Erasure

S. Winchester recently posted about Writer’s Digest insights into the Paranormal and YA Genre. Specifically referring to romance in YA and why it’s vital to include, at the very least, romantic subplots to attract the young female “relationship-obsessed” audience. (Their words, not mine)

Well, she had a few things to say about that.

And as it turns? So do I.

Though…I feel semi-hypocritical.

On one hand, I love a good romance subplot. Heck, most of the books on my keeper shelves are romance and most of my favorite authors have romance as a staple in their stories in some way or another. It’s the highest selling genre bar none.

Even outside of novels…make me watch any show, I’ll probably end up “shipping” two of the characters at some point. Even if said pairing is non-canon, as in not the narrative or writer’s intention. (And then rolling around in a puddle of my own tears because the shows I watch don’t let me have nice things.) And I’m not the only one. Not by a long shot.

On the other hand…

Writing romance was never a goal of mine. (Adding romantic subplots? Well, that’s a different story… because I’m a sap)

But joining tumblr has made me incredibly and irrevocably self-aware, not only with regards to society’s impact (and how far we haven’t come) with regards to gender, race, sexuality and health, but also as a writer’s role in those very same fields. We writers have an important job: to connect with people we otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. It’s made a big difference in the way I approach my writing as well as character creation.

Kait Nolan recently made a post about trying to read outside her gender, which I found very interesting. She’s actively looking for recommendations on books by male authors but on the grounds that the books must have the HEA endings. Because that is why she reads. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think most straight women do, but of course there are exceptions.

Personally, while I do like the HEA ending, I don’t need it. So long as the ending is logical and satisfying in some way, I’m good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the brand I want as an author, the type of stories I want to write, and the people I want to reach. Like S. Winchester, I too want stories about women who can stand on their own. Whose stories don’t revolve around who they fall in love with (again, not that there’s anything wrong with those). I want to write them too. Not just because I’ve always wanted to be that sort of woman, but because…

There is a huge erasure problem in media that needs to be fixed. Such as, but not limited to, where asexuality is concerned. And as Chuck Wendig recently said…fictional representation isn’t created in a vacuum. You, as an author and creator of words and worlds, have to risk fucking up royally and representing those you don’t want ignored.

Because if you don’t, they always will be. Because not everyone is willing or capable of taking those risks.

Of course…there are as many risks with playing it safe as there are with confronting the void. But I’m more interested in the latter, so we’ll talk about that next blog post.

Weigh in with your thoughts. What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Erasure

  1. For my part I can tolerate something other than an HEA if there’s no focal relationship in the book–but don’t go killing off the hero or heroine for no reason (I seem to have been faced with a rash of this from male authors, which was the start of my rant). But there are other…happy endings besides weddings bells and baby rattles. I’m equally happy by the end of Count of Monte Cristo where the bad guy SERIOUSLY gets his in the end. That hits my happy button. But it seems like so many male authors (at least the ones I’ve had the misfortune to read), feel like happiness and positivity and good conquering all don’t actually EXIST and therefore won’t actually write an ending that fits those parameters.

    And in response to whoever wrote that article you reference–I find it strange that anyone consider women (young or old) to be relationship “obssessed”. LIFE is about relationships (romantic and otherwise). The functional and dysfunctional, the haves and have nots. The idea of writing anything that doesn’t focus on relationships OF SOME KIND strikes me as a story that might as well be about paint drying. People ARE relationships.

    And on the female front, you also have centuries of socialization that claimed that women’s primary role in life was to find that long term relationship, get married, and have babies–socialization that still exists despite the fact that women can and do pursue many other interests. That doesn’t make women less smart or grounded in reality, and it sure as heck doesn’t make them LESS, which is the subtext I read from so many of the detractors of romance and romantic subplots.

    1. Kait, firstly, thank you for stopping by and for your lengthy reply.

      Secondly, yes, exactly! It’s the same confusion I feel when a fandom bemoans shipping and shippers because “why can’t we all just focus on the plot?”

      Without relationships, there wouldn’t be much of a plot to focus on. Do they all have to be romantic in nature? No, but I personally think those are some of the most interesting. Maybe not to everyone, but even those people who aren’t particularly interested in romantic plots must still have some character dynamic they are drawn to in some way. Because, as you said, people are relationships.

      I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to read the sort of books where romance did seem to be a focal point …but then the hero or heroine are killed off for no reason. It’s cheating. I remember once dropping a series because the author had been building up to one relationship for about two books and then in the third she did a complete 180 and suddenly the heroine went with someone else with like…little to no build up.

      Now that I think about it…all genres are built around a sort of trust, aren’t they? With Romance, it’s the HEA or HEA for now. When the relationship between two characters is the entire reason for a reader’s investment and the writer completely disregards that, it feels like a betrayal.

      1. YES! Exactly! Each genre has specific conventions–contracts with the reader. The problem comes in when a reader thinks they are getting one thing (either because the bookstore categorized it wrong or whatever) and then gets another (i.e. Nicholas Sparks being filed as romance when he ALWAYS kills someone off and never allows for any kind of happy). That’s when books are thunking against the wall!

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