I am always happy to discuss the question of male character development in books, particularly with this man. Lee Brazil is one of the nicest blokes in the business and an amazing author to boot. I'm thrilled to welcome him to my blog.
Too Much Realism in Romance?
Realism in romance. How much do you want? How much is too much? Hi there, I'm Lee Brazil, author of m/m romance for Breathless Press and the Story Orgy. *sips coffee* I write, yes, but I'm also an avid reader. I read hundreds of books a year. I only write a few. Would it surprise you to know that the m/m community is rife with controversy of one kind or another? I thought not. Ordinarily, I avoid conflict. It makes me nauseous to tell you the truth. But...*deep breath*
I stumbled over an argument on the web recently that I had a bit of difficulty understanding. I’m not ordinarily dense, but this one I had to consult a panel of experts over. *blushes* Okay, I just talked to the other Story Orgy members. The argument I had difficulty with was the Chicks With Dicks phenomenon. It's a phrase readers use when they believe a hero in m/m fiction behaves in a manner that is unrealistic—by that they seem to mean feminine, though I don't believe the behavior they are detailing is in any way inherently natural for an adult female.
Let's leave aside certain facts about this argument such as the term itself is offensive. (You do not refer to women as chicks. At least, not in the household I grew up in, unless you're dying to get a black eye.) Second, the term is already associated with transsexual porn. ( Googling CWD will not get you a cogent argument or explanation. It will get you some very interesting porn. )
The basis of the argument seems to be built around male characters who are overly emotional or cry frequently. Some people say it goes beyond that, that it actually refers to characters who do not behave in masculine fashion. (I'm just going to throw out here, right now, that I do not believe in masculine and feminine behavior. You can blame that on the indoctrination of the education system if you want. Men and women are different, yes. I agree one hundred percent. However, I do not believe we can define any one behavior or response as masculine or feminine in nature.)
In class rooms across the country we have children of both sexes bullied on a daily basis because they respond to their environment in ways that are outside the gender norm for their peer group. Effeminate boys are mocked and teased, even if they're straight. Girls who have broad shoulders and enjoy sports are picked on and bullied. No one cares what reality is for these kids, it's their own preconceived notions of what constitutes masculine and feminine behavior that creates the problem.
But CWD doesn't apply to real life. I say neither does romantic fiction.
I do not enjoy too much realism in my romantic fiction. Real life men and women wouldn't make good romantic heroes.
For example, it's said that all men watch porn. (FYI—Any statement regarding people that begins with all is going to end with bullshit.) I'm not even going to bother defining porn for this purpose I don't argue that a majority of men most likely do watch porn. However, not all men do. At the same time, all women do not watch porn is the socially accepted view. This is equally false. I'd venture to suggest that the majority of women do not, but I can't imagine statistics on this being reliable. I guarantee you however, that some women watch porn and some men do not.
If you were creating a romance hero that you wanted to be loved by thousands of readers, you would need to select characteristics of behavior that would appeal to those readers. You'd also have to take into account that those readers are predominately women. Like upwards of 90% female. So as you sit down with your blank sheet of paper, and start drafting your hero, do you list watches porn under hobbies? Probably not. Watching porn seems to fire the female radar. It's borderline cheating. It indicates that a man cannot be satisfied with one partner, one body; he needs the inspiration of others.
So the reality that men watch porn? Probably should be left in the realm of reality instead of fiction.
*raises hand* Please...do not throw rotten tomatoes at me. I have no problem with porn being watched by men or women. There wouldn't be such a huge porn market if people didn't watch it. I just don't necessarily want that fact of life in my romantic fiction. It doesn't tickle my romance bone. It might work fine for other people. Men who cry at the drop of a hat might work for some readers too. There's nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t seem romantic, and would detract from the essence of the story.
What about you? How much reality can you stomach? What realistic "fact" can you do without in your romance fiction?
Can you deal with selfish and manipulative? Meet Val and Adrian, two not so perfect heroes seeking their own happily ever after.
Lee's BioI’m an avid reader and former teacher of grammar and composition who believes that falling in love is the grandest adventure anyone can have. In a nutshell, that’s every story I have to tell.
By Lee Brazil
Valentine Michaels has just taken a vow of celibacy. Adrian Grey intends to take full advantage of that vow to re-create his relationship with Val.
Val is at a crossroads in his life. A college dropout, he's gone as far as he can in his career as a cosmetologist, owning his own style salon. He no longer finds satisfaction in it, though he's put years into proving to his bigoted parents that a college degree and the veneer of straightness aren't the only roads to success. They'd turned their backs on him, and he proved he didn't need them to make it.
His love life is no better than his working life. His relationships always start with a bang and fizzle into boredom, or worse, anger.