No doubt, this is a touchy subject. I do not claim to be right, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I’m probably going to make some people upset with this post, and I know that not everyone is going to agree with me–and that’s OKAY! I’m merely going to point out some of my personal convictions when it comes to writing romance. Sound good?
Just about everyone will admit that they have read–or watched–an encounter between a couple that made them uncomfortable. Even if the couple is married, the way they show affection to one another–affection that is not “wrong”–can feel very wrong to be seeing [or reading] it.
On the flip side, there are those books where the couples rarely show affection to one another.
As a reader, either one of these scenarios can be maddening. As a writer, it can be hard to know how much is appropriate to show.
So how can you know?
This is a subject that really bothered me a few years ago. Hence, I decided that the best route to take was to write romance-free books. It was a great idea in theory, but my characters revolted. I found myself needing a way to handle their romance rather than ignore it.
So I went crying to my dear mom, “How do I know if it is okay to write about characters who decided to love each other?!?”
Moms are full of wisdom, peeps.
She told me something that someone had told her when she was young, and it boils down to this:
Would that couple be doing/saying/behaving that way if someone was standing in the room watching them?
I had to think about that for some time before I made sense of it in my head. And, more importantly, I had to figure out what that meant for my writing.
What I decided to do is pretty much what that says. My characters don’t do, say, or behave in such a way that would make me uncomfortable if I were in the same room as them.
Let’s face it: plenty of things go on between couples that other people shouldn’t see, whether it be a private conversation, a passionate kiss, etc. Therefore, they shouldn’t go in books. Readers are smart, and a little imagination can go far enough. There is no need to be explicit about subjects that should be reserved for husbands and wives.
“But how can I show that my characters love each other without writing those things?”
Think about it–do you have to see what goes on behind closed doors to know that couples you know (parents/neighbors/friends) are in love? I don’t. If you pay attention, it really isn’t that difficult to see when a couple loves each other merely my the way they interact even in a public setting.
Love can be shown in so many ways. I challenge you to utilize some of the more subtle ways of showing love between couples, and leave what happens behind closed doors behind closed doors. It is entirely possible to write a sweet romance/relationship without giving too much information.
For my own writing, I have made the decision to not write any romantic relationship that goes beyond what I would be comfortable seeing/hearing were I in the room with my characters. I have been told that the romance I write is “immature” and should be “more graphic.”
I must admit that I actually laughed when I heard that.
But you know what? I’d rather write “immature” and “un-graphic” romance that I believe is appropriate than worry about overstepping my bounds and making some readers, not to mention myself, uncomfortable.
How do you feel about writing romance? Are there any specific guidelines you’ve set up for yourself? I’d love to hear–new ideas are always welcome! :)