The concept of conflict in romance was raised a number of times in the comments of the true romantics of m/m.
This was a lovely happenstance as it was a topic Sunita (Dear Author), John (Dreaming in Books) and I had discussed in relation to m/m romance and something I wanted to post about.
The truth is I’ve become so curious about ‘conflict’ I now have a number of posts planned.
No, I can’t resist. Like any of you are really surprised by that. 😛
So, where to start??
Let’s talk about
sex babee, let’s talk about you and meee GLBTQQ issues being one of the main means of creating tension in m/m romance narratives.
I’m sure there are probably some out there who are rolling their eyes and saying ‘well, no shit Kris’, but think about it.
Set aside the idea of authors ‘writing what they know’ (one of those other posts) and your own preferences with regard to internal and external conflict and what that means (another of those posts), and really think about the use of GLBTQQ matters as conflict in m/m romance, gay fiction, etc.
You with me? Okay then.
Let me ask you this; do you think there is an expectation from both readers and authors that m/m romance should deal with problems faced by GLBTQQ people?
Perhaps in a similar way to when a reader picks up a book on social, ethnic, cultural, religious, etc themes and assumes these will be dealt with in some way, shape or form in the story?
Now, there is absolutely no question at all that these are very real, very serious concerns GLBTQQ people face in their day-to-day lives. They can also make for extremely compelling and thought-provoking stories, but… there’s always a but…
Are the authors of m/m romance relying on our expectations as well as the impetus provided by GLBTQQ issues to build conflict?
Are these ‘easy fixes’? The subject matter which can be instantly added if an author is struggling with plot development or if an editor or publisher asks for ‘more tension, dammit!’?
Or is this something which is perfectly natural to be incorporated in stories in this genre? The realism many readers demand?
What do you think?
Those who dared:
ouaqquwcgk on my confession dkmhwgijnw on random awesomeness Kris on maybe it’s me, but… kaetrin on maybe it’s me, but… Kris on maybe it’s me, but…
I think it's natural to be including those issues, because the GLBTQQ people I know DO have to deal with those issues, every day.
As always, it's HOW the issues are dealt with. It seems pretty common to take the easy way out and just slam in some external conflict just to have external conflict (stalkers, anyone?!?), without much purpose to the story itself.
What Chris said
She's not going to let you get away with that, Kaetrin. 🙂
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesus Christ, I posted on the wrong blog. I'll be back. LOL
Chris says it well. But realistically, I've always approached it less as a true issue of external factors and more as a means of demonstrating internal struggles.
Because, as in ANY relationship, intimate or otherwise, regardless of the gender of the individuals, the influence of factors you don't really control is only as imperative as the character's method of coping. And the influence that reaction/method has on the relationships.
But yeah, there will be books that handle it poorly, with the approach of ZOMBIES! as a plot device.
Look! Over there! In the sky! 😀
I think it's pretty hard to ignore them completely unless you are setting your story in an alternate universe of some type, fantasy, sci-fi, futuristic, Cattle Valley. However the level of involvement in the story varies.
It doesn't always have to be paranoia and worried that you're going to get bashed and parents are tossing you out and friends shunning you an losing your job because you're gay. It can be just not holding hands in public because you don't want to possibly face dirty looks, or more subtle actions you take, or just that little nervous moment when you mention to a new coworker that your “partner” likes Star Trek too and wondering what the response will be, even if the response is benign.
So I think it's hard to ignore it completely, but I don't want every gay story to be us against the horrible world out to get us either. Most gay people I know don't live in that kind of world either. So I think it's pretty hard to avoid but like real people, the level of conflict GLBTQQ people face will be as varied as people themselves.
Honestly, reading is my escape. I read romance to get away from my real life where I have problems I can't solve easily.
In a book, whether the characters are GLBTQ or straight, I want great sexual tension and chemistry between the characters I believe in.
When I want to read books that deal with heavier issues like rape, abuse, gay-bashing, etc, I'll pick those up but I have to be in the mood to handle those.
I also like when an author sticks with one style, like if an author is angsty, stick with it and I'll know what to expect. If an author is fluffy, I'll know when I pick up that book, I'm going to have big fluffy cotton candy balls 🙂
Also, what Tam said.
(not the first time. I didn't understand that – the one she posted at 9.50 am)
That was for the wrong blog Kaetrin. It was for KZ. Makes total sense over there. LOL Not sure how I got on the wrong blog.
Have I mentioned that I freaking hate captcha? What happened to word veri?
I think it depends on the story. If it's a simple romance where two guys meet and yadda yadda yadda, there is no need to have that kind of conflict. If there are more issues to deal with, a lack of that kind of conflict would be bewildering. I remember thinking “yeah, everyone is OK with you two, rainbows, unicorns” while reading.
If we see more from the world created in a book, the need to address GLBT issues arises. Ignoring it would make a book less than realistic.
(and I hate Captcha too)
I put the issues in my books because as a mother of a gay child I face these issues every day. So, I made a vow to educate the world about some of the common rights that LGBTQ people are denied. For example, only a small percentage of the population know that in America gay men can't give blood, nor do most people understand the difference between a civil union and marriage.
That being said, I have seen books that have taken the gay bashing/hate issue to Dynasty drama levels. Not every single cop, parent, teacher, preacher, neighbor, high school buddy is a homophobe and I hate it when books make it out to be that way.
For every hater out there, there are also allies. And no, it's not always the gay guy's best girlfriend, either. In fact, my son was good friends with a lot of the jocks in his class. He also started the first GSA ever in his high school and he was never attacked or shoved into the lockers in the hallways.
So, I think the best service we, as authors can do for the cause, is draw attention to the issues, but not manipulate them for the sake of making a book full of angst.
oh, yeah, what Stephani said too.
(also, I don't like captcha either – my eyes! my eyes!)
Ahhh, what Chris and Tam said. Which I know is cheating, but…they said it best 🙂
For me, personally, while I some some external conflict (although if I never read another stalker plot I would be so happy 🙂 it's internal conflict I crave. I love seeing the growth of a character. Yes it's fiction, but…it often (I hope) has some basis in RL and it's gives me hope. I think that's why certain books become keepers. Because I'm fighting that same fight and the books…resonate 🙂
For me, it would depend on the book. When I read a contemporary YA, GFY, or one in which one of the MC's is closeted, I expect GLBTQ issues to be addressed, and when they're not, it seems unrealistic. But otherwise (like with two MC's that are out of the closet), I don't think those issues need to be addressed except maybe in the smaller ways that Tam mentioned like whether to hold hands in public. But in that case, I wouldn't expect or want that to be the main conflict of the book.
And like Orannia, I much prefer internal over external conflict. I like flawed characters that sometimes behave in shitty ways, but then grow and learn from their mistakes.
I think having the conflict is natural as these are definitely issues that are faced by the GLBTQQ community. As long as the story doesn't get preachy I'm all in.
Also…what Chris and Tam said. 🙂
Rhi, Zombies are a valid plot device! Especially if the tension is because one of your people is turning into a zombie…
Stephani, while not the whole world, my opinion is that 90% of straights wouldn't notice or care if the whole QUILTBAG vanished, and of that about 40-60% would be actively cheering. (Then again, I live in Arkansas)
As for books, I like some external problems, just like I like female background characters. Now if your men live in the all-male gayopolis where everyone is gay gay gay, then they better have some darn good interpersonal tension.
I like external. I like internal. I don't like conversations that cut off 2 sentences before the important point and cause a Big Misunderstanding that puts everyone in a snit for 80 pages.
Suppose the human right for lgbtq issues are bound to be mentioned, the point is how they are treated. I prefer the subtle approach, avoiding some cliches, like the homophobe that's secretly gay,or the m/m mystery where the culprit is always a bigoted anti-gay hypocrite.
This may sound odd but I agree with what everyone has said so far. I've always been good at seeing things from both sides of a debate.
I truly think it just depends on the book. If the book is one that is more for the erotic sexual tension/pleasure aspect and very little angst, you may tend to see less of these issues come up which I personally think works for these books.
However if the book, while it may still include the sexual side of things, is one that is meant to have conflict and angst and perhaps more story development, then I think it is natural to expect and see these everyday issues brought into play and personally I don't think the book works well if it isn't, even if it is just things such as being seen in public, holding hands, pda etc.
Sorry that last one was mine, forgot to hit my profile button.
If it's a contemporary or historical romance, I think the issues around same-sex love should be explored. What are the laws, what are the attitudes of the people in the area the couple lives in, how much internalized homophobia do the protagonists have? All reasonable questions. I like to get skillfully written answers. Oh, and of course I want to care about what happens with the characters. I don't necessarily need angst, but I want a nod to reality with what I think is a fairly important component to the relationship.
Sorry to be MIA, everyone. No doubt you missed me heaps and heaps. I know.
Chris: “As always, it's HOW the issues are dealt with. It seems pretty common to take the easy way out and just slam in some external conflict just to have external conflict (stalkers, anyone?!?), without much purpose to the story itself.”
Great point, Chris. GLBTQQ issues does depend on the way an author uses them as a plot device, whether it be a slam-it-in-there-easy-conflict-fix or something more complex and thought-provoking.
Kaetrin: I can't believe you're a fellow country woman. I'm so ashamed.
Tam: Geezus fucking kerrist, Tam. For a minute there I thought you'd totally lost the plot. Holy wow.
“So I think it's pretty hard to avoid but like real people, the level of conflict GLBTQQ people face will be as varied as people themselves.”
This is very true. The way people react to the conflict will also be as varied.
Well said, Tam.
Rhi: “Because, as in ANY relationship, intimate or otherwise, regardless of the gender of the individuals, the influence of factors you don't really control is only as imperative as the character's method of coping. And the influence that reaction/method has on the relationships.”
Indeed. This is also one of the reasons why I have a preference for stories which focus on internal conflict and the way MC's deal with this – or not – as a means of conveying any kind of issue, from GLBTQQ to mental illness, to physical disability, etc, etc. This, for me, is what makes a story all the more compelling.
PS – Zombies… Have you ever seen Shaun of the Dead??
Lori: I'm the same. My mood influences what books I'll pick up at any given time. I too like to be able to go to the authors who I know will give me what I need; for eg, angst is always Amy Lane. 🙂
Matthew: “Ignoring it would make a book less than realistic.”
Like you, a lot of the commenters want conflict to be relevant to the plot and therefore realistic to whatever level of audience the story is aimed at.
Stephani: “So, I think the best service we, as authors can do for the cause, is draw attention to the issues, but not manipulate them for the sake of making a book full of angst.”
'Manipulate' is such an appropriate word to use in this context. As you say, the exaggeration of GLBTQQ issues and the use of stereotypes like the homophobic cop do very little to education, etc, but have more to do with 'throwing' in some conflict for the sake of the story.
Orannia: “Because I'm fighting that same fight and the books…resonate :)”
Those are the special kind of meaningful. 🙂
Richelle: Great point about how this type of conflict can be treated in the different sun-genres of m/m and gay fiction. Again, it's all about how convincing the story is.
Tracy: Please to be expanding on what you mean by 'preachy'.
Angelia: “Now if your men live in the all-male gayopolis where everyone is gay gay gay, then they better have some darn good interpersonal tension.”
Truer words have never been typed, luv. If you're going to write that type of setting then for fuck's sake make the MCs interesting or else what's the bloody point.
Actually, do you mind if I steal this and quote it in a post I have on this very topic?? 🙂
Rainbow: “I prefer the subtle approach, avoiding some cliches, like the homophobe that's secretly gay,or the m/m mystery where the culprit is always a bigoted anti-gay hypocrite.”
Word. Book Goddesses save me from another closeted-ex-turned stalker. I think we could probably write a dictionary about the characters in m/m. It would probably be better too. 😛
Angel: Why is it odd? Do you usually disagree with people, Angel? If so, you'd be even more welcome here. ;P
I think when a story focuses on the development of the relationship between the MCs and the 'normal' things couples deal with it is natural to include these everyday kind of issues. Sean's 'Tigers and Devils' does exactly this, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much… and I'm not just saying that cos he's my BFF. 🙂
Em: I'm so glad you raised the questions in relation to m/m romance. Those are excellent examples of the types of very real issues GLBTQQ issues face.
It also gives me an opportunity to get on one of my favourite soap-boxes… I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING HATE IT WHEN HISTORICAL ROMANCES DON'T ADDRESSOR ADDRESS SUPERFICIALLY THE DANGERS HOMOSEXUALS FACED IN THE PAST. IT DRIVES ME BAT SHIT CRAZY!!! I HATE HATE HATE IT!!!!!!!
“Oh, and of course I want to care about what happens with the characters.”
True that. When you find yourself wishing the worst would happen to one of the MCs that tends not to be a good thing.