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.