A Guy’s Guide to Writing Romance
When I stumbled into writing romance, it was not planned. By pure accident, I began revising a paranormal suspense piece I was working on and it slowly transformed into a romance. Now, keep in mind, I’d not only never written one but I hadn’t even read one.
I was lost and sinking in treacherous waters without a life jacket. I had no idea what I was doing at that point and yet my muse refused to yield to venture back to the safety of the genres I knew and read. She insisted the romantic element to my book blossom into a full-blown, paranormal erotic romance.
I had much to learn and learn I did. Through the wonder of the internet, I found writer resources, made contacts, found guidance and even some how-to articles. But using my male brain, translation was dim and I needed more light. So, I read over 200 romance novels, hoping it would sink it. It wasn’t until I realized I could keep my man-card and still write romance, that it eventually clicked. That mission impossible my muse sent me on, became my first published book, Gothic City Lights.
So, let me pass on some advice for the male author seeking to try their hand at the Romance Genre.
I bet you’re expecting me to say something like “embrace your inner woman” or “get in touch with your feminine side”. Well, I’m not. In fact, probably the exact opposite. The first thing that men notice about romance novels, is the hero. He is the guy we want to relate to, but just can’t. And more men than won’t will toss the romance novel aside and go back to their paramilitary thriller books they are comfortable with. I confess, I nearly did too.
The very first thing a male author writing romance has to understand is that he is not writing for male readers. This quite obviously explains why he can’t connect with the Romance Novel Hero. The hero is purposely a fantasy. His job is to tantalize the deepest desires of the women who read his tale. He is unreal, yet, if crafted well, at least believable. For women. Men for the most part, simply go “Yeah, right.”
Think of it like this. As men, we objectify women as sex objects. Wrong or right, we do. We can’t really help it. Everywhere you look, there are pictures, videos, sounds, art and all forms of media showing us the “perfect” female form. It’s not hard to understand why Sports Illustrated Magazine’s bestselling edition is their annual swimsuit issue.
Well, women objectify men as well. The medium is usually different, but it’s the same thing. And you know what? It’s okay to fantasize. I dread a world where fantasizing is not allowed or even discouraged. I don’t know about you, but I read to escape the real world and enter one where my fantasies are entertained. I know I’m not alone in this.
Okay, so by understanding the hero is supposed to be fantastical and surreal, the male author can let go of trying to relate to him on a real world level. This is the time to crank up your testosterone and inject it into your hero. Where real men can’t be massive bulks of muscle, deadly and dangerous, suave and sophisticated, successful and wealthy, and articulate and intelligent, all at the same time, your hero can and should. Now, step two.
Understanding the mechanics of the Romance genre is really just as simple as any other genre. Every genus of fiction has its rules. From Space Opera to Chick Lit and from Epic Fantasy to Cozy Mystery, there are defined elements that must be present. As a male author, these are no different if you were a female author, so just learn those requirements and you’re well on your way.
That leaves what I found to be the stumbling block. The emotional conflict. Another confession: I didn’t even understand what an emotional conflict was until recently. By pure accident, my books had them and thus, they sold to publishers. But I didn’t put them there on purpose. Talk about lucky.
Anyway. This critical element to the Romance Novel, I think, is the biggest obstacle for male authors. You see, we process emotions differently than women. It’s simply how men and women are hard-wired. Women are from Venus and men are from Mars, right? We’re writing for women and so we have to formulate an outsider’s interpretation of “Emotional Conflict.”
It’s difficult to describe how I personally deal with this issue without sounding cheap or demeaning, but essentially, I fake it. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for a man to feel emotions the same as a woman does and vice versa. Since I cannot feel the emotions the same way, I have to concentrate on the parts I can relate to and formulate a basic understanding.
I do know several authors who claim to perfectly understand the opposite sex, but—with all due respect—it doesn’t show in their writing. Several authors are very good at “faking it” and manage beautifully written stories and scenes from the opposite sex’s point of view. That takes talent and is rare. Amazon is crunch full of romance books where I can tell you, the author hasn’t clue one how men think. Hehehe.
The best compliment I’ve ever received was being told my female perspective was better than most female author’s the reviewer had read. I attained that compliment by tripling my concentration when dealing with my heroines and the emotional conflicts entwined within the plots of my stories. It was not easy and it is something I still do and will always struggle with by the very fact I am not female. My fragile male brain just can’t completely wrap around the female mind. Hehehe.
That was a compliment, in case it was read wrong.
But this brings me back to point number one and why it doesn’t matter if the hero is an authentic human male. He shouldn’t be. On the flip side of the coin however, the heroine must be genuine right down to her toes. This is why a male author has to understand the aspects of the genre that, in a word, are alien to the male thought pattern.
There it is in a nutshell. Obviously, every writer handles the aspects of writing differently and the “rules” really are simply guidelines. But I caution the male author when attempting their hand at romance, don’t skip the basics and pay extra attention to the aspects that make romance one of the most successful fiction genres of all time.
Now, let me give out a great big hug and thank you to Delilah for hosting me here today. I hope at the very least you all found me entertaining. I won’t be here all week, but do try the veal.