morrigirl: (Vinnie)
My survey of the romance novel continues. At this point I have read thirteen books and they've run the gambit from utterly horrible to breathtakingly fabulous. I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting to read a book in which the development of the relationship was so well paced and realistic that I'd want to go back and read it again so I could take notes. Nor was I expecting to read another book in which the sex scenes were so erotic I found myself thinking about them long after I'd finished reading. As luck would have it, the romances I've chosen have gotten progressively better. I started out with a real stinker and just finished one that was marvelous. Seeing them steadily improve has been a welcome surprise. I've been taking notes and plan to write several extensive entries when I'm done with my study. Right now I'm reading a book on the craft of writing romances because I wanted to get a "behind the scenes" look at the process. I think when I'm done with it I'll finally start organizing my thoughts on the genre.

One positive aspect of this undertaking is that it has lead me to some interesting realizations about myself as both a reader and a writer.

For one thing, I've realized what most fascinates me as a reader and a writer is the relationship between two individuals be it romantic, platonic, familial, or professional. If you look at all the prose pieces I've written over the last ten years you'll see that's pretty much all I write about. "If They Knew" is the story of Cullen and Cecille, "Wife" is about the relationship between me and Dannielle, "Thieves Like Us" is about Lita and Cella, an abandoned memoir I tentatively titled "Pointing Fingers at God" was about my relationship with Kirk and my falling out with God. I just find the process by which two people come together and establish, maintain, or demolish a partnership to be absolutely mesmerizing. How many times have you all heard me say I wish I could remember how I became friends with my friends? Wondered how and when we each made the decision to become close? Those unspoken negotiations are so complex, so subtle, and so mysterious they beg to be explored.

However, one thing I've come to understand over the last month is that it is really hard to write about the beginning of a relationship. Coming up with situations that reveal character, foster trust, and heighten interest is not easy. Looking back over my work there is only one instance in which I wrote about a budding relationship, "Wife." And the only reason I did that was because it was a memoir and I already had the path to our friendship paved in front of me. All romance novels are about beginnings, and seeing how hard they are to write has given me a new respect for romance novelists, or at least those who can pull it off. Some can't. Of the romance novels I read, at least four lacked the build necessary to create a convincing romantic and sexual relationship between the hero and heroine. But there were others that were just pitch perfect and made me marvel at the author's skill. I plan to expand on this in a later entry.

The only thing I enjoy more than examining how people come together is observing how they come apart. This was my second major realization and it damn near knocked my socks off. Though I have an abstract interest in how relationships are formed, I generally don't enjoy reading or writing about the process. As noted, writing about the development of a relationship is hard and that's one of the reasons I don't do it. The other reason is that...part of me winces when I see other people getting together in any capacity. Being a largely solitary person with only a handful of friends, someone who has spent most of her life single when not wrapped up in the melodrama produced by casual sex, and who has always felt like an outsider, seeing other people come together in good will stings. I feel jealous and it makes me view such things as corny. Yes, I know that sounds pretty weird especially since we're talking about fiction here, but, hey, it is what it is. I'm just being honest.

But I always enjoy watching relationships fall apart, and it's not just because the loner in me gets a certain smug satisfaction out of it. Endings are just as fascinating as beginnings. What might have taken months or years to build can go crashing to the ground over something truly insignificant when compared to the length or depth of a partnership. It's astonishing.

I realize I have been fascinated by endings for a very very long time. I can trace the fatalistic interest back to the age of six when I first began grappling with the idea of mortality. The thought of dying scared the shit out of me, would reduce me to a crying, screaming, blubbering heap every time I dwelled on it. And, yet...I thought about it constantly. I couldn't pull my mind away. Hysterical crying fits became a regular occurrence all because I couldn't stop thinking about the end, my end.

They say you should write what you know and I know endings. Almost all of my poetry and prose are about loss. The glimpse of a persons back as they walk away or the closing of a door are images that saturate my prose. Almost all of my stories contain one or the other, if not both.

I've lost family, friends, lovers. I've lost respect, dignity, control. I've discarded and been discarded; I've abandoned and been abandoned. Loss is familiar to me. Though still scary, I've grown comfortable with it. I like to see, hear, experience the infinite number of ways people can lose each other.

I did not know these things about myself before I began my study of the romance novel, so, regardless of how I feel about the genre in general, the entire effort was worth the time if only because it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of myself.

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morrigirl

January 2012

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