kissing tenderly, as our husbands watch,
their passions temporarily placid, bodies weary,
cocks shiny and flaccid, our mouths tasting of their cum, and of scotch, fingers tenderly explore moistened crotch, head moving down, as yours hands gently urge, till my delving tongue, makes arousal surge, finding your hard clit, jutting from its notch, once limp […]
A Poem from my soon to be published collection.
Lost in lust,
Giving to him unwavering trust,
The heart races,
The mind runs,
And all sensation is wonder,
His lips on mine,
Hands flowing down his back,
Legs about his waist,
Burns into desire,
Desire cascades into pleasure.
An old challenge I used to do every month that I think I’m bringing back.
Driving me insane
She misses him more than words can say.
So when they reunite she kisses him with a grin then captures him in her arms. In response he squeezes far too tight. Her back cracks, eliciting a half groaned out laugh.
They are alone
He takes her by the waist, and kisses her hard in a way she didn’t know she missed. Her heart is beating against her chest, as fire pumps through her veins. There is him, and his bed, and her panties damp from heavy petting and frequent kisses. When he breaks away it is only to kiss along her jaw to her neck. He sucks her flesh, and bites hard until she digs her fingers in his back. It takes her a moment to realize he’s unhooked her bra and tossed it aside. He pushes her down to his bed and gets on top of her. Their eyes meet, and she whispers “I love you.” and he smiles and says the same. Their lips are crashing against each other, as he slides his hand under her shirt, pinching both nipples at once, so she moans into his mouth. He’s hard, and she grinds against him. The sheerness of her leggings only makes her more eager.
Pants come off, and legs are spread. He’s hard, and his eyes are glazed over in a mixture of lust and love. She licks her lips, half mad in her desire, shivering as his cock brushes her wet womanhood. With a grunt he thrusts deep. Her walls clench and massage his cock, pulsing as if celebrating his welcome familiarity. She looks into his eyes, and he looks into hers. Nothing is more real than that. He pulls back, and thrusts in again, causing a mild slick noise. She blushes and he chuckles at her reaction. He begins to thrust in earnest. His lips meet hers furiously, and their tongues dance in each others mouths and across their lips. Her tongue traces down to his neck. She adorns his delectable flesh in sweet kisses that descend in nibbles and hard needy sucks. This time she wants to leave a mark. He belongs to her just as much as she to him. His chest is brazing against her soft sensitive nipples. Her legs are locked around him tight, and she knows it’s only driving him further into their sweat ridden madness. The tenderness fades in his motions, but not his eyes. She gasps and groans, signaling that he found her spot. He beats upon it with his throbbing cock until he’s groaning with her. With a hard thrust, she spasms, orgasms, like heaven fell into her body. He keeps going and she’s louder now. She tries to quiet herself, and he groans, driving deep sending them both into orgasm. Hers sends her whirling. She forgets her own name as the shivers ravage her body. But she remembers his and sings it to the high heavens, again and again she sings. The warmth of his cum inside her and his cocks throbbing makes her bite her bottom lip. It’s a feeling she loves. Their time apart has built up, and she knows when he pulls out, and she puts on her panties she’ll be swimming in a sea of his seed. She doesn’t care. She never has. It’s perfect as it is
Written in 20 minutes.
Lust. We all like to think we know what it is, but do we really? Do our textbook definitions encompass the depth and variety of what lust truly can be? I don’t think it does that often, and when we write or talk about lust we have to acknowledge it isn’t as simple as alarms going off in your pant regions. So let’s get down and dirty into what lust is…and yeah we’re also going to talk about pants region. This is only a little taste of this issue, but there is far more to be written about this. I’d love to know you’re opinion!
- Lust is more than the sum of how we usually define it…which is a strong desire for sex. You can lust for anything if the passion consumes you. You can lust for cuddling, for understanding, for someone to feel lust for you, and for anything else you are capable of yearning for.. The key to lust, to true lust, is an itching need that almost creeps up your spine like addiction. Oh we most often relate it to sex, but real lust goes so much farther. That is what makes it so entrancing to me is because it is something that consumes and comes over you. Lust is a wide sea of feeling and when it comes to writing sexuality it is tied to two things…need and sensual desire. Sure you can have shallow lust. Most people see a beautiful person they’re attracted to and experience the fun shallow burst of “I want you now.” However in portraying a deeper desire you have to unpack what those feelings are. Anyone can want anyone, but there are times you need to have someone want someone, to have them be consumed by an almost compulsive need and overwhelming sensual need.
- I’m very…very ultra familiar with lust and need. It often trips people out when I say sex is wonderfully common, but sensuality is the goal for me. It doesn’t happen every time but damn it if isn’t fun. Sensuality is about a few things and one is namely(but not always)…. The thing that a lot of writers struggle with is conveying the slow dance of characters. Sex begins with a look. It begins with the acknowledgement all parties are geared and ready for the good times to roll. Some of the most sensual experiences a person can have occur with the absence of sex. A slow caress of the hand, a tender kiss, or that single exchange of knowing smiles all contribute to the creation of a sensual energy between people. It can build up creating the tension readers want to feel. It can be intensely sexual and mind numbingly powerful because much like sexual pleasure it simply builds and builds so the sexual act itself becomes release. I’m not only talking about in erotica, but in any genre when you create then mount that tension you instill that in your readers. So they get satisfaction from the sexual culmination of it. This may not be a sexual satisfaction. Often it is a catharsis of knowing these characters you’ve invested in finally acted on something they wanted to do, which another wonderful form of satisfaction. But a word of warning: Sometimes it goes on too long and writers mistake dragging out a romance for tension. My partner and I have thoroughly discussed the fact that CW’s The Flash spent far too long trying to drag out the titular hero’s relationship with Iris West. It felt slow, the obstacles contrived and uninteresting. Ultimately its most redeeming quality is that it reminded me why some characters and people are better starting off as dates/lovers than as “friends with sexual tension”. None of it rang true and ultimately both my partner and I were rolling our eyes by the second season. When sexual or romantic tension drags out too long without tangible and convincing justifications or insight into why the characters decide to drag things out it can drive you mad. If you write this then your characters feel lazily written and your plot hackneyed. I’m proud that I just used that word, and no one can take that away from me.
- Need is a key component of lust, but we often talk about it in cliches. A lot of my life has been spent figuring out what it is to “need” someone or something. Once upon a time I thought I needed many things, but now I know I need only that which makes me content. But the need we often use in writing isn’t about existential happiness. No it is about an aching feeling of not just want, but the knowledge you cannot and should not continue without that thing or person. Full disclosure, the notion of “need” is something I’ve always romanticized until recently.In theory it is so romantic, but to me it also signals an immature love. I spent 6 pining for a man I thought I needed and it took him destroying my dreams to make me see that love shouldn’t make you feel that way. You may call me a cynic, but I call it obsession. I won’t claim we didn’t need each other when we were together. In fact I know we needed each other more than anything that we had at the time, but you should be able to stand on your own even if it hurts. If you can’t please think about what you’re feeling because you should never want to stop living because of anyone leaving like that. That all being said need is absolutely beautiful in writing. The thing about writing a character having a profound need is it can’t just be consuming…you have to make it felt. The sensation of need is one that isn’t just a character wanting strongly. But either: a character experiencing a powerful “realization”, through conscious thought, feeling, or both; a character , usually unconsciously, acting on impulses and a deep desire for someone or something whether recognized or not. Weaving a story where a character isn’t, only or even necessarily denying their need, but a character whose compulsive need/desire for is building is essentially writing about obsession. As I related in my story to have a need is to be obsessed, and that doesn’t last forever. Time doesn’t matter, but there it is most power when the obsessive need builds or when it is felt in a moment. Truthfully I believe need is often momentary, and by that I mean the need comes when you feel their is a risk. It hits you when you ,consciously or unconsciously, feel as though you need to act or cannot act but feel as though if you don’t something will slip away. There’s this weird tie between helplessness and need…and oddly hoarding, which is a common obsession. This is awesome because it gives you a thousand different ways to convey this situation because every single person has a slightly different reaction to need. Some people view it as an invasion by emotion, while others interpret it as this wonderful emotion(sweeping like a good pop song). You can go anywhere
Of course this post barely scratched the surface of it all, but I wanted to begin unpacking a bit of this awesome and complex thing we call lust! What do you think? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Tell me what’s up!
Clark never returned my calls, but who could blame him when everything fell apart because of my weakness, but even as I say that I know he played a role in our own destruction; He loved me too much.
No prompt this time.
He awoke before I did.
He awoke and left a note by my pillow.
“Love you always.
Today is the next step to forever.”
When I awake I slip it in my pocket,
Throughout the day my fingertips leave kisses on its spine.
My legs grow weak at work.
My smile becomes heavy.
Customer after customer.
You know I want out.
Forever…is this my forever?
I trail my fingers over that note.
Defying the dread in my heart,
With one more push for a smile.
At day’s end I’m home first.
Dishes set for dinner,
Possibly for one.
But he finds me in the kitchen.
He finds me and grabs me by the waist.
He finds my neck and drowns me in kisses.
Spreads my thighs and finds more.
He finds every scar I’ve ever had,
Every stain from ever bloody memory,
And for now they are erased.
With deft hands and warm fingers,
My sore tired flesh is explored.
Sensitive breasts lead to sighs,
Sensitive necks lead to growls.
One more reason to smile.
He finds me panting and moaning when he takes me.
He finds I moans loudest when its dirtiest.
He finds pleasure in my whimpering,
Beauty in begging,
A symphony in my shudders,
And ecstasy in hidden nature.
Dressed and sorted with rosy cheeks,
We make our plates,
Ignore the lingering heat,
And I try not to melt over lingering bliss.
“How was your day?” he asks, and we talk.
And we argue.
And we laugh.
And when the dishes are clear and the time is right…
He finds me again.
And today, I think, is the next step to forever.
Everything is relative. When we look back at “romance” we look back with rose tinted glasses. No mention of women as property, no mention of all the people who never had a chance to find love, but only to find like, no chance to figure out their sexual interests or if they matched. For many black people in America, until recent history showing public affection was seen as inappropriate, our love and affection constantly equaled sex. Recently I spoke to a gay male friend of mine and we agreed that so many people see him kiss his boyfriend or hold his hand and immediately think of intercourse. Years ago the same acts were associated with people who looked like me because we were inherently sexual and sexualized in the common narrative. Kissing was indecent and making yourself a target. Let’s not forget the many who had no choice in who they loved or whether they could leave or go. Many things have changed and to say the old way or the new way was better across the board is a bit myopic. Today people have a lot of choice and perhaps we abuse or misuse it to a certain degree, depending how you measure. Maybe we focus too much on “happiness” and not on “contentment” like eastern cultures and how every culture used to.
Sex has become a gimmick to things. Commercials, movies, and yes Undressed or Sex Sent Me to the E.R on TLC all treat sex like some novelty and not a point of fabulous exploration and raw human experience, if not connection. Meanwhile romance is something defined by whoever feels they have the best definition at a given time. For generations now people have been bemoaning the death of romance as technology, free love, and sexual freedom have become more normalized in western society. It can’t be denied that some things have been sacrificed in the face of technological ease and connection. I can’t be denied that plenty avoid romance by swiping to sex and seducing…even lying for it in ways that’d be unimaginable decades ago. Still we cannot say what has changed the fundamental concept of romance except people’s attitudes:
Women have options now that women 40, 50, 60 years ago did not.
More people travel constantly and often, moving from place to place, making it harder to find connections at all let alone love.
Because of people exploring more and experiencing more they require more attention to those who can understand or be willing to understand that fact.
Divorce isn’t as frowned upon, and perhaps this is not so beneficial in some ways. Why? So many people pine for the ideal romance, partner, and relationship without realizing in the old days you had to make do. So many ignore or destroy good things in search of a perfection that will never and can never exist. We say “Don’t ever settle”, but then never want to admit that if you want certain things you have to settle. You have to accept another human being for all their good points and bad whether you love them or hate those points if you want to be with them. You have every single right to say “No”, but we have this real problem now of saying “Never settle” and in the same breath saying “You you need to have a “real” reason to reject someone”. If you can’t deal with someone’s issues or if you don’t want what they do a lot of times you become the bad guy even as you’re told to not settle for what you can’t stand. What we need is contentment in our romance. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is a moment of time, but contentment occurs even in unrest, it is the willingness to say “I am fine with this relationship and situation, and enjoy the continuance of it” instead of “I want to just constantly stay happy and the moment I’m not everything is wrong”. Very technical I know, but I’m being technical so you can see the difference.
Years ago if you got divorced some people wouldn’t give you the time of day….and at the same time plenty of people engage in aimless sex and wake up wondering why they feel used. How we talk about sex and romance is so limited, so driven by structures and intentions we can’t even see because they’re “normal” to each generation. Romance evolves and changes, and we need to evolve and change with it. Does that mean romance is dead? Did it in the 1960s? 1920? 1990s? I think not…but it does change in ways big and small…but everyone’s relationship and romantic views differ.
I kissed on the first date. I had my first kiss when I almost had my first…everything else. I am a libidinous woman, but I love holding hands on long walks. My lover brings me flowers sometimes. Other times he greets me with a hug so fierce my back pops and all I can do is laugh. We met on OKCupid which still shocks people and even disgusts some. The internet isn’t real to them. It is this technological thing separate from life when it is really interwoven in a lot that we do. I’ve met some of my most important connections that way. Some I’ve known almost a decade if not more, and that is more than most “friends” I’ve spent time with in the same room. My view of technology is human centered. It isn’t simply a tool, but a process dependent on quality human interaction, use, connection. The internet would be nothing if we couldn’t send pictures or messages about our kids, pets, and family that could make people feel something! Anything. I spent way too much time online as a teenager…but I had more friends over private messanger and on video game servers than in real life. I had more romantic overtures there by shy peopl who liked my spark and my ability to listen than in the small pool of bullies, anti-black people(which includes other black people btw), and small mindednes I was surrounded with in my school and county. Was that good? For personal growth yes, and I know I am not some unique case. People find ways to connect however they can.
As humanity has grown and changed we have adapted new ways of connecting. Perhaps we’ve lost others that were uniquely valuable. We should continue to praise and teach that value. A love letter can mean more than one ever realizes. I gave my lover a homemade birthday card a few months after we started dating and he told me he takes it out every now and again when he feels alone or depressed. We can also text, and do, every morning and night when we’re too tired to talk with words. Monday we spent the evening making a delicious fondue with a recipe we found highly rated online, and it came out great because people shared their tips and tricks. We had an awesome date because of that.. Technology, sex, romance, and humanity…we’re still figuring those things out. Heck we’re just now acknowledging all the people in the world who don’t have sexual urges, who don’t see someone and go “I wish I could kiss them”. We figure these things out as we go. It is the only thing we can do, but to bemoan the death of romance is to ignore all the new ways it manifests for different people and all the ways people still hold tight to old ways.
Romance is in the hands of those who want it.
It is not a series of specific acts or actions.
It is a series of acts or actions specific in the intent and meaning of those engaged in them.
Playing video games with a lover seems horrid to some and like paradise to others.
Going out to some stuffy restaurant is uncomfortable to some and a dream to others.
Walking along the lake seems like pointlessness to others and heaven to some.
We cannot guess the realms of love, or limit them for others with measures that cannot possibly capture the ranges of expression.
Inspired by this nice little post Is Romance Dead? Though I obviously disagree with some points I think it is an important viewpoint and read and consider.
Also if you’re interested in random comics stuff and why I posted so many old Romance Comics…I’m an avid collector.
I highly recommend checking out Sequential Crush an online archive and analysis of girls romance comics that explores any and all facts and details of these protoypical romance stories in away that is entertaining, personal, and quite frankly fascinating. I’ve been a long time fan of the site and think they do a lot for preserving an often over looked part of the romance genre. The runner of the site is the granddaughter of Green Lantern creator Martin Nodell, and she does more than live up to the family legacy by offering unique takes that really have helped me understand romance better from a perspective I didn’t know about until reading more.
If you’re interested in comics in general check out this fascinating read too:
For a long time there has been debate about what makes a book fit into the romance genre, and a large part of that has been predicated on the idea of happy endings. This has always fascinated me because I do love happy endings, but I find myself struggling with them as I’ve gotten older. I don’t think I’m alone. In my lifetime I have participated in over ten different workshops for writing in all genres, and in my recent observations of what people write and enjoy there is something happening. As a social scientist and part-time psychologist I have begun to notice that ,on average, happy endings seem more acceptable and believable to older members of a workshop. However people who would be classified as Millennials (or perhaps more broadly people younger than 33) tend to give more critical opinions on stories that are tied up with a neat little bow. Oddly enough millennials can readily defend and understand why those endings happen, and generally speaking they do defend them (unless a person is a stereotypical ThatGuyinYourMFA type). There can be debate, understanding, and even agreement on the ending. However the reaction from those under 33 tends to be one of disenchantment. It is as though the happy ending just doesn’t convince those readers to embrace it, accept it, and believe in it no matter how they love it. I can’t help but wonder if there is a change in our perception of happy endings based on how we see our own potential happy ending and that of those we relate to. If so then this can’t be ignored.
My theory is that happy endings do feel false to a lot of people who went through and were affected by the recession and the economic downturns of the last 15 years in the U.S. Much like the Great Depression the affects of going from relative stability, even immense wealth, to instability leave lingering affects. Younger people have a deeper skepticism of capitalism, and in much the same way after the Great Depression many young adults redefined capitalism(because they assumed socialism was bad) or drifted towards socialism in order to get worker protections. Whether it was unionizing, demanding fair work hours, or demanding better pay and insurance these ideas became accepted as common place in many minds. The national perspective accepted ideas that ensured stability even if they were considered “red” by redefining them as simply worker rights, status quo. Regardless of how you feel about that the fact is people changed. Death of a Salesman is an American play that reflects a lot of those changes. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof does just about the same in different ways. These aren’t just plays, they reflect the life and times of their author and thus the world. Why? When society experiences a trauma, or perhaps a general wide spread disappointment, it manifests in what we make. As authors we should be aware of how it manifests in how we, and others read.
What manifests in our response to love stories, to happy endings, and everything being tied up in a neat little bow may be our disbelief in that being possible anymore. My mother moved out on her own at 19 and got a job. She got a soundproof apartment, a car in her mid twenties(she lived in a city so didn’t really need one), took regular vacations, and had a large group of friends who did the same with ease. That isn’t possible anymore unless you get a great job and/or come from a family where you have high inheritance(parents can help pay bills, buy you a car, keep you on insurance, buy your kids clothes, can watch your kids, etc.).
The world we are moving through and the experiences we have disconnects us from characters who may be 25 with a sprawling one bedroom loft, working as an assistant to a CEO, who then meets the perfect man. She’s never had to really worry about rent. Chances are she’s never had to worry about much of anything beyond her personal relationships. I can’t even buy myself a car, so how much can I believe in love always winning? How much of a positive response can I give you in our writing workshop when I’m a barista with a degree in clinical psychology? With all those things how can I respond to your book without a voice going ‘That’s just not possible anymore. Its not realistic and I don’t believe it’? As writers this may very well be what we’re fighting and it isn’t the readers being self-centered. This mindset is about the readers believing in your story and the possibilities within. If they do not they will question it, not with the knowing and loving laugh many women have given romance books for generations, but with world weary and jaded skepticism.
It isn’t that millennials have gotten weak or weaker than people in the past. Every single person in every generation thought that about the next generation. You and your parents aren’t unique if you’re rolling your eyes at this article. That whole reaction serves evolution. If you think a bit less of youngsters then it encourages you to do everything you can to help them move forward and get stronger. Unfortunately, people use this excuse to get upset over the fact that young people are sick of pretending everything is fine all the time. We care less about decorum, formality, and more about facts, honesty regardless of consequence(not inherently good), and wanting to change the status quo. It isn’t that more people have anxiety per se. No, we probably have the exact same levels of anxiety post-depression young people had combined with national war fatigue. Why do you think so many people are invested in what was once considered nerd crap? It is all escapism. In fact I suspect that many of the stories that ended happily that my peers call unrelatable wouldn’t get that comment if they were transported to the future or an Adventure Time like landscape. In a world of super humans a well executed story of love triumphing no matter what may just be believable because happy endings may just be super natural to us normal humans in a world of divorce.
Let’s Get Real
Books provide a level of escapism, but there caveats. There may be a stipulation that things don’t feel ‘real’ once you turn your brain on, and that’s what all authors should want because if I think about your book I’m going to talk about your book. What do I mean by feel ‘real’? Well, I mean your story doesn’t always feel relatable even if the story was over all satisfying. Even if your goal is to put up a bit of wall, or dabble in the surreal there has to be a certain level of penetrability in your book. For romance stories it 100% has to be there.
From home ownership to student loans there is a sense of immobility in my generation that is often baffling to those who are outside of my generation. While some people feel we need to go back to a mythical golden age others simply have stopped believing that doing your best and being good enough means anything. Truth is my generation followed every step we were told. We finished school in record rates, went to college in record rates, and then found ourselves underemployed and called lazy whiners for asking why. We’re disenchanted.
Are Young People Just Jaded?
It is possible that younger people overall are more drawn to angst or cynicism? Truthfully, I believe that is the case. As you become more of an adult you realize, if you have lived a relatively stable life, that the adults around you don’t know everything, can lie, and are just trying to live their lives as best they can.That is very jarring and before you accept that you begin to question and distrust everything people told you to be true. However that doesn’t explain how dramatic the difference from what I can see. Essentially you realize adults are people and change is inevitable. So sad endings, angst, ambiguity, and stories that end with melancholy become more relatable as you navigate the world. They become expected and relatable resulting with you connecting with those stories.
The Importance of Telegraphing Your Love
One of the most important things to do in writing is telegraphing. You have to subtly and carefully telegraph the happy ending and fluffy side of stories ahead of time. The possibility of the theory that young people have pulled away from romantic happy endings due to experiencing the recession, loan debt, educational shifts, and current economic shifts being true makes subtly telegraphing your stories possible directions even more important.
I will be the first to say that I could be completely wrong in suggesting a feeling of disconnect exists between one generation and the concept of happy endings. Maybe the response from people my age is how we respond to different character relationships in different stories. I’ve heard from different writers that some people respond AGGRESSIVELY to characters not getting together. That isn’t an age restricted thing because when a story doesn’t do what you believed it would or doesn’t do it well the story doesn’t feel successful to you. As writers we have to do everything we can to make sure as many people as possible find our stories successful. If it doesn’t work out some people completely decide the book they otherwise adored basically betrayed them. That isn’t something I do, but you can’t deny it is a disappointment.
Sometimes it is because they believe all romance stories should end happily because that is just what the genre does. Sometimes it is because they believe this romance story was moving towards a particular happy ending. I don’t think it is a matter of the author deceiving the reader, but ultimately everything I’ve spoken about is expectations. People want what they want, and you have to make sure they know they’re going to get, or that their not getting what they want will make sense.
Plenty of stories I see in workshops that end happily set the reader up for one or two endings. The thing that always makes or breaks a story is how well an author sets up the conclusion they choose. You can end a story anyway you want, but you damn well better make sure that you make that ending make sense. If two characters commit the ultimate betrayal they can’t just get over it because it is convenient. The ending of The Graduate isn’t a legend because it is sad. It works because it understands expectations, and ends the romance with the reality the film built towards: “How can this story end happily?” you wonder throughout the film, and the director nods and says “It can’t. Not really”.
How Do Expectations Work?
The trick is that expectations don’t just start with a book, but with the author and the world they live in. How many times have you assumed an character was the same gender as the author? How many times have you avoided an erotica novel by a man? All of those things affect our expectations. Numerous times I’ve been told by non-black people that my characters didn’t seem black or that they didn’t realize a character was black because they broke expectations. That is my intention, but when something like that happens with the plot we have to understand why. What expectations are people bringing to our stories, to your stories? How can you begin using those expectations and subverting them?
Caroline B. Cooney’s Janey Series has a long woven love story throughout, and **SPOILER** in the third book(I believe), The Voice On the Radio, the protagonist’s love interest betrays her trust by taking the intimate details of her life and using them for fodder on his college radio show. The core of this is also that she expects people to know that being separated from a partner due to college is added stress to a relationship. It isn’t out of character for him, we have that expectation, and their relationship came about and flourished under stress but ,now, her life is consumed by that stress. The themes of the series are about the angst, the lies people tell young people, and deceptions we make ourselves believe. So when we get to book three his turn is well telegraphed, and not unexpected. So you don’t necessarily begin to root for their relationship to work out. After all the actions they take constantly keep you from believing a full fledged happy ending is possible. The reason this book still works over a decade later is that it like many well loved stories builds an expectation…and concludes the lover story on neutral ground. What keeps this love story from becoming the romance book of the series isn’t the greater mystery elements, but those expectations .
Idolizing Love as an Alternative to Reality.
Now, I do think feeling social, economic, political, or basic life pressure can in some circumstances spark a very strong gravitation towards happy endings and ideals. When you examine rap lyrics from different eras you find a glorification of an ideal life style. Violence isn’t just tied to feelings of alienation and telling where people came from. Just as often violence isn’t itself the object of admiration. What is the subject of admiration is power and freedom which is paralleled in the sound and lyrics of heavy metal. The often superficial notions of money(not wealth), cars(not quality), women(not relationships), loyalty and acceptance reflect a strong desire for an ideal. When we look at romance novels, films, and even poetry we often see an idealize state and narrative. The latter is that “Love conquers all, all we need is love, and when we have each other we have everything” and the state is “Happily Ever After”. In the black community there is a strong gravitation towards romance novels because they promise us a look at Black people being in love, and living that narrative. People often don’t realize that until fairly recently black people holding hands inspired thoughts of sex, sin, and immorality, because we were, and to a certain extent still are, interpreted as hyper sexual. In part because of that the idea of a loving black relationship, especially due to welfare reforms in the ’70s that essentially pushed black men out of the household, isn’t seen as normal on its own. Reading those stories provides a look into hope, into vicariously living through characters we come to love in situations that are far more interesting and dramatic then our every day lives.
So What Does This Mean?
I don’t know. I really wish I did. At the moment my feeling is that we’re between a rock and a hard place. Escapism and happily ever afters will always draw people in. I’m not saying those things are going to go away, in fact they may become more prominent, but how your readers interpret and respond to those things may happen in ways we can only begin to expect and understand. Those are things we have to think about. Things that may affect the entire meaning of what we write. As I said I don’t claim this to be 100% the truth nor the truth for everyone everywhere, but my experiences in workshop, my own life, and that of those around me lead me to these conclusions. When we write romance we should keep this in mind regardless of the genre because not only does this impact our writing, but it does say something about where an entire generation of people are emotionally and how they may perceive the world.
Now what do you guys think? **If I made any editing errors please politely inform me. I only got one set of eyes…two with my glasses. Have a great one readers!
Why do so many people disparage happy endings as a general concept? Why is it such a cardinal sin for romances to end happily and why do so many writers think their hipster protagnoist passing out in a gutter is so much more valid? Well no one seems to be asking, “What the hell does this story actually need?”…more importantly What’s the problem with tying up your story’s end too tight? Isn’t happiness a good thing?
There is such a thing as a story tying up way too nicely with too happy an ending. 400 pages of struggles suddenly skips a few months and everything is resolved somehow (I’m looking at you Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes. I do love her though). Everything works out in the best possible manner for everyone and “All’s well that ends well”. Trouble is we know that isn’t how life works, and you know not every story calls for a happy ending even if you love it. When things get tied up too neatly you get three responses people either embrace the sappiness for pure satisfaction, raise a brow but accept it, or respond with full on eye rolls followed by questioning your writer cred. While other writers have mentioned getting negative reactions for not making happy endings, this post is going to focus on the other side because for some reason tidy endings come across as more scrutinized. I don’t think any of these reactions are wrong, but I do think the validity of negative responses hinges on one thing beyond personal taste: There gets a point where the book doesn’t support a happy ending. Sometimes a book doesn’t actually build towards one. Sometimes you get half way and the last arch of the story is obviously hastily put together. You can’t help but feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth or,if you’re kind, you just wish it were better.
When the whole story is perfectly tied up in a neat little package and has a nice little bow that is one thing, but when the package is all lumpy that bow won’t really fit especially if its two small for the package you made. Your story has to support its end, and for all the well loved and consumed romance novels in the world…very few of them actually do this.
Let’s Get Serious?
So why do people roll their eyes at romantic happy endings? It isn’t just them being sappy if that was the case then most people would move on and not feel the need to drag story endings. If that was the case romance wouldn’t necessarily be treated like the genre of the brain dead. For some reason happy endings make people feel like the author just isn’t being authentic or just hasn’t really written anything of note. Of course this gleefully ignores 90% of beloved literature has romance plots regardless of if that is an intense center focus aspect of the story. So why? Aren’t literature and book geeks smarter than this?
No. Not really….ok I’m half joking.
I mentioned this in a previous post (Disconnected from Happily Ever After?) but it is relevant to romance, and any literature aimed at women. There I talked about the outside pressures affecting endings, but long before economic shifts people rolled their eyes at happy endings and balked at the stories with them being more than entertainment. The distaste for happy endings can be tied to the view of woman orientated literature as being of lesser importance because that literature tends to focus on relationships and “frivolous” things. Men are traditionally considered more “logical”, action driven, and less people orientated. It’s all biased thinking though differences across averages suggest relatively minor differences in relationship building and gendered responses to them.Mostly women are socialized to be more focused on relationships(all kinds). We also get called over emotional, etc. etc. Male focused stories and authors are assumed to write about less “frivolous” more serious happenings and female focused stories are assumed to be shameless author inserts with a lack of imagination and over emotional style. As a result stories with a heavy focus on dramatic relationship elements, especially if they’re by women, usually get side eye for not being “real literature” by old fuddy duddies of all genders.
“The romance genre”, a dusty professor assumes,”does nothing except offer entertainment instead of intellectual thought.”
Bullshit, of course, but it tends to be taken as true. Ignore the fact that romances allow women the ability to explore romantic and sexual journey’s we’re often told we shouldn’t or can’t have. Regardless of gender they can reflect ideas of how you can conduct a good(or bad) relationship, offering riveting story lines, and make you feel a thousand different emotions, etc. However, the tendency for romantic stories to result in happy endings often leads people to conclude those endings can’t be taken seriously. They’re automatically frivolous, unrealistic, and idle feminine wishes. “Mary-Sues, self-inserts, reflections of fantastical, petty, and female selfishness , and not the huMAN condition, blah blah blah more bull shit blah.”
Serious is not synonymous with realistic, but we often use those words interchangeably when talking about writing. That itself probably is a reflection of gendered thinking that we should get out of. The serious isn’t frivolous, and so the serious is realistic. Its a bit of a leap, but it seemingly follows. You can have a happy ending but it is strongly tied to the romance, the female, genre. It isn’t real…just a day dream for bored housewives.
Meanwhile proponents with good reason often defend the value of entertainment, the benefits I indicated, and assert that having a sad or neutral or even ambiguous ending just for the sake of it is really a reflection of ego and faux “depth”. They question the fundamental assumptions of traditional literature and undermine their premises. In a way Jennifer Weiner, who talks about this often, is kind of punk rock for doing that as are those on that side of the argument. Plenty of writing classes are filled with faux depth and assertions that the Tom ending up drunk in a hotel room is far more “real” and human then Betty getting happily married. Its such a troupe the “edge lord” and MFA hipster novelist are often joked about in inner circles. Hell check this out twitter. The joke is real and for a reason. Let’s be real every generation has people, usually men, like that who then in turn have dictated what stories and story elements have value. Luckily people of all genders are calling the BS out for its shallowness. Still with that out of the way we’re left with one thing…
Both sides of the argument often focus on the concept of endings ,for any story, as having to be neutral, happy, or sad instead of endings fitting individual stories.
We say the ending is bad, but we don’t go back and understand why. If you don’t understand why you can’t write better next time, you can’t learn from someone else’s failings, and really you end up making blanket statements about the concept of endings without story context.No ending is inherently good or bad, but if things are put together too neatly then you end up in a weird place
Nothing sparks more eye rolls than Shakespeare. A beloved male author whose stories are prototypical “wrap it up in a giant red bow” stories when they aren’t tragedies. Still he was considered a masterful play write whose works are held up as a standard of writing and reading. However that doesn’t necessarily mean he goes unchecked by those unimpressed by old Willy S’s rep. As a trained actress who has surrounded herself with people interested in his works and other actors who participates in performances of them there is a general consensus regardless of age or gender that the stories tie up ridiculously neatly. I can still remember reading and watching Much Ado About Nothing in high school. Kids of all races, classes, and background collectively rolled their eyes and almost every response to the story my teacher got from the most to the least interested student was about how “ridiculous everything falling into place seemed”. Once again the problem was that when the story breaks down the pretty language, which was foreign to many, couldn’t convince them the story was good. Willy didn’t convince them, and those who plop on happy endings instead of crafting them will end up being just as unconvincing.
When you get past the Willy worshipers ,who are usually the same people suggesting happy endings don’t really belong in literature and romance stories are rarely is ever literature, you find a ton of people who think his works are too neat.
At the end of the day Much Ado has two characters who have come to hate each other, who are manipulated, a scheme by an angry prince to dispose his brother, a grave misunderstanding created out of pure spite on an issue that to this day can end with girls being pushed out into the streets, more deception, and then…everything works out. You can’t really write Much Ado to sell in 2016 unless you’re actually working on a version of Much Ado. The sudden solution to everything appearing like an angel from heaven doesn’t impress readers who are inundated by narratives and have literally millions to choose from. For the rare few they can weave gold with a single word, make doves cry, and the skies weep! Then there’s the rest of us who do the best we can.
Write What The Story Needs Not just What You Want!
If you’re crafting a narrative you build a base where the audience understands your characters like you want, where the plot flows like it needs to, and where you are without question writing what the story demands. I say that last part to you a lot. You are writing a story in your head and it is yours, but that story still can make demands. You can break convention, but you must do so artfully where it seems like your intention. That’s why people say don’t break the rules until you understand them because otherwise your audience can’t separate mistake from intentional action.
My problem with In Her Shoes is that the happy ending is there because the author wants it there. She forces that metaphorical shoe to fit at the end when she, the reader, and the characters haven’t actually earned it yet. Without earning it there is no tangible satisfaction. It comes out of left field. It comes with little preparation. It comes like someone threw a puppy into your house. You might want it, but shit that’s not only inconsiderate but unsatisfying because (the puppy’s fine) BUT YOUR DAMN WINDOW IS JACKED AS FUCK. But you got a puppy that makes you feel warm inside, so shouldn’t you be happy. Maybe. Not if it isn’t a puppy you did not want, did not ask for, were never prepared to take care of, were never prepared to get, or it just doesn’t fit with anything that is going on in relation to how you get that puppy(a puppy doesn’t fix a broken window).
If you establish a world of terror, characters with a thousand different problems, and a tone that just does not serve to make your readers believe a pleasant solution is possible than your happy ending won’t feel real. Your story can telegraph happiness and still feel real, but it can’t ,without any warning, do a 180 at the end so almost every single problem gets solved. Your book may be excellent, well written, perfectly proofread, and almost perfectly well executed until the ending. What the reader will remember is the dissonance of that random ending. They will remember it not making sense that all of a sudden everything fits together so each heart break is forgiven, every couple is happy, death is mourned the forgotten, new jobs are destiny, old jobs are saved, and peace is restored. Most of all they will remember none of it ending as it really should as established by how you wrote the story. If you establish sadness without establishing hope and resolution then your writing will feel like you couldn’t bear to end the story on a less sad ending. When that happens the feeling your story gives off is one that makes the end see thoughtful, inauthentic to the rest of the story, perhaps rushed, and most of all completely out of place. Worse is that some people will question your skill as an author. Truth be told I haven’t looked at another Lauren Beuke story after Zoo City because the last half was…unsatisfactory to say the least. I may pick up another book and try again, but what I remember is the ending. This goes to show the importance of establishing your story in a way that feels correct to your audience.
I’m not advocating for the idea that you can’t choose anything. We’re writing after all. In fact what I’m saying is you do have a choice based on the obligation you’ve made to tell the story. You can choose to tell it one way, to add certain elements or subtract others. You dictate the story, so you have to dictate it correctly so the audience grasps not exactly how it is going to end, but the possibilities of that ending. At the end of the day that is the problem audiences tend to have with endings once you get past the emotional response. They just didn’t believe how the movie ended. They couldn’t resolve the dissonance between the rest of the story and what a writer established and the way the story ended with everything being tied up neatly. Things were shit 30 minutes ago in the movie. Two issues ago these characters weren’t even talking to each other anymore. Over the last 260 pages we watched the main character’s lives nearly crumble, be belt back up again, and then fall apart in a way more severe than what happened at the movies start. How is it in the last 15 minutes, last seven pages, last ten pages that everything is ,not just resolved, but fixed?
It is one thing to leave the reality of exactly how the sausage is made out of the kitchen and just serve sausage, but it is another to start making the sausage and end up serving everyone a nice Caesar salad.
You need to write what you love and what you believe the story should be. I’ll never tell you any different, but you need to always ask yourself if any of that relates to the story your actually writing. If the ending of your story gets tied up at the end with complete happiness for the main characters when you’ve set up a story of constant heartbreak without much in the way of hope or possibility than the neat little bow on that boxed Caesar salad of an ending is lopsided…and you haven’t given anyone anything they really want to sink their teeth into. And when you do that the audience may decide to sink their teeth into you instead.