Wednesday, April 24

R - Romance!

Yes, I've totally fallen off the A-Z bandwagon. Sigh. I am scrambling to meet a deadline. But I did want to still post for a couple of the letters that were important to me, and Romance is definitely one of them.
Because I write romance.
All right, yes, it can be very erotic romance, but there's a difference between erotic romance and erotica. How do I know? Elizabeth says so!  (sorry, that's an inside joke; someone asked our wonderful Executive Director what kinds of manuscripts she rejects and one of her answers was "erotica". Even though she sometimes gets some very well written erotica, it just isn't what she publishes. The other answers were the sorts you would expect to get from anyone who has ever had to slog through a slush pile. Grammar is nice. Spellcheck should weed out *most* typos. She didn't mention word salad, but I'm sure she wouldn't appreciate it).
So what is romance? At its heart it's two (or more) people falling in love, overcoming obsticals, and living happily ever after. In that respect, it's fairly predictable--what makes it fun and interesting is the circumstances under which the people meet and the obsticals they must overcome in order to be together. Well, fun for the readers; my poor characters sometimes have to go through hell and broken glass to be together, but that's because I love angst (in fiction!) 
What's erotica? Well written porn. Really well written porn. It's sex for its own sake with little to no plot--although good erotica will at least have a nice set up. One party might surprise the other with a sexy bondage weekend or a romantic night with the kids off at the sitter's and the phone turned off. Well written erotica involves lots of scenes not in between the sheets (IMO), where as porn (and there's nothing wrong with porn!) tends to ignore the wine and roses and goes straight for the condoms and lube. I have no problem with that at all; porn can be fun and sexy and really, really hot; it just doesn't happen to be what I write. Well. Okay, the guys I'm writing now started off with the condoms and the lube and had dinner later, but the point is they're having dinner, getting to know each other, and falling in love. For me, that's the key phrase: romance is about falling in love.
I think the reason this is kind of a sensitive subject for me (although less so than it was a couple or months ago) is because I left a really amazing critique group, filled mostly with people I really like, because I got tired of my writing being labeled "porn". Even when I presented a scene for critique with no sex on the page (or even hinted at), I got told it was kind of "like the porn studio that runs out of ideas and drags out the Star Trek uniforms". (I'd presented the start of a sci fi story). I was both flabbergasted and hurt. That wasn't a critique, it was an attack and no writer needs that. We need support and nurturing--and yes, if the writing sucks, we need to be told. But the writing was (mostly) good. It was the subject matter that caused umbrage. The funny part was that at the time, I let it go and kept coming back until one day I pulled that story out to work on a little and the words came flooding back to me. I realized exactly how out of line the other guy had been.
That's when I left the group--and that still makes me sad, because I like most of the people in it. They're great writers and I learened a lot. I even like and learned from the guy who made the porn crack. I think the real issue is that he doesn't know the differences between romance, erotica, and porn. I'm not even sure he's in the minority, because we are so conditioned to think that sex is dirty or nasty or wrong (I can *so* see my grandmother nodding her head: sex wasn't something to ever be discussed, it was something that married people did behind closed doors.)
But when we don't talk about sex, when we don't explor it, we attach feelings of guilt and shame and that doesn't do anybody any good! Human sexuality is a beautiful thing and it is very much a part of the romance that I write.

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