Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hand Me My Spurs. Bitch.

This is going to sound totally disjointed at first, but I do have a point, so please bear with me.

I'm hearing a lot readers out there are clamoring for "something different." They say they're tired of not being able to tell one romance -- be it RomCom, urban fantasy, RomSus or EroRom -- from another because all the heroines seem to come from the same central casting unit that only puts out calls for:
a) the tough, ass-kicking broad who fights the hero tooth and nail until that moment, somewhere past the mid-point of the novel, where she finally gives in and lets the brute have his Alpha way with her, or
b) the ditzy chick who didn't MEAN to stumble into that nest of vampires/werewolves, but golly gee, if the Main Bloodsucker/Leader of the Pack is CONVINCED she's his soul-mate, who is she to argue? or
c) the historical babe who, although she's a widow twice over, is technically still a virgin because her first husband couldn't get it up and her second husband preferred the back door entrance, or
d) the dissatisfied, unfulfilled career woman who didn't realize what she was missing until she somehow -- accidentally and through no fault of her own, you understand -- falls in with a Dom who shows her the amazing freedom to be found in a latex thong and nipple clamps.

(These are EXTREMELY generalized stereotypes, and are not meant to represent any single book, series of books, or author currently writing.)

Not to mention the heroes: Alpha, Alpha with a Beta streak, Gamma with a crunchy Alpha filling, super-Alpha, uber-Alpha, sweet-and-pungent-Alpha, Alpha-with-a-small-side- salad-and-a-diet-coke-to-go.

And, of course, the formula doesn't change. Gotta have that HEA, or it ain't romance, and I'm not even arguing, but hell...can we mix it up a LITTLE bit? Can we let the heroine fuck someone else besides the hero on her path to everlasting happiness? Onscreen, even? Can she make a few honest human mistakes along the way? Can the hero show weakness? Can anybody EVER not be perfectly beautiful or sculpted or groomed without the book being labeled an "ugly duckling" romance or a "Cinderella story?"

A very long time ago, I was a painter. My canvases tended to be...hmm...unusual. Not the stuff the other seventeen-year-old-girls with crushes on the art instructor were painting. Salvador Dali on crack, to be honest. Dark shit. Scary stuff, with burning bodies, and bleeding walls, and melting, poisonous ice cream in desert-scapes. I scared some people. Was put into therapy because clearly, I had a screw loose somewhere.

And we won't even discuss the first time my mother found my sketchbook of NUDES.

I was told, in any number of different ways, that I needed to paint pretty pictures. That people didn't want to see my pain on canvas. That "gritty" and "real" were for artists, and I was just a precocious kid with a weird portfolio.

I didn't want to paint mountain landscapes, or children playing in the park, so I quit painting entirely. I was young and easily discouraged. I am neither of those things now. And what I want to write -- within the romance genre -- are dark stories about people in pain who find redemption through love.

Today, pbwriter posted on the topic of "stuff happens." The kind of stuff she's talking about is the STUFF that we do to keep ourselves in the game -- like throwing a manuscript we love in a drawer not because it isn't well-written, but because it's not what's selling right now. Or the changes we make to our work so it will conform to what we believe is the "next big thing." Or the way we sometimes tell the voice in our head that encourages us to go for it to shut the hell up, because it's too scary, and what if nobody wants it after we've worked so hard?

In my own way, I've been caving to this very voice. I'm writing what I want to write -- gritty and painful stories about real people, with real weaknesses and real failings, because I believe it makes the happy ending that much sweeter. But I'm keeping it small. I'm submitting it only where I know I can get a contract. I need to pull out the larger canvas again, and paint me some big-ass pictures.

I'm not seventeen. They can't MAKE me go into therapy because I painted a clown and then set his hair on fire. Or even because my heroine has problems that don't go away the first time the hero says "I love you."

I'm hearing readers say they want something different. I've got something different to give. We'll see if they're telling the truth.

Time to cowgirl up. If I fail, it won't be because I didn't try.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue


Blogger Heather said...

Good for you! I'm right at the same place, and I need to paint those big-ass pictures too. This is the kick I needed, right at the right time. Many thanks!

2/14/2007 7:01 PM  
Blogger Ann(ie) said...

Amen, sister. I'm done writing to the market too.

2/15/2007 11:53 AM  
Blogger Ciar Cullen said...

Oh, wow, just posted (less eloquently) the same thing over at Romance Divas this evening. I'm 50 and still sweating the "market" when I don't even like the market. Really good words, Selah. Really good. There's something big inside me dying to get out, and a million old voices (probably of folks mostly dead) telling me I'd better not go there. Hell, my tombstone will read "she was a really good little girl, but nothing she did made her really happy". AARGH.

2/15/2007 8:16 PM  
Blogger Selah March said...

S'nice to know I'm not riding off into the sunset on my trusty Palomino all alone. Thanks, guys. ;)

2/16/2007 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Yeah, well, we know how well I write to market. *snort*

Can we let the heroine fuck someone else besides the hero on her path to everlasting happiness? Onscreen, even? Can she make a few honest human mistakes along the way? Can the hero show weakness? Can anybody EVER not be perfectly beautiful or sculpted or groomed

We can and we do and we get told over and over and for example OVER, that you "just have to find that one editor who'll love it."

In fact, I seem to recall a certain critique partner telling that very thing... ;-)

We're all trying pet. All trying.

2/16/2007 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Your Darling Sista... said...

I don't know what mom was talking about! I loved that melting ice cream in the desert picture. Of course she hung it where no one would really see it!

2/17/2007 8:34 PM  

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