Saturday, December 27, 2008

Does sweetness have a place in M/M Romance?

This is a subject that comes up when I talk about writing m/m romance, both with other authors and with readers. I tend to write hot erotic m/m romance that has a touch of sweetness. Some stories are really feel good stories and some are darker with moments of sweet. Part of that is just my own nature - I happen to love those moments of sweetness, especially from men who are otherwise strong and self-contained. But part of it is that my stories often hinge on love conquering all. They are, after all, romances. Stories about love.

Now I have no illusions that my way is the only way or the right way. I've always believed there is room enough for all in fiction. So my work won't be to the taste of all readers (nor do I think it should be) and I read things that aren't what I write.

But I've really gotten flack for some of my stories being too sweet or too unlike reality. There are touches of things like bigotry and such but at least in one story (Giving Thanks) the family member comes around to acceptance.

So here's a question for you all - do you think there's a place for sweetness in m/m romance?


Mariana said...

Hello. I was just introduced to your work (via Dear Author) and thought these books were so romantic and sweet. The characters are special and I care about what happens to them.

I think sweetness should always be a component in any romance book, of any type. Not the only thing, but is should definitely be part of the whole. Isn't that what romance is? A feeling of contentment and feeling loved. For me that includes the sweet moments that allow the person to reflect on how they feel and why they feel that way.

Anywho, Thank You for your lovely stories.

Zot said...

Wait, whoa -- these people aren't complaining that there's too little sweet, but rather that there's too much? What are they, idiots?

I dunno, maybe I'm weird (though I think that's entirely orthogonal to the question at hand) but in real life when I'm dating someone some sweet's obligatory. If there isn't any, or only little bits of it, it's a deal breaker.

Yeah, sure, it's great to have someone look at you like they want to eat you alive, toss you on the couch, strip you naked, and fuck you stupid (mmmm!), but the cuddling on that same couch or the little moments where you steal a kiss in the grocery store are just as nice. You can grab a lot more kisses in the grocery store too -- if nothing else they don't leave you nearly as sore... :)

Kris said...

Umm, it's romance?? So absolutely there is a place for sweetness in m/m romance.

Are the people making the comments suggesting that because it's m/m there shouldn't be any - or very little - sweetness at all? No talking and touching, only grunting and slaps on the back allowed?? If I was a guy (gay or het) I would be really pissed about this kind of 'manly-man' stereotyping. Ridiculous.

The reason why your stories work for so many readers, Maura, is precisely because you believe in what you write and, because that clearly comes through, we/the reader believe it too. That is a truth/a reality in itself.

Sarah said...

Different strokes for different folks and all that. I think that it is good writing that draws a reader in. If you do that then it will fit within the context of your story.

I like sweet, but I also like sexy, dirty, passionate... the list goes on. What I like the most though is good writing. :)

Maura Anderson said...

I'm really glad to hear that it's certainly not a universal belief that m/m romance should not have sweetness.

*Whew* - Sigh of relief. I'm not sure I could wean myself off sweetness, so I'm glad I don't have to.

Mariana - I'm really glad you enjoy my stories. I didn't know Dear Author did anything on me, now I'll have to go look!

Zot - thanks for the validation. I completely agree on sweet in RL and maybe because I love those things, it comes through in my writing.

Kris - awwww, thank you hon. I love my characters (most of the time, I'm mad at Bittersweet's two main men right now) and I am thrilled when the readers love them too.

Sarah - I completely agree. I read a lot of stories I couldn't or wouldn't right but the great writing is what I love above all.

Amanda Young said...

Okay, so I have to chime in here. I think there's a time for sweetness and a time to be down and dirty. To a certain extent, there should be both in a romance novel of any kind.

Anonymous said...

Of course there is room, it is romance, it is fiction, I personally want to escape. I don't read serious fiction most times because its too serious for me, for my purpose in reading. People read books for different reasons, for me its an escape into a fantasy world that is often nicer and "sweeter" than real life. I know that's not everyone's goal when reading and that's fine, that's why bookstores have a billion and one books, otherwise you'd only need a couple of hundred all exactly the same. I can never imagine criticizing and author because their books are too "anything". All it means is their style is not to my taste and that's okay because its obviously someone's taste or it wouldn't be published. If you find something you don't like, just move on and find the books you love, there is so much out there it really can't be that hard to find the perfect book/author/genre, etc. for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I think of candy as sweet, what you write is compassion, which means the character has a heart as well as other feelings. If all I wanted was sexual acts with no feelings, I can watch Porn. The best m/m I've read is loaded with emotional scenes, I luv it and I'm not alone, you're on the right track if Giving Thanks is an example.

Maura Anderson said...

Amanda- I agree on that actually and my stories are definitely erotic romance. I'm not big on flowery prose or shutting the bedroom door.

Tam - Oh yes, I certainly am not enthralled by books other people love. I thought it was an interesting question to gather answers for.

Ro - hmmm, that's a good point. Maybe my "sweet" is not what other people think "sweet" means.... Thanks for liking GT, too.

- Maura

asterisk said...

I've been seeing rumblings around the internet about how the HEA in m/m is not realistic and an insult to the struggles same sex couples have endured over the years, and it's frankly starting to make me kind of cranky. I don't care if I'm reading m/m, m/f, or f/f, contemporary, historical, or futuristic, I want to feel sure at the end of a romance novel that the main characters are happy together and will continue to be so. Silly me, that's what I've always thought romance fiction was supposed to be about.

JenB said...

I think there's definitely a place for sweetness in m/m romance, and I talk to readers all the time that love "sweet" books. I personally prefer less sugar in my romance, but I'm only one reader. Many of my reader friends prefer the really sweet stuff, even some of the books that I consider "sappy".

I think there's something for everyone in this market, so you should just write what you like to write. Even if it doesn't meet every reader's taste, it will be exactly what some readers are looking for. :)

Zoe Nichols said...

Romance means there's a certain amount of sweetness, regardless of what gender pairing. That's the point. Sometimes it's heavy and yeah, overtly sappy stories are a little unrealistic but hey, there's clearly a market for them or they wouldn't be selling. But there's a dappling in every story by every romance writer in existence.

Because while romance can be tragic, daunting, painful and bitter, it has that touch of softness.

Because love is a soft emotion. Wild, yes. Thunderous. Insane. But soft.

And let's face it, a guy in love means he's gonna be a little tender, even if he's goofy or macho about showing it.

It'd be truly unrealistic to think that a romance could survive without that sweetness.

Unknown said...

Someone else already said this, but I think it needs reiteration: denying m/m romance should have HEA is an insult to the many, many, same sex couples who strive for just that. Everyone wants to be loved, to have those sweet moments in their life, to be cherished and cared for. Men are not an exception to that. They may not always know how to express that need, (and let me tell you, a lot of women are no hell at it either!) but to say they don't feel it because we don't understand how they are trying to show it is, frankly, silly. Not everyone has that on life. Why wouldn't they want to read about it? Even those of us who do have it still want to read about it. I absolutly believe there is a way to write men and a way to write women, and those ways are not teh same, but the emotion, however it's portrayed, is the same, isn't it?

People who don't want to read 'sweet' don't have to read your stuff. (Or mine, really) but that doesn't mean there is no place for it.


Anonymous said...

Of course there is, that isn't even a question :) but some authors do pile it on quite heavily and (with cheese) that it sometimes reads like a twelve year old girls fan-fic. But of course sweet moments have there place in m/m fiction :)

Mariana said...

Hi, I didn't want you thinking I was crazy, just wanted to clarify. I was searching the Dear Author archives and found your site. My thought aren't always linear, but they usually make sense. Sorry for any confusion.

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