I spoke to my esteemed friend today on the topic of boyfriends. She is, unfortunately, unlucky in love, and she was bemoaning said luck while I offered as much sympathy as I could muster in the form of a cappuccino and muffin.
“Romance is never like this, Shay,” she said. “All the white knights in the world live in trashy novels, you know that.”
I had to agree, if only because my knowledge of knights is rather limited. But it got me thinking, and I came to the conclusion that I really don’t agree.
Well, I mean I don’t agree in a certain sense. I agree that the white knights of romance legend are probably not that common. But the implication of my esteemed friend’s words troubled me: that romance is not… normal, I suppose.
Is it the real life? Or is it just fantasy? I’m not sure, to be honest. Much of romance plot and narrative is unrealistic, let’s be honest here. Normal women do not catch the eye of billionaires who then whisk them away to a life of luxury. And they are not virgins who find their first time to be mind blowing, and BDSM scenes like that are not considered safe, and… You get the idea.
But the heart of romance isn’t really the setup or the mechanics. It’s not the sex either. All of those things are there to hold the stuff the author really wants to talk about. We want to say something about love and relationships, or the human condition, or how crazy people can be, or how much of each other two people can let into their combined lives. We want to comment on things that are ultimately very normal.
Kathy’s World is about finding inner strength and adventure. Devil Masque is about identity, and how it defines us. Dominion is about control, and how to wield it. Boy Crazy is about self-revelation.
I’m not good enough to say I get it right all the time, but the sex is just another part of the story. It’s what you write about because normal human life involves sex. It’d be weird not to have it. But I’m pretty confident in saying that we fail as writers when we make the sex, or a trope, or any other plot device the whole heart of the story, and forget that it still has to feel real in order to be a good story.
There’s porn without plot. It’s never as satisfying as porn WITH plot. That’s the kind of thing that makes it seem normal, and relatable, and let’s readers make a deeper connection with a story.