Thursday, 19 March 2009

On the Subject of Marriage

Following my post earlier this week about the sanctity of marriage in romance novels, I’ve received the following feedback from that well know chap, Anonymous.

I wouldn’t normally post private correspondence on a public forum, but as well all know and accept, anonymous feedback doesn’t count under that rule. and besides, the correspondent makes some valid points.

Consider your market, if you will.
Presumably, you are trying to write a romance novel. Most readers of romance novels are women. This is probably self-evident. Now, consider how many of those readers are (or have been) married. Or may have had the experience of a 'relationship' with a married man. (Note this is commonly considered a bad experience... usually because of a string of broken promises, empty claims that he'll leave the wife for her, etc.)
Now, such readers will be likely to identify with your heroine. (Or, in the case of "Charlotte's" the wife/sister which would be even worse.) Married men are - by romance readers' standards - bad choices for a heroine. Typically, though, these same readers will completely understand/sympathize with the heroine stepping outside of a loveless marriage to hook up with the man of her dreams... who will invariably be available to her, and whom she can - by the end of the book - marry (if she wants to) as soon as her husband is removed from the picture. (Note that killing him off, or having him not contest divorce proceedings, is perfectly acceptable... or maybe he merely takes her back without any recriminations after the 'man of her dreams' turns out to be not what she really wanted, and the experience causes hubby to start acting more like the man that she now realizes was best for her.)
Is this a completely cynical view of the genre and its readers? Hell yeah. Is it accurate? In as much as any generalization can be, it is.

So, what are your thoughts? Is this a fair reflection of the readers of romance novels? Or is an out-dated generalisation? Has romance ‘moved on’?

And, if I were to take this at face value, should I alter the way I write? Because remember what my USP is. I write romance mainly from the POV of the male lead. (Note, I didn’t say Hero. I dislike the term. My male leads aren’t Indiana fucking Jones or John Kick-ass Wayne. They are normal, everyday blokes.) But if my audience is going to be mostly female, should I stop doing that and write from the female lead’s POV instead?

Of course, you already know what I think. I wouldn’t head my website and blog with the tag-line “Turning Romance on its Head” if i didn’t think I was offering something a little different from the perceived norm. My argument for writing the way I do is that my readers, even if they are female, like to look inside the heads of my male characters and see what’s going on in there.

Plus, there is another big argument for my writing from the male POV. Who’s heard the phrase “Write what you know”? Well, I‘m sorry, but I have enough trouble figuring out what’s going on in the heads of the women in my life, without creating new women to have to figure out too. I’ll leave that to my male characters, they tend to have better luck at it than me.

Seriously, I feel that if I tried to write from the woman’s POV it would sound like some middle-aged bloke trying to write like from a woman’s POV. Where as if I write from the middle-aged man’s POV…. You get the idea. I’m sure that there are men out there who can pull it off. And with enough work, perhaps I’d be able to as well. But surely I’m better off being the author that offers something different? I mean, Romance is a big, big market – we have to do what we can to stand out. Don’t we?

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