Kissy-Face and the Horizontal Charleston


So, how much sauce do you like with your fiction?


I’ve been thinking about this lately, partly due to the marvellous Sam Sykes talking about romance on his blog, and partly because it’s a question that will inevitably come up when you’re writing most types of books.


I am not a huge fan of romantic fiction, by which I mean actual wild horses and possibly even hot things driven under my fingernails would need to be involved before I actually read any. This is, obviously, due to my own tastes and predilections, and no reflection on romantic fiction or even rom coms or what-have-you, it’s just the way I am. I sometimes wonder if this was because the only books that weren’t mine in the house where I grew up were often Mills & Boon, and I was still at that stage where the sight of a bloke with his muscles bulging out of a torn shirt was firmly in the “Eeew, stinky boys” category.


I suspect my other problem with it is, particularly in regard to films, the female character is so often a) the only girl in it, and b) only there to be the love interest. You see, as soon as a woman turns up in some films, you instantly know that she’s going to be getting off with the main character at some point and boom, half the plot is immediately obvious. No surprises for you, young lady! I hate that sort of thing.


However, having said all that, I like a sprinkling of the lovey dovey stuff, I do. Love is, after all, often the biggest and most significant emotion we feel in our human lives, and to have that missing from stories would make no sense at all. It’s who we are, of course it should be there. The question is, how much?


One of the things that interests me as a writer is the flirtatious relationship, the sort where there is a definite attraction and significant looks are exchanged, but no one is quite sure where they stand. I’m thinking here of Mulder and Scully, and even Niles and Daphne, or, you know, Moonlighting. I always enjoy those sorts of relationships because there is always conflict. I enjoy less those sorts of romances where the main characters meet and instantly fall in love (Legend by David Gemmell is the example I’m thinking of, although I should make it clear I loved that book – not for reasons of romance, mind). When the two characters have arguments, fights, saucy looks, uncomfortable-situations-where-they-might-have-to-spend-the-night-together-in-a-damp-cave, then it’s always interesting.


But what happens then? Do we want it resolved? And how much… resolution… do we want to see? I distinctly remember losing some of my passion for the X-Files when it was fairly obvious that they did in fact love each other, and general opinion is that Frasier jumped the shark when Niles and Daphne got married. Not everyone will feel this way, of course, but I wonder if anything is quite as much fun once the conflict is removed. Sex scenes are a tricky subject too, particularly in books – again, it’s an important part of human life and certainly needs to be in fiction, but once the pants are on the floor and the chandelier has been firmly rattled, where do we go from there? What else is there to anticipate?


I’d love to know what people think about this. Do you love the lovey-dovey, or do you prefer a seasoning of it? Does sex in a book ramp up your investment in a character to another level? Or do you go for the quick snog and lovers-torn-asunder type of deal? Tell me!


5 thoughts on “Kissy-Face and the Horizontal Charleston

  1. I’m one for lovey dovey stuff. I also love the ‘will they, won’t they?’ thing but once it’s resolved then something is lost.When two characters I like might be falling for each other I get nervous and I want them to get together. Once they’re together I get nervous when the plot threatens to tear them apart because for it to be interesting they have to introduce new conflict.Many stories end when the characters get together (apart from soaps) I think because of this.

  2. I’ve been facing this very issue in my current trilogy. I love writing romance of the will-they-won’t-they variety, but you can only drag it out for so long before it gets unrealistic. I think, therefore, that the final volume will feature a lot less romance – I hope fans aren’t disappointed!

  3. Considering I write romance, I realize it’s not for everyone. Also a lot of us 30-somethings read a lot of CRAP romance growing up with swooning ladies and dudes with Jeri-curl mullets and a whole lot of fuchsia on a cover than is healthy. That’s why a lot of us hate it. Quivering love petals glistening with dew? His dark proud warrior? GAG A MAGGOT. D:It’s SO much better now that I’m an adult and these 30-something/40-something authors are getting with the times. Steamier sex, and less with laughable metaphors, and the conflict has been increased exponentially. The women are badasses, and make the guys work for it. Also romance is no longer a straight couple’s genre with LGBT romance taking the world by storm.I totally agree there’s only SO many ways you can write ‘Insert Tab A into Slot B. Wiggle till moist.’ So when your characters finally do the deed, it does kind of take some mystery away. I’m particularly fond of plotlines where the MCs blow the mystery of sex too soon and really have no idea of who one another truly are. Or characters that fall in love amidst a stressful situation and impossible odds (last book I did had an ethnic cleansing of sorts going on) but once the thrill of the chase is gone…, how do you keep the one you love?Also for me personally, while I write romance, apparently my books have too much plot and a side dish of romance. (See: Ethnic cleansing thing. D:) I guess to me, I like more plot and the MCs facing the odds rather than straight up swooning and boinking for 200 pages. ;D

  4. …I’m sorry, I’m still covering from “Quivering love petals glistening with dew”… I was all, aw, love petals, how pretty…no, wait. Nonono! ;)I suppose one way around the problem of stringing out the will-they-won’t-they situation is to have a relationship that is inherently full of conflict, or characters who are so flawed that it is difficult for them to do normal things. If anything I can imagine that deepens your attachment to the characters and their romance.

  5. Will-they-won’t-they relationships can be great fun, but by their very nature they can’t last forever (without getting boring), and yes, there’s always something more exciting in the “Will they get together” plotline than the “Right – we’re together – what now?” plotline. I’ve got no problem at all with romance in a fantasy/SF novel, if it’s done with enough nuance to feel real, and doesn’t go too deliberately cutesy. The book I’m working on at the moment started out with a ‘will they won’t they’ relationship running through at least the first two books, but I got a quarter of the way in and realised there was no way in hell these two weren’t getting it together at the first opportunity. Sometimes letting the character shape the story is the right way to go (even if it’s a bit risky).Sex? Well, depends on the tone. Explicit sex fits much better in a GRRM novel than it would in, say, The Wheel of Time – and, speaking from experience (of both writing and reading them), it’s all about the language you use. If the sex is genuinely important, a character moment that we need to see, then absolutely go with it – just avoid tittersome trigger words or phrases like “manhood”, “throbbing”, or “her sex”. Plus, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t employ the phrase “moist folds” – it’s not a good idea.Ultimately, depending on the kind of novel you’re writing, nothing’s off limits – it’s all to do with how you play it. If you’re not comfortable writing sex, don’t do it, or write ‘around’ it (sometimes the words you don’t use can be more important than the words you do). If you’ve got the story focussed and know what you’re trying to tell, then the romance and sex will all work, and won’t feel out of place.

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