bring diverse things to the table.
CJ: The idea that the character is incomplete without a relationship. You are a human being without a relationship. A relationship is something else. The relationship doesn’t complete you.
JT: Hates the fated love, “we have to be together”. Likes it when they have to choose, they have to earn it. Not love at first sight. If love at first sight happens it should fuck up their lives completely.
MC: Using the love triangle as the main source of conflict. If you can’t come up with a better storyline than that, just don’t write the book.
JS: Man-Made-Boy made it work out, but that’s an exception.
Audience comment: When they’re in the midst of danger and they stop for a sex scene. Or there’s so much sex in the book that they don’t manage to accomplish anything.
AC: Erotica and erotic romance is not pornography. Pornography is about the sex. Erotica and erotic romance is about the story. More artistic. About the relationship.
CW: In romance, the relationship helps them grow. In erotica, the sex is the catalyst for change.

What about inter-species romance? (E.g. humans and dragons)
CJ: The idea that non-humans are people isn’t much explored, and he enjoyed bursting that bubble.
JS: Falling in love in interspecies isn’t hard, but how do you tackle intimacy?
CJ: Magic to help make it work.
SR: The problem is whether or not they can classify it as bestiality if you have a human having sex with an animal or similar creature, an act that is illegal in most states in the US. Is it illegal for a human to have a relationship with the animal when the animal is not in human form?
Audience: If Amazon finds out a shapeshifter has sex with a human in their non-human form they can pull it.

Audience question/comment: Unhappy with the trope of “when a woman is raped but they fall in love with their rapist and that (somehow) makes it okay”.
JT: That story happens more than we’d like it to.
JS: We’re becoming more culturally aware of that. That’s what matters.
CJ: Know your market, know your readers.
SR: If the relationship is the product of the environment in which you set your story, that may justify it more. Technically, what we do today would be considered different or obscene in a different world, no matter how bad.

Audience question: What about falling out of love?
JS: Not fun to write, but it’s interesting and fascinating to understand why those two people are no longer together. Every relationship you ever have is a failed relationship until your last one.
CW: Tries to appeal to romance, so often it’s the villain causing the split, but eventually strives for a happy ending.
JT: When you step out of genre you can do a really good job of it. E.g. the movie Closer.

When writing so many intimate scenes, how do you keep it fresh?
CH: Has a tendency to go way outside the box, dives into space yetis and shapeshifting aliens and bigfoots.
CJ: Writing an intimate scene that isn’t physically possible is just as hard as writing a fight scene like that.
MC: When the toys are in the room. Puts people in different places, different situations, keep it fresh.
TS: Also, keeping it fun. When working on it, characters became friends and to keep it interesting but keep the lighthearted playfulness helps.
CW: It isn’t about the sex. It’s about the emotional state of the hero and heroine at that moment. There is more happening
JT: When you write a sex scene, you have to ask yourself what the point is. Why? The purpose and the feel has to have meaning of some sort to be relevant to the story.
CJ: Not so much about self gratification as it is about enjoying the other person’s gratification.
ST: If writing a book with explicit sex and lots of scenes, you don’t have to write out every single act. It’s okay to fade to black, move onto something different see what you want to see.

Note: after that last question, the authors all emphasized an important fact:


Check back Friday for that.

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