Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love is in the Air

Do you read romances? I have. At times, I would read dozens of romances, one after another. Eventually, I would set them aside and move to another genre.
Mostly, I didn’t find romances very... satisfying. I couldn’t ‘identify’ with the characters.
For one thing, money never seems to be a problem in a romance. Whatever one of the protagonists wants, they buy. With hardly any thought about it. I can’t remember a single instance of the heroine realizing she needs a new coat, but doesn’t have the money for it. Or the hero’s frig is bare, so is his wallet and checkbook, and payday is still several days away. Or one of them has a sofa that’s missing a leg and a hole has duct tape covering it. Apparently, these types of things don’t happen in a modern romance.
That makes it hard for me to ‘suspend my disbelief.’ I grew up on the poor side of ‘middle class’, and I’m still there. I suspect the authors don’t want to anger their readers by making the woman struggling to make ends meet, because that would be ‘sexist’. And they can’t make the man financially struggling, because that might seem to be ‘man hating’. No, they figure both members of their couple need to be strong, independent, self-sufficient... equal.
But people can be strong and capable without having a fat bank account. The world is full of strong and capable people who have to pinch their pennies.
Another thing I find hard to identify with is the chosen location. As I remember, the vast majority of them happen in a huge city - New York, Los Angeles, London, Rome... Okay, I’ve attended conventions in Los Angeles and London, but I can’t say I really know anything about them. I can’t even imagine other huge cities like that, because the biggest city I’ve ever lived in is Kansas City. I remember just about enough about that city to not get lost... as long as I stay on the interstate! So, how am I supposed to identify with people who live in a place so alien to what I know?
You’d think, since I have such strong feelings about the romances I have read, that I would simply avoid the genre. Yet, from time to time, I find myself writing romances, using the pen name ‘Linda Joy’.
When I do write a romance, the location is usually a small town, often one I’ve actually lived in. My main characters may not obsess about money, but they are careful with it. They have jobs/careers that might afford them some degree of comfort, but if they suddenly find they need a new coat, or a new car, they’ll look for a bargain. And hope they don’t hate the color.

My theory is, Love can be in the air anywhere, not just in big cities. It can develop between the struggling and the have-to-be-careful just as well as the well-to-do. But if I can’t identify with the characters - at least a little bit - I won’t be happy with it. And if readers can’t identify with the characters, I will have wasted their time. My readers (AND my characters) deserve better.

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