I’m super excited to have my friend Melissa Cutler on the blog today! I first met Melissa about a year ago at the San Diego RWA meeting. I was new to the chapter and Melissa was one of the first people to greet me and make sure I felt welcome. I’ve been smitten with her ever since.
When I asked her to do a guest post for the blog, I had no idea what she’d write about, but since I have loved every book she’s written, I knew it would be fabulous ~ and it is! She’s talking about love, conflict, and, well why don’t you read what she wrote…
Do Romance Novels set Unrealistic Expectations? By Melissa Cutler
After my mom read my debut release, The Trouble with Cowboys, she called me. One of her comments was:
“who would’ve guessed you knew so much about resolving conflicts?”
I’d never considered that angle before, and it got me thinking about writers and how conflict resolution is a huge part of storytelling. We create characters who are often so at odds with each other that the reader wonders if resolving their differences is even possible, then make them do exactly that by the end of the book.
The trick is making the resolution feel realistic. If a historical heroine has decided she can’t marry the hero because it will leave her younger siblings at the mercy of their evil step-mother, you can’t just insert a random grizzly bear into the story to take out the step-mother while she takes her morning constitutional stroll through the gardens. That’s an extreme example, of course, but my point is that making conflict resolution in a story too easy or fast or unnatural isn’t satisfying to readers.
The irony is that while an author’s job is to make conflict resolution believable and realistic, often times in real life, conflicts don’t get resolved. Last week, one of my editors commented on Twitter:
“I have a feeling most dating complications are misunderstandings, so why can’t they be more like novels and talked through?”
I agree with him to a certain extent about real world complications stemming from a lack of communication, but I would add lack of effort to the list of causes. I see that all the time with people I know—one or both parties don’t fight for the relationship, for whatever reason, so it fizzles (or flames) out.
This would never happen in a romance novel, would it?
In romance, both the hero and heroine, or at least one of them at first, has to care enough to fight. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a book, right? The characters must overcome their conflicts. They must endeavor to talk things through. To make it work in the name of love, come hell or high water. One of the reasons I love reading and writing romance is the pleasure I get from experiencing people fighting passionately for who they want in their lives, what they believe in, and what they want their future to look like. By “fighting”, I mean doing whatever it takes—talking, changing their beliefs or habits, overcoming external obstacles, and evolving into better people.
Does fiction—particularly romance fiction with its happy endings—give us unrealistic expectations in our real life relationships?
No way, at least not for this optimist. In great books, the conflict resolution isn’t easy or pain free; it’s messy and hard won and full of lessons on how to handle relationships in our real lives. Experiencing how fictional characters resolve their conflicts empowers us and encourages us to fight for what and who we want, to evolve into better, more authentic versions of ourselves, and give our all in the name of love. Books remind us to talk to each other and resolve our differences because relationships are worth it—we’re worth it.
Rather than setting up unrealistic expectations, the relationships in romance novels inspire us to overcome our insecurities, be bold in the pursuit of love and happiness, and to not settle for anything less than our best, authentic selves and the best, authentic selves of the people in our lives. Does everyone in the world subscribe to this way of thinking? Not even close. But here’s my advice:
don’t waste your precious time with people who are less than authentic, who don’t try to communicate, or who aren’t bold. Life’s too short to settle.
My thanks to Tameri for having me on her blog today and thanks to you for indulging in my rambling meditation. I wish you an unending well of love, passion, and happiness—both in your real life and in the books you read. You deserve nothing less.
Bio: Melissa Cutler knows she has the best job in the world, dividing her time between her dual passions for writing sexy contemporary romances for Kensington Books and edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense for Harlequin. She was struck at an early age by an unrelenting travel bug and is probably planning her next vacation as you read this. When she’s not globetrotting, she’s enjoying Southern California’s flip-flop wearing weather and wrangling two rambunctious kids.
Her current release, Tempted into Danger, is in stores now.
Thank YOU Melissa for stopping by the blog! I love, absolutely love your advice. Don’t settle. Ever. Being a fan of happily-ever-afters I share your enthusiasm for people fighting for what they believe in and love.
What do you readers think? Do romance novels set unrealistic expectations? Do you prefer happy-ever-afters or are you more into gritty endings?