Heads up, this post is mostly me on my high horse so you've been warned. You might not agree with me (actually I think a lot of people won't), but at least give this a read cause it's got some interesting things in it.
I write romance novels. It's not really a secret, it's pretty obvious if you look at the books I currently have out.
The covers kinda speak for themselves.
And I think a lot of people assume there's a formula for writing romance. It's certainly the one that sells.
Step 1: Couple meets in a meet cute. Girl falls on guy. Guy accidently buys her apartment. Their families push them together in a SURPRISE TWIST.
Step 2: Three options now. Love to Hate, Quirky girl fixes broken man, Bad Boy fulfills girl next doors dreams.
Step 3: Couple problems tossed their way, usually in the form of an ex (female of course for jealousy factor)
Step 4: Happily. Ever. After.
Can we just.... talk about how awful that is?
First of all, every book with romance you read will be exactly the same. You'll know what's happening, when it's likely going to happen, and how it will end. That sounds boring to me. More than that, it sounds unrealistic.
Do I have something against HEA's?
Well actually... yeah.
I think Romance has a job to do. Sometimes it's to make people remember that love exists. That there ARE happily ever afters, and that good things happen to good people. But it also has a responsibility to teach people healthy relationships. That these are going to be hard work, and that a billionaire isn't going to step out of his penthouse, see you in your sexy sexy wool hat and sweatpants, and say "That one. I'm going to hit her in my red room, but also make her feel like she's a queen."
Come on people. Christian Grey was an asshole and if we met him in real life, we'd all boot his ass to the curb or call the cops.
So what do I think people should write?
I think they should write gritty, realistic stories that rip out our hearts and stomp on that. Romances that don't always have happy endings, or the endings are bittersweet. Stories that show us what life is really like. That relationships are hard work. They never stop being hard work because if you stop working, the relationship slowly dies.
Or maybe show us that. Show us a relationship that burst into flame too early and slowly died a long, ragged death. But one that is built up again after realizing that losing your best friend sometimes just isn't worth it.
Show me break ups where they don't get back together. Where the envy, jealousy, greed or anger grows too strong and it shatters a relationship until it can't be put back together. Show me how those characters grow and change. How they don't come back together because there's nothing left to fix.
I want to read stories where one of the characters realizes their partner will never love them like they love them. And how they deal with that knowledge. Will they suffer the burden in silence, giving themselves while not asking for too much more in return? Or will they choose another life, another love, and leave everything else behind.
So if you're a writer, a romance author, someone who adds a little bit of romance to your books, whatever it may be, I'm asking you right now.
Write the sad stories.
Give us the tragedies that aren't a Happily Ever After. Give us the stories that make us angry. The ones that sting when we read them because they hit a little too close to home. Make us read through the stories of characters learning, and growing, and hurting so badly it makes it hard to breathe.
Why do I want this? The answer is really simple, and I hope it's something most people can standby.
Romance is one of the highest selling (if not the highest selling) genres for fiction. Period. What we write is teaching our children what to expect from the real world. It dulls the moments of struggle when they happen to us in the real world.
Breaking up is hard. Having your heart broken sucks. Struggling to stay in a relationship, making it work, through all the bullshit of life is tough.
We have a responsibility to show that in our novels.
Now, I'm not saying make your characters suffer and never find happiness. That, too, isn't realistic. People DO find love. We have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince/princess, but there are good people out there who will treat you right. But stop using all these ridiculous tropes as a reason why someone is broken and needs another person to fix them.
Create characters who fix themselves. Flesh out people who have been handed a bad card and make them fix it. Show us all these things and stop writing those classic Happily Ever After stories.
The world doesn't need more HEA's. It needs more grit, more reality, and a little bit of grounding.