Saturday, 21 January 2012

Welcome to Lee Brazil: Too Much Realism in Romance

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* 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 Bio
I’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. 
Relocating from the crazy pace of life in Southern California's Orange County to the beautiful and leisurely atmosphere of the Illinois countryside has given me the time to indulge the desire to write that I set aside when I started teaching fourteen years ago. Readers can find out more about me and my writing by visiting me at my blog, Lee's Musings or finding me on Facebook. Feel free to drop me a line at

The Librarian
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.
Adrian has his own agenda for helping Val: he's been in love with Val since they were freshmen. The intervening years of listening to Val's gossip about his lovers and relationships have taught Adrian just what it was he did wrong all those years ago, and he thinks this time around he now knows exactly how to get—and keep—his man.

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  1. I can deal without the hassle of characters going to work. If its made in passing, or there is a scene which is central to the book then that's fine but someone talking about what they did all day at work just for realism purposes...nah, thanks.
    Also, yes I am woman, and I watch porn! LOL

  2. I agree, Araya. Unless going to work furthers the development of the relationship, it doesn't need to be detailed. Romance, is after all, primarily about building the relationship.

    Thanks for having me over, Sue!

  3. LEE!!! I bow to your greatness and will gladly bring offerings of lovely nekkedness to your wall to pay homage. lol

    I agree with your blog and more importantly, I appreciate you taking the time to post your opinion. Everyone is entitled to them. Everyone should have a voice. The problem doesn't come from differing opinions...I believe it comes from the inability for people to see beyond their own opinion.

    I had a wonderful conversation last night with a friend about this very topic. His opinion differs from mine, but we didn't criticize, or ridicule one another because of it. We did what most people have forgotten how to do...we discussed the topic like the adults we are.

    I'm in agreeance with the reality of a book. There are somethings I don't want to know. I am aware that people have jobs...I work one myself. I am aware that people go to the doctor, the dentist, and pay bills. I live in reality. I don't watch movies or read books to see reality. Unless I am reading to gain knowledge, I don't need factual reality. If the reality isn't necessary to the plot line or character building, don't tell me. I can put the book down and cook dinner, wash dishes or clothes, and ride heard on hellion children all by my onesies.

    *steps off soap box*

    This is one of those topics that can set my teeth on edge, and I will apologize if I ran off on tangents in trying to express my appreciation of you taking time to offer your view.

    *smiles bashfully*

    1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and has the right to express it. Thanks for sharing yours, Aimee.

  4. I admit I am a kitchen sink writer. I like the day to day nuances that make up someone's world. However, do I need to know every little detail? No, I don't think so.

    Thanks for being here, Lee.

    1. And, you excel at weaving those threads into your stories and creating characters that stay with the reader.

  5. I truly don't know how I missed this but, first off,

    @Sue Brown: Thanks for having Lee on your blog. I think he's great.

    @ Aimee: You hit the nail right on the head when you said what you did about the "inability for people to see beyond their own opinion."

    @ Lee: I'm afraid I'm the kind that thinks of silly things like, wait a minute. What if they need to go to the bathroom? Or, where did they get the money? Silly crap like that, but it probably just depends on how much detail they give, too. I don't need to know the threadcount on the bed.

    The porn thing doesn't bother me either, especially if it's part of the story. And you raised an interesting point about "all men…" That's like saying all gay men are super clean and have style. Really? Our house winds up looking like a pig sty, my hair will be all mussed and I'll have several weeks worth of facial hair when I'm entrenched in writing a book!

    1. LOL Johnny, but do you put these bathroom visits on the page if they don't further the rest of the story?

      I think you need enough realism to create memorable characters, develop a setting, and tell a story. And the real life details you choose to share need to endear your readers to your characters. If you think people like men who cry, go for it. If you think people will like snark, go for it.

      Just remember that your audience won't like your characters unless you do. :)

      *looks around* *coughs* * gets off teacher podium* Sorry!

    2. Johnny, my previous fandom was obsessed with threadcount. I didn't even know what it was.

      I too like the small details. You know when you watch a film and you see someone that has been tied to the chair for days but still looks fresh as a daisy? I'm the one thinking about the fact the poor guy/girl would have peed themselves.

      Ok, maybe that was TMI.

  6. @Lee: Thanks for the laugh! No. I'm not THAT bad with detail. But I do have a sex scene in the men's room of a restaurant in my last book.

  7. @Sue: Sounds like you and I would be the ones saying, wait a minute! Like in the last Transformers (which I've only seen because I have a big thing for Shia; hmmmm). His girlfriend in those white jeans. All that running around, taking spills and hits and they're STILL white?