Cat and I talk a lot about why Romance is at the bottom of the genre pile. Why does it ick people out so much? Why does it strike such an uncomfortable chord, that in turn creates such antagonism? Yes, some of it’s written really badly, but so is some of every kind of fiction.
What we’ve come to so far is this: Romance is a more direct expression of the Id than other forms of fiction. Those things that make us tick, and that create strong emotional reactions in us – Romance doesn’t dilute them, or add irony and scepticism to them.
So it’s exposed, and exposing. Think about how you feel when you make a direct emotional request of someone. A friend and I were talking recently about her boyfriend’s reluctance to get married. We talked about the difference between her bringing the topic up with him in conversation, and actually asking him a simple, direct question.
Really, the ‘ick’ factor of Romance is biological. From a very young age we learn to hide our genuine desires, reactions, emotions. Every psychological defence in us is fighting against the kind of exposure that an un-ironic statement of emotion brings.
I was listening to a WTF podcast today, and the presenter Marc Maron put it perfectly. They were talking about a book called Humiliation (it sounds really interesting), and expanding on the idea that scripted media is distancing the human voice from the visceral risk that is a live performance of voice. Marc mused that “edgy” concepts have had their time, and are therefore not really edgy or risky any more.
Then he said: “There is nothing you can do that is really edgy other than be honest.”
And something else Cat and I talk a lot about is that it takes a lot of work – and courage – to expose the thing that you really want to write about. It takes a lot of work to be honest.