Thursday, August 10, 2006

This Thing Called Love

Why romance? What is it about the romance genre that attracts you as a writer? As a reader?

I’ve looked at this subject for close to a week now, turned it around and around in my tired brain then let it cook for a while. I even started writing one reply, but it wasn’t right. On the surface it’s the love of the HEA (Happily Ever After) – but you can find HEA in almost any genre – “With the vampire legion vanquished, they all lived happily ever after”; “The mystery was solved and they all lived happily ever after”; “He ran those durn varmints outta town and they all lived happily ever after”. Why the romance HEA? What is it about a man and a woman meeting, falling in love and living “happily ever after” that pulls me like no other story can? It’s that thing called love. I think, for the majority of people, its human nature to love and want to be loved back. It’s one of the two most profound emotions that can universally be understood, no matter the language. It knows no boundaries, color, religion, etc. Love just is, in its simplest form, the greatest human emotion God gave us. And when used in its purest form it can do some wondrous things.

When I first began on the writing journey many years ago, I admit that I was ashamed to say that I wanted to write romance. I’d give the old “well, I’m going to start in the romance genre because look at all of the big authors who have come out of there” speech and then add how I had a mystery/horror/sci-fi thing that I was working on for when I got around to the “real” writing. I’m not ashamed of it anymore. How can you be ashamed of something that leaves the reader feeling good? Why must you write about human tragedies with no positive ending in order to be accepted in the literary sense? Must everything be about death? Take the movie The Titanic. Some would say it was a wonderful love story, not me. It was a tragedy. The hero died. There’s nothing romantic about that, no HEA. Wonderful movie, but not a great romance. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like Gone With the Wind. Why? He leaves. What’s romantic about that? In a romance, if there’s tragedy, there’s triumph, and at the end of the journey, there’s love. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. Some people look at romance as fluff, and there is a lot of fluff out there. At the end of a frantic day, sometimes fluff is exactly what is needed. It lets the mind relax and the endorphins flow – that, and a margarita, will get you through anything. But what people don’t realize is that there are a lot of intense and emotional stories on the shelves too, stories about people with scars so deep they don’t feel they’re worthy of love – but through the magic of a romance the enchantment begins, scars healed. I’ll take a romance over any other book any time.

Let’s take it a step further. Why do I write romantic comedy? I’ve always loved the screwball comedy romance teams of the past: Grant and Hepburn, Powell and Loy, Tracy and Hepburn, Cagney and Lacey. Even in my romantic suspense I throw in laughter. I have to. It’s such an essential part of me, it’s how I survive all of the crap that life throws my way. Laughter and love, in my opinion, are two of the most important ingredients in any relationship, and when you add in great sex – then everything is cooking.


Michele said...

I'll get back to you on that. Great topic, I'm just brain fried.
Am I first?

Brandy said...

What about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? A few of their movies were quite funny.
As for why I read romance, it makes me feel good. Love triumps over all, boy gets girl. When we live our lives day to day sometimes we get so involved in just living them, we forget the romance that got most of us there, tp that point. We escape into the romance, love and usually sex, that yes, we have, but not in such a compact form.

How's that?

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Great commentary, Bailey. I wish mine had turned out so well.

Jordan Summers said...

It actually never occurred to me to be ashamed of writing romance. Even when I wrote my first one in high school, I proudly turned it in because I loved those types of books so much. As for the reasons to write romance, I think you nailed them. I love old romantic comedies. Have a ton of them on DVD. It doesn't matter how many times I watch them, they still end up putting a smile on my face. :)

Loreth Anne White said...

Ah Bailey ... deep question. To me love -- and the sex that grows out of it -- is the spark of life. It's what makes babies, families, clans, tribes, races ... it's at the core of what populates our worlds. Passion alone can inspire man to build castles, empires, and send his armies to war. It's what makes us defend, and what makes us grieve. And seek revenge. It's at the essence of what makes us human. And that, to me, is why tales of romance will always be told, in some form, and why they will always be relevant.

See? You made me get all sappy. But honestly, that is why I write and enjoy tales of passion and love. Happy or melodramatic and angst-ridden ... love em.

raine said...

Cagney and Lacey?? *ggg*

It's a potent combination, yes. Love and sex and romance.

And I'm with you on the Tracy/Hepburn ones, especially since they really loved each other, and you can FEEL the chemistry...sigh...

Stacy Dawn said...

I love the 'feeling' of love. It's new, it's exciting, it's heartstopping.

Devon Ellington said...

I like reading and writing romantic comedy. The straight out romance genre -- it depends. If it's well-written and has well-formed characters, I like it. If it's too derivative, I'll pass.

I figured I wasn't cut out to write straight out romance when a manuscript was returned to me with a note from the editor saying she loved the writing, but the heroine was too indepdenent and not submissive enough to the men! That was IT for me -- I like to read and write about strong, intelligent women, not submissive ones. In reading, as well as in life, I'm interested in partnership, not domination and submission games.

I don't think anyone shoudl feel ashamed of writing romance. If that's what the writer loves to write, write it. There are so many readers who need to read it.

People who look down their noses at romance writers are projecting their own emotional wastelands and should just be ignored.

Michele said...

AFter a good nights rest, I'm back and read your post.
I agree about the romance and the ability to heal through its influence. That's why we like "tortured" heroes so much. The process of healing can be fun, heartwarming and satisfying.

What about Remington Steele? I loved that show. Moonlighting?
When the duo spark off each other, dance around the attraction while coming closer and closer to their eventual coupling. Romance books in action.

Tortured romance is equated with the Burton/Taylor dynamic. They loved each other so passionatly , the passion burned them out. Theirs wasn't a warm, quiet love, but more along the lines of of a super nova. Instead of creating a new planet, there came a black hole which sucked them in ..hence their 2 divorces. Yet, their still held each other in a special place in their heart. The only thing that truly separated them was death. While both walked the Earth , there still was a connection - not being married not withstanding.
I'm having a hard time explaining my point, they were/ are complex people.

A gentle love is Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
George Burns and Gracie.

The most unrealistic,? Tarzan and Jane. He was only good for a fling on a swing.

And I think humor is key. I think laughing while coupling is sexy. The ultimate trust, acceptance and celebration of a strong relationship.

So, when do we get to read your stuff, Bailey???
Sounds like it will have all the elements we clamor for.

Tori Lennox said...

Great post, Bailey! I've always wondered why some people considered Bridges of Madison County a romance. Hello? Adultery and he left!!! NOT romantic. Sorry.

Another great romantic comedy pairing was Rock Hudson (even though he came out of the closet years later) and Doris Day.

Scott said...

I remember reading an excerpt of your college reunion piece, and it was really funny. You definitely have the talent for witty riparte.

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow, great post! You said it perfectly!

Susan said...

You couldn't have summed it up better! I absolutely love Tracy and Hepburn.

Susie said...

Well said.

Devon - touche!

Tori - Hudson and Day came to my mind too as I read the list of comedic couples.

What hooks me to a story is the triumph of love over evil or injustice. Sherrilyn Fenton is a prime example with the Dark Lord series and in Sword of Darkness when Kerrigan is won over to Avalon through the love of his "little mouse". Love conquers all.

Susie said...

oops - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Diane said...

Can you send a spot of romance my way, please? I'm in dire need of some. :o) (In real life.)

Siobhan said...

Having spent most of this afternoon arguing with my DH about the kind of house we want to buy I'm in dire need of some romance too. And I didn't bring any with me to read as I'm doing research for my WIP. Oh dear! When you've been married 27 years like I have I'm sorry to say that the "romantic" moments are few and far between. Which is probably why I read and write them. Don't get me wrong - we love each other very deeply still but the zing of the heartstrings doesn't happen that often any more. I guess that's why most people read romance too - it's to escape from every day life and capture that feeling again.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the humor (even though I don't write comedy)...a great sense of humor can be such a weapon against the downside of life and love. It's essential, and if you can write it and convey it (which I can't much yet), then all the better.

ruby55 said...

Bailey, I think you got the essence of romances and why we love them very well. God made us to love one another and he made the woman to be a helpmate for the man so he wouldn't be alone. In our political climate that term may not be a very accepted one but men and women, husbands and wives are to be there for *one another*. It's definitely not a one-way street. It's just that the dominant role of men has, unfortunately, made it so. Although the Trinity is presented as "males", that does not make the women any less valued or useless.

God made women for men not the other way around. To me this makes the woman more remarkable. Without us men would be lost, incomplete and being first-made should not go to men's heads. The qualities that men and women have essentially complement each other.

That is why I think romances are more essential to us, uplift us and give us that sense of satisfaction and hope that we who are not married yet need. Unfortunately, that does not mean that "every pot will find its lid", as a German saying goes. And that some pots or lids will find the wrong opposites. On the other hand, I think we get the wrong ideas from some of the celebrity marriages that are carried in the rags. They so easily fall in and out of love because they, especially the stars, lead such an unnatural life. I can imagine it would be very difficult to constantly act as if you're falling in love with this actor or that one. (here I mean both sexes) If you get very close to people you are working with intensely, you really have to keep your head to remember: Hey, this is just a job. My "real" wife or husband is at home taking care of the kids. The proof of this is that a lot of actors never go through a divorce. If you truly vow to make your marriage work, you'll work at at so that it does. The same goes for every married couple.

I think I got a little off topic going into the marriage angle. But that is important for me though I'm not even married. LOL. The marriages I know of aren't all roses and chocolates. The partners constantly have to work at it and sometimes put their egos on a back burner.

I think finding the right partner is very important. And though we might wonder how a couple can end up getting married after a week or a few days together, as they sometimes do in romances, there are enough true cases of this that you can't disallow it or say it won't work.

I've read quite a number of "literary" books and I always come back to Madame Emma Bovary as an example. Gustave Flaubert gives Emma a lover. I can't remember why he did so but for me this book was more destructive and terribly unhappy because there seemed to be no real love in it. And I'm supposed to prefer this over a nice romance? Forget it.

I think for the women readers who are married, it reaffirms the fact that a marriage can be made to work.

ruby55 said...

And yeah, I love romantic comedies. Actually the ones that have been mentioned are all favorites of mine. I find the few current romantic comedies I've tried to watch are far too vulgar to let me really enjoy them. I guess I'm just getting too old to change my ways.

But I love the written ones I've read. Some authors have used understated humor for a long time and now we are getting more the "laugh-out-loud" kind. On some days, I really need that. So blessings on all those who write that kind without being overly vulgar.

ruby55 said...

Whoever said that about "The Bridges of Madison County" proves my point about "Madame Bovary". I bet it was mostly non-romance readers who loved that book because it conformed more to "reality". Forgive me if I lumped anyone into that here that really liked it.

I kept meaning to read it but since there was no HEA, I shied away from it.

Jacqui D. said...

WoW - I couldn't agree with you more!

What an excellent post!

Nienke said...

Great post!