Updated: Nov 24
Most of my readers from Webnovel would know me as a fantasy writer who loves no-romance and adventure works. However, those who knew me before I wrote webnovels would know I'm a BL fan fiction author with a considerable following in some fandoms.
Why is it that after writing so many BL and ML works, I still struggle with romance? After many years of soul-searching, I finally found my answer. It may also surprise you how I found a style, but it involved a lot of heartbreaks and therapy in the process.
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There are several kinds of writers who write romance, and I'm about to break down for new writers transitioning to romance or thinking of making a debut as a writer with romance. It took me years to understand myself, and there will be more to learn as I grow in my personal irl character development arc. However, these are the things I can share.
#1: Reason for Romance
Have you ever wondered why a romantic relationship is so necessary at some point in your life? Yeah, that.
It's never occurred to me as much because I've been raised by a very traditional, conventional and someone typical Asian father who has imprinted in me from early on that getting married was something that must be done in life as a female.
How can someone who doesn't understand the necessity of romance write about it?
Truth be told, it's not something I need in my life. It would be a lovely highlight, but those moments don't last as long. As I dug deeper into the side of romantic relationships, I started seeing parts I didn't like in them. My parents did not have the best romantic relationships either, and it ended in a very ugly divorce. With such influences of romance in my life, all I could think of was the burden that came with such things. I'd rather not be in love my whole life if I had to tie my hard-earned freedom because of it.
That was what I thought, and hence the struggle to write romance. Likewise, my irl relationships never worked out either. The negative experiences added up and I was extremely tired of romance that you could see me going the other way in my writing. I quit romance completely as a genre and wrote works that had zero romance. I wrote adventures, friendships, systems, kingdom-building and everything else but avoided romance like a plague for a while in my writing journey.
Moral of the story: If you want to write romance, you must first have a reason.
It doesn't have to be a pretty reason or a noble one. There are many reasons why romance authors write the genre they do.
I've interviewed several romance writers from Webnovel, like AimeeLynn and MissRealityBites, to ask about their motivation for writing romance. Even Sunscar9 shared her take on writing romance stories, and every author is different.
Some romance authors write about a relationship that they want but do not think they'll ever have the opportunity to be in such a relationship. For others, it's a reflection of their overly sweet love life that would explode from their chest if they did not get it out there in the world. Then again, there are romance authors who write romantic stories to highlight the differences between toxic and healthy relationships. There are also romance authors who do so to empower women and embrace sexuality. All of these are reasons for choosing to write romance. You have to find a reason and stick with it till the end of the book.
#2: Ideal Romance
If I were honest, the ideal romance in my head has changed a lot over the years. I'm still in the early stages of my character development arc, so I don't think I have a fixed idea of what an ideal romance looks like. However, there is a huge difference between daydreaming unrealistically and understanding what works. Striking a balance between the two is difficult for every romance author. A good romance work can bring out the fantasies in a reader's heart, yet keep the plot relatable to the brain.
Personally, I like to use myself as a reference. An ideal version of romance for me is someone who understands me and does not give up when the going gets tough. Someone who would chase me when I ran, who would listen to the things I couldn't say and walk in front of me when I put on a brave front.
I might be a strong and independent lady, but it's tiring to be tough all the time. If there is one thing I take away from every relationship I see and go through, it's that a relationship requires vulnerability on both sides. It's something that can make or break a person. Walking away from something your brain knows is bad can be harder than it seems, even if you know you have to do it. I've been there, done that and cried over it. I almost got married to someone who wasn't right for me too. You can imagine the scars I have in my heart. It still traumatises me to this day, but I'm learning to move on.
Hence, by putting together my life experiences and expectations of a happy ending, my romance writing style usually comprises an angsty or tragic background with a pure and untainted heart. Dear Don is a very good representation of that balance. I love a good fluffy slice-of-life romantic story with an angsty plot. However, all romantic stories should end with happy endings, in my opinion. After all, why put in all that work in a relationship that wouldn't ever see fruit? You're better off staying single.
#3: Sexual and Romantic Orientation
Onto this topic, romance can come in many forms. It's not only limited to heterosexual romances. Love is universal. My struggle with romance initially came from the lack of understanding of what my sexual nature was. It took me until the age of twenty-seven to realise puberty was never going to come for me in that manner where I would be boy-crazy. No, I'm not lesbian. However, I am a proud asexual.
More interestingly, I'm not a typical person who falls in love with a 'type' like many of my friends back in school days. The appearance of a person is not as important as what they say, do and carry themselves. Let's admit it, it's very difficult to find a less intellectually capable person attractive than someone who can keep up with your banters. Sapiosexual is a thing, in case some of you don't know it. At the same time, I can confirm that I'm not easily romantically attracted to people I find aesthetically appealing because I fall into the demiromantic category. it doesn't matter what country they come from, how old they are or if they are male or female to me. I have considered a relationship with my BFFs before, and I'm sure people in this category can relate.
It is also the reason why many of my romance works have a type of chemistry that resembles a ride-or-die BFF you feel like kissing and cuddling. It works for me, but maybe it isn't everyone's cup of tea.
#4: Fantasy vs Reality
Reality is harsh. It's the reason why fantasy appeals to me. I love doing the impossible (my alignment is chaotic neutral and chaotic evil on bad days). The beauty of writing a romance story is that it allows you to bend the perspective of what you think happened, what really happened and what you want to happen.
Imagine you had a rough break-up, but you weren't able to get your revenge on them because murder is legally frowned upon. Why not write about it? On the way, you could even introduce your alter ego in the novel, a hot and handsome fellow serial murderer to hook up with. That's got to be hot in more than one way, and as much as I hate to say this, the readers are thirsty for bad boys. Be flexible, and you'd be surprised by how wide romance is as a genre, like what Sunscar9 told me.
#5: Psychological Trauma
Here, it's not something that all romance authors include. However, I believe that childhood trauma plays a huge part in how we portray romance. Many people, including myself, struggle with romance as part of childhood trauma's side effects. If you're curious about it, you can follow Psych2Go as they make cute, easy-to-understand videos about it.
By including the struggles of romance in a very real problem, I'm sure many of your readers will relate to your story better. It might even differentiate you from the sea of romance authors with Mary Sue Juliet and their empty-headed Romeo.
Romance is hard. Friendships are easier.