So, how much sauce do you like with your fiction?
I’ve been thinking about this lately, partly due to the marvellous Sam Sykes talking about romance on his blog, and partly because it’s a question that will inevitably come up when you’re writing most types of books.
I am not a huge fan of romantic fiction, by which I mean actual wild horses and possibly even hot things driven under my fingernails would need to be involved before I actually read any. This is, obviously, due to my own tastes and predilections, and no reflection on romantic fiction or even rom coms or what-have-you, it’s just the way I am. I sometimes wonder if this was because the only books that weren’t mine in the house where I grew up were often Mills & Boon, and I was still at that stage where the sight of a bloke with his muscles bulging out of a torn shirt was firmly in the “Eeew, stinky boys” category.
I suspect my other problem with it is, particularly in regard to films, the female character is so often a) the only girl in it, and b) only there to be the love interest. You see, as soon as a woman turns up in some films, you instantly know that she’s going to be getting off with the main character at some point and boom, half the plot is immediately obvious. No surprises for you, young lady! I hate that sort of thing.
However, having said all that, I like a sprinkling of the lovey dovey stuff, I do. Love is, after all, often the biggest and most significant emotion we feel in our human lives, and to have that missing from stories would make no sense at all. It’s who we are, of course it should be there. The question is, how much?
One of the things that interests me as a writer is the flirtatious relationship, the sort where there is a definite attraction and significant looks are exchanged, but no one is quite sure where they stand. I’m thinking here of Mulder and Scully, and even Niles and Daphne, or, you know, Moonlighting. I always enjoy those sorts of relationships because there is always conflict. I enjoy less those sorts of romances where the main characters meet and instantly fall in love (Legend by David Gemmell is the example I’m thinking of, although I should make it clear I loved that book – not for reasons of romance, mind). When the two characters have arguments, fights, saucy looks, uncomfortable-situations-where-they-might-have-to-spend-the-night-together-in-a-damp-cave, then it’s always interesting.
But what happens then? Do we want it resolved? And how much… resolution… do we want to see? I distinctly remember losing some of my passion for the X-Files when it was fairly obvious that they did in fact love each other, and general opinion is that Frasier jumped the shark when Niles and Daphne got married. Not everyone will feel this way, of course, but I wonder if anything is quite as much fun once the conflict is removed. Sex scenes are a tricky subject too, particularly in books – again, it’s an important part of human life and certainly needs to be in fiction, but once the pants are on the floor and the chandelier has been firmly rattled, where do we go from there? What else is there to anticipate?
I’d love to know what people think about this. Do you love the lovey-dovey, or do you prefer a seasoning of it? Does sex in a book ramp up your investment in a character to another level? Or do you go for the quick snog and lovers-torn-asunder type of deal? Tell me!