I don’t write romance novels. I write dark fantasy.
But I guarantee you that if you open one of my stories you’ll find two people falling or already very much in love. I recently started to wonder about myself. Why do I do this? Why is this such a natural part of storytelling for me?
It all comes down to characters.
I love creating people. Fully-realized, three-dimensional human beings (or what have you, this IS fantasy). I think that, for me, romance is almost a two-for-one deal, a way to develop two people not just on their own, but in the relationship with each other.
Is love easy for them, or hard? What past baggage are they carrying around? How do they relate to each other, speak to each other, touch each other? Is there unconditional acceptance or do they have issues?
Before you know it, you end up delving deep into character backstory and background for POVs to answer those questions. Two characters relating to each other on such a primal, fundamental level is fascinating fodder for character development. And, as we all know, if I could get away with 60k words of my characters talking to each other, I would.
In In the Twist, for instance, Dallan and David are at their most fascinating when seen through each other’s eyes. Dallan sees a broken boy trying to will himself whole while simultaneously confronting the possibility that he can never be ‘right’. David sees a man so patient, so thoroughly good that he deserves the moon and the stars.
Neither perspective is likely to be 100% correct, but juggling multiple POVs and narratives is a challenge that I not only accept but actively seek. That’s why you won’t catch me fading to black when the sex scenes come along, either.
I don’t write erotica. I write dark fantasy.
That said, I also refuse to play coy with sexuality because to me it means ignoring one of the prime drivers of human nature. You wouldn’t shy away from describing your character’s favorite foods or the reason why he or she is obsessed with puppies. Why get shy over how they make love?
Talk about a grand characterization tool! Sex is so intensely personal, so intimate, that if you do it right your audience will leave the scene understanding your character on an incredibly visceral level. And that, above all, is what I want to do as a writer. Yes, it’s world-building, and yes, it’s storytelling, but more than that it’s giving birth. I want you to think about my characters long after you finish the novel. I want you to think of them when something reminds you of them ten years from now. So yes, I write the sex scenes.
So I’m neither a romance nor erotica writer, but I couldn’t do without either in my toolbox. I wouldn’t want to.
What are the most-used tools in your writer’s tool chest?