Friday, 22 January 2010

Love Me Slow


I'm currently writing a short story for an open call, and at the start it gave me serious trouble. It's not the theme: the theme's great. It's not the plot: I know what the story ought to be. It's not the level of heat: that's been left for the writer to decide. It's the stipulation that there must be a strong romantic core to the story.

Now I'm not a romance virgin. Bound in Skin was a romance novella. Heart of Flame is a romance-adventure novel. But I've never written a romantic short story, and you know what? - I'm not sure what one should look like.

You see, for me romance is something that takes time to develop. It's about a relationship. Characters need to interact, to conflict with each other, to discover obstacles and ways to overcome them. My personal opinion is that if your eyes meet across a crowded room and you both go ZAP ... then that isn't love: that's lust, no matter how you dress it up with palpitating bosoms and histrionic emotions. Someone once said "love is lust frustrated" and I think there's a lot in that, cynical as it sounds*. Certainly in all my novels my two protagonists spend most of the book not being able to get their hands on each other - which is why it ends up being love and not just sex.

So I believe romance generally is suited to a long fictional form. It gives the characters time to discover each other, and the reader time to fall for the characters. Encapsulating a relationship within the confines of a short story - now that's going to take some serious craft. It's not impossible, of course, but I have had to wrestle with it.

What do you think? Do you know any great short love stories? Have you written in this form? Or am I just not romantic at heart?


* though I'm certainly not denying that love can develop after sex. Ask Mr Ashbless.

5 comments:

Jeremy Edwards said...

Beautiful picture!

I'm not claiming to be any kind of definitive authority ... but my perception has been that within the erotic short story context, "romantic" generally has a broad definition in the eyes of editors and readers. I've come to feel that in this broader definition, people looking for an erotic story to be "romantic" want evidence of an emotional connection; they want a sexy encounter/relationship story that affects the heart in one or another positive way. So perhaps almost any erotic story that's not either relentlessly bleak or cynical, or strictly focused on libido alone and not interpersonal chemistry, might qualify?

Kat said...

I think what Jeremy says is largely true when it comes to the smudgy line that divides the genres of erotica and erotic romance. With this particular call, though (if I'm right in assuming it's the same one I'm subbing for) I'm of the same mind as Janine, and finding the challenge just as tricky. No advice to offer, sorry, but thought you might take some comfort from knowing you're not the only one currently trying to fit square pegs into round holes!

Janine Ashbless said...

Interesting, Jeremy. Thanks for that! These things, of course, are not black and white. You can have a romantic/emotional flavour to an erotic story - even a hardcore one - and I have done that with my own stories in the past. Stories where people make some sort of postive connection (especially in the middle of really negative circumstances) are lovely to write.

We probably are subbing for the same call, Kat! I wonder - Did you sit there asking yourself "So what's the card NO ONE else will pick?" like I did...?

Danielle said...

i..have to confess...i could never write romance..just the way i never can cook a propper roast beef...:-/ kuddos to you who can...

Kat said...

@ Janine...

And doesn't it always seem such a good idea at the time?

PS I agree with Mr Edwards about that photo. I wanna be there right now - all warm and wet and hot and slippery...