Needless to say after talking about The Terror, I have When Words Collide on the brain. Try to bear with me.
Today I also have something to relate from my second year attending the conference. While I attended a panel –the name and topic of which I cannot recall– the notion of reader expectations came up. One of the panelists, whose face is all that I can remember, started to talk about a movie she had seen recently. The movie was memorable to her because it featured a female/male partnership that did not turn into a love relationship. They were completely platonic.
She said she found this curbing of viewer expectation refreshing, even preferred it, because she doesn’t like that every time there’s a main woman and a main man they inevitably develop romantic feelings for one another.
I remember listening to her words and feeling my gut drop because the WIP that I was knee deep in featured a female/male partnership that lead to romantic feelings down the road. I was following the cliché this panelist just finished telling me bored her to tears.
I thought, If she thinks that, so do other readers. Maybe all others. Why don’t I think it’s a bad idea? Is it a bad idea? What if no one wants to read my book because of it?
Cue the neuroticism. I obsessed over her statement for months, admonishing myself over my lame, predictable choice. I thought about my WIP and tried to imagine how the series would go on if I prevented my gal and guy from becoming love interests.
I couldn’t imagine it, so I walked away from my manuscript thinking space would solve my dilemma.
I didn’t work on or think about my story for weeks. That is until I slapped myself. I am a reader who likes, even prefers, to read a story that has a romantic arc. I am also a writer who enjoys writing stories with a romantic arc. I don’t need the romance to be the dominant aspect, but it’s usually the part that keeps me most engaged. You’ve heard that whole write what you want to read adage, right?
That particular panelist who’s tired of the romance arcs wouldn’t enjoy that part of my story. Maybe she wouldn’t like my story at all. But you know what? Who cares. She’s obviously not part of my target audience, readers like me are. Romance books were my first love. Romance stories dominate my bookshelves. Romance is going to feature in most if not all of my work.
This is a situation where I had to ignore the noise of another writer/reader and follow my gut. I know better than anyone what’s best for my novel. Once I figured that out I enjoyed re-approaching my WIP.
And who knows, maybe those comments resonated with someone else in the room who was torturing themselves over trying to get their protagonists to fall in love?