We were sitting in this high-rise apartment, this stranger and I, J, talking about my novel. Sipping on some mixture of pale Moscato and red wine he’d poured, not realizing I wasn’t really into wine.
I like juice and whiskey, I said. Oh, then you might like this, J assured me.
He kept pouring. Turned out the drink was alright.
J was a writer, too. He understood. However, when he asked the question, “Does your book have any romance?” I fell quiet for a moment then gave him this kind of wry, bitter laugh.
That he didn’t understand. He furrowed his brow, so I had to explain.
“The men in the novel aren’t exactly romantic. One tries to be, but it doesn’t come across that way because he’s too forceful; the other’s profession involves manipulating the protagonist to do something she normally wouldn’t do. I can’t really call that romance.”
J didn’t have much to say about that. The night carried on regardless.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that I’ve been a big fan of Nickelodeon’s TV shows Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra (LOK). I mean action, adventure, elemental magic/bending, martial arts… What’s not to love?
Speaking of love…
Korrasami: It’s Real
(That’s not the ending, btw. Just a little nerdy humor.)
Since Nick recently released a somewhat controversial ending regarding a romance between two same-sex characters, there’s been a lot of discussion and debate amongst fans as to whether the titular character and her friend Asami Soto were an actual “item”…
…at least, until one of the co-creators of the show released an official confirmation on their blog. The official answer is yes: the “Korrasami” romance is considered canon.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with this decision; that’s not my hang-up. What gets me about their decision is that, in my personal viewing experience, it truly seemed to come out of nowhere. Unlike other character romances, I felt there were not enough unambiguous cues that would suggest a romance between Korra and Asami.
What also gets me is Bryan’s statement regarding those of us who did not catch onto the possible romance between these two characters until the final episode:
“If it seems out of the blue to you, I think a second viewing of the last two seasons would show that perhaps you were looking at it only from a hetero lens.”
…or maybe it’s just showing your writing wasn’t as effective as it could have been. Plenty of shows have been clearer to their audiences about their intentions regarding same-sex romances. Granted, this is a show geared towards a younger audience, but that’s just all the more reason to make these things more obvious. If you have full-grown adults who didn’t see the signs, what makes you think younger viewers are going to have a better time of picking up on them?
I can understand the creators’ initial hesitation, but if you’re going to go for anything worthwhile in a story I say really go for it. After all, no expenses, so to speak, were spared on the other romances on the show (Opal and Bolin, Asami and Makko, etc.).
Those are just my thoughts, anyway.
While I’m not an active champion of same-sex romantic relationships and am not bi or lesbian myself, at the same time, I don’t see a reason to actively censor or not include such relationships and characters in some writing, TV shows or other art forms and mediums. However, “It never occurred to me” or “it’s not something I wanted to focus on or write/draw/etc. about,” for examples, are perfectly reasonable reasons not to, in my opinion, just as “I just wanted to write about a bi [or lesbian] character” is a perfectly acceptable reason to include one. “I don’t think gays and bisexual people should exist” on the other hand…not so much.
They do exist and to acknowledge this, even in fiction, is simply a nod to reality.
Don’t get me wrong: it can be so much more. You could be setting out to make an outright statement, though it isn’t necessary to. Sometimes having these elements can simply add to the variety of your cast, and if you’re going for verisimilitude that’s not a bad idea. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this.
Of course, what you do with such characters and topics in your works with be a source for open interpretation and derived meaning for readers, viewers, etc. Though, that’s another subject entirely.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on including same-sex romances in fiction? Also, if you’re a fan of LOK, what did you think about the ending and how the Korrasami thread was handled overall?
And boy, it’s great getting back to proper blogging. 🙂
(Kudos to Deviantartist SandraLLV on the Korrasami artwork!)
Lots of times when I see romance done in speculative fiction it just isn’t good. Or rather it isn’t believable. It’s more like a “oh, I have a male main character and a female main character, so I think they should suddenly have the hots for each other” kind of deal.
Not cool. I usually don’t buy it. (Sun of Sunsis an example of where I did not buy the romance.)
If you didn’t foreshadow and build this “romance” earlier in the novel, or if it is executed in an incredibly contrived way, then maybe you should consider just leaving it out altogether?
Sometimes, though, romance does just happen.
When I started my WIP I didn’t plan on writing about any romance. But then…somehow it just started to make sense.
One of my characters is incredibly headstrong and vocal about how he feels. And his love interest…well, she tends to keep her thoughts to herself unless asked to reveal them (and even then she may be reticent). When she does speak her mind she is very straightforward about it, so she can appreciate his bluntness. However, she, too, is quite headstrong when it comes to certain things, and they naturally don’t see eye-to-eye very often.
Of course, they end up having to work with each other on a very important mission and trust me, there is plenty of head-butting along the way. Regardless of all the naturally occurring roadblocks between them and even other major characters’ attempts at discouraging him, the man is still adamant about pursuing his lady-coworker. (Polite rejections don’t work on this guy, which she is quickly beginning to understand.) The reasons why he’s so interested in her are slowly revealed throughout the story.
To make matters even more wrought with tension, he is currently married and has an estranged relationship with his wife–though I should mention attitudes about marriage and courtship in his culture are a bit different from ours because a small amount of polygamy (that’s for both sexes) is actually legal where he lives; for his love interest, though, it’s very unsettling to be pursued by a married man.
There’s potential for lots of interesting things to happen here, I think. It’s romance on unstable ground, and it seemed to come out of nowhere when I started writing about these two.
Even so, I don’t think this is an excuse to just suddenly let romance burst out of nowhere onto the pages of my manuscript. I think that if romance can be worked in fairly naturally into the story (meaning the characters actually feel like they have chemistry between them and needs that can be met by the other), adds interesting conflict where it is needed most (like when things are going along a little too swimmingly) and can contribute in some way to the larger plot (or builds character), then perhaps it has a place in the story after all.
Of course, it’s guaranteed a place in your story if you are writing romance to begin with!
Do you have romance in your current/most recent WIP?
If so, how do you handle it? Was it something you planned for or something that came about later on in the process? Also, can you name any works of speculative fiction in which the romance worked particularly well? Where it didn’t work well at all? (I realize it’s all to easy too be a critic, but that’s how you learn, right? Look at where stuff works, where stuff doesn’t work, figure out the whys and try it out for yourself.)