As I read my Work In Progress for the millionth (fifth) time and managed not to gouge my own eyes out, I began thinking about romance in fiction.
I often have this thought when writing; why do I feel the need to put romance in every single thing I create?
Do you remember that ickle Hobbit fan fiction what I wrote? That was an introduction to a new character that I wanted to insert into the Hobbit plotline and, guess what, she was going to fall in love!
I can’t actually think of an idea, short story, novella or novel, that I have which doesn’t involve a romance.
This annoys me about myself. Love is important, yes, but there are so many more interesting and exciting aspects to life other than falling in love. Tolkien managed it, in fact men seem to be very good at this, which is irritating.
The Pixar film Brave is an excellent example of how you do not need romance to make a story enjoyable. Romance in adult fiction is also a tricky one. In young adult fiction romance is clear cut. Boy and girl meet, fall in love, overcome some obstacles/get turned into vampires/save the world, live happily ever after. They don’t have sex and, if they do, they certainly don’t out of wedlock.
Adult fiction has more, dare I say it, shades of grey. Adults are allowed to engage in consensual sex without any emotion involved which can make a story or character very interesting. Yet I still feel the need to include love in my fiction. Why? I’m very happily in love so it’s not like I need to create this feeling in other parts of my life. Maybe, deep down, I just want my characters to be as happy as me? Here, have a sick bag.
Thankfully sometimes characters have other ideas. As other writers will know and agree with, we actually have very little control over our characters. Like parents, we create them and name them. We put them in a location or in a situation and then...they completely take over.
In my current WIP I have a main character who was supposed to become romantically involved with another character. As I wrote the first draft he was enamoured with her but she just wasn’t interested. I struggled to bring them together but by the end of the story they hadn’t even kissed.
On my first read through I realised why. God, he was boring! My poor main character, of course she wasn’t interested. So I deleted him. Well, I changed him. And replaced him with a woman, supposedly a kindred spirit for my main character; a younger version of her, perhaps, ripe for moulding. I wrote her in and sat back to read.
There is now a spark between my main character and this new woman. Nothing happens other than shared glances in silence and secret smiles but the potential is all there. So I began to wonder, is my main character gay?
Well, why not? I’ve never knowingly written a gay character and this is the first character who has rebelled against a romantic opportunity that I have placed in front of her. She doesn’t seem romantically interested in any of the men in the novel. But this new woman is something different.
I’m actually quite excited about this. Is that bad? To be honest, I've always had a fascination with humans in society and during my final year at university I developed an interest in gender and sexuality. I studied a module about gender in archaeology which explored the sexuality and gender perceptions of people in ancient society. For example, what does it mean if a man is buried with a lot of jewellery? Does it mean he was gay? Transsexual? Maybe he was a jeweller? Or perhaps this type of jewellery was fashionable for men at this time, or he was showing off his wealth? Got to love archaeology - like writing, it's all so subjective!
Thing is, I started trying to think of gay characters in fantasy fiction and the only one that sprung to mind was Renly Baratheon and his lover in Game of Thrones... So suddenly my main character potentially has a whole new depth to her. Something I've personally never explored and I can't wait to write the next piece that she features in to learn more about her (if I ever get this novel finished).
For a bit more on gay characters, check out this article on Fantasy Faction.