Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath… and imagine with me….
You’re snuggled up in your favorite reading spot with a brand new book from your favorite romance author. The prose is just as you’d come to expect from said author, and the story captures your interest from that very first sentence.
The heroine is AMAZING. Dynamic with lots of layers, some things to overcome but overall, you’d love to see her end up with prince charming.
And wow. Prince charming is QUITE the fellow. Oh, he isn’t perfect. He has a few flaws, especially in the eye of the heroine. But he is handsome, smells like sugar and spice and everything nice, his muscles ripple underneath his shirt as he’s doing his cowboy work or even in his office suit or whatever he’s wearing that day. He opens a door for his lady, he is a dream with children, and then just went the conflict edges higher, he wraps the heroine in his arms when she is distraught and angry at him, but he doesn’t care. He loves her and wants to do everything in his power to win her love, even if it means sacrificing his greatest dream. Their lips brush, then they melt into each others arms and oh. my. goodness. Your heart thuds in your chest. Yes, this is true love.
Then you blink your eyes as a door slams somewhere in the house.
And this man walks through the door, with a strange stench of body odor from working all day. He stomps over to the oven and opens it up, “What’s for dinner?”
You reply, realizing that you got caught up your book and lost track of time, “Uh, I thought maybe we could get some Chinese to go?”
He frowns and lets out a huff, then stomps to the fridge, opens it up, and takes a large swallow from the 2liter of Pepsi, straight out of the bottle.
Then follows it up with a belch loud enough to wake the dog that previously had been asleep at your feet.
And your dream vanishes…..
Now, your reality might be different than this. My own reality is my hubby coming home and occasionally falling asleep on the couch, followed with me having to spend 20 minutes trying to wake up him for the dinner that I made. (In his defense… half the time dinner is boxed mac & cheese, but what can I say, we have 4 kids and I am NOT the most fabulous cook…)
My point in all this?
Romance novels are FICTION. While as writers we try to infuse reality as much as possible (some of us more than others, depending on our writing style), if we highlighted ALL the day-to-day bad things in their fantastic glory all the time, they would be, well, not very fun to read. We read to “get away” from our ordinary lives, not to be set right back in them.
I’ve heard some Christians look down on romance, even in the CBA, for this reason. They say we are paining an unrealistic picture of what romance is. They set us up for dissatisfaction in our own relationships.
I disagree. For one, my own fiction carries quite a bit of realism. My characters are much less than perfect and have some very real flaws that are hard to overcome.
Fiction can also, for me, set a bar to attain. It reminds me that romance is something to be fought for, that doesn’t always just come easy. That through the highs and lows, true love CAN prevail if we let it.
But on the flip side, I encourage you as readers of romance to give your man a break.
Here is what I’ve always decided: I’ll expect my husband to be romance novel “hero” material on the same day that I bring my own self to be romance novel “heroine” material.
Yeah. Needless to say, I’ve decided to love him in ALL his glory… blenching, occasional body odor, and bad manners and all. (Besides… I’ve drunk Pepsi out of the bottle probably more times than my husband… I know you ALL want to come over to my house and have something to drink now!)
Discussion: Do you ever find yourself comparing your significant other to characters in a book? What life lessons have you learned through reading romance novels?
Andrea Cox says
Fiction is supposed to be a temporary escape from our lives, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to read about other people’s problems. If the characters I write or read about have no problems, I can’t identify with them. They have to have issues to overcome, or there would be no storyline either. What I like about reading about these characters’ problems is how they overcome them. It’s in their journey that I sometimes get clues about how to handle my own.
Krista Phillips says
Andrea, oh yes!!! problems in fiction are SO important. Some of this is writing style… some writers give their characters more realistic problems than others, and I think that is super cool, because there are a lot of READER styles out there too!
There is a line though that most authors wouldn’t cross…. Can you imagine a romantic scene when characters lips are a breath apart and a loud nose erupts from the room and a strange, putred smell permeates the room, and the hero shrugs and says, “Sorry, shouldn’t have eaten those beans last night….”
Yeah. I just would rather not read that… regardless of to the fact that it probably happens more times than any of us want to admit!
Andrea Cox says
Great point! I like how you said there are a lot of reader styles, along with writing styles, out there.
That scene isn’t really something I’d want to read, either. :)
An honest, challenging post, Krista.
As an author and a reader, there’s a balance to be found. I try to write real heroes and heroines — knowing my readers also want a bit of an escape when they read novels too. And to make sure my heroes come across as realistic, my husband reads my manuscripts, which makes him a hero in my eyes! I don’t think my husband ever aspired to reading romance.
Krista Phillips says
Yes, balance is the KEY! And great idea of making your hubby read yours! Mine usually does as well:-) I love our real-life imperfect heroes!!!
Loved it, Krista! Remembering we READ fiction, doesn’t mean we’re going to LIVE fiction :-) I like to think of fiction as being sprinkled with enough fairytale and reality to be an escape, enjoyable, but also have something a reader can take back into real-life.
Krista Phillips says
I think you and I chatted about this the other day, sweet Pepper:-) Yes, I’d rather not live fiction either. Heck, sometimes our fictional characters lives are a MESS!!!!!
Lis Kim says
Thanks for your post! As a reader, I’ve been thinking about this issue and wondering if I should stop reading romances because sometimes I do tend to compare fiction vs reality. But I like what you said: that I should be heroine material before I can expect hero material. That really helped frame this issue for me, thanks!