The Romance is Over

During the last half year, I’ve started and set aside several WIPs. My writing was as good as ever, I liked the characters I was creating, but I couldn’t finish the story, and I wondered why.

I woke up this morning (actually, R called me about something and made me wake up), got my usual glass of ice water (don’t drink coffee; never have), popped some bread in the toaster, and visited the bathroom. I usually read a page of two of something while there, and this morning, I read from an m/m short story.

And I realized something I probably should have known quite a while ago, but before I get to that, some background.

I’ve been writing most of my life, but I started writing m/m romance exclusively only a few years ago, first as fanfic (and a little of it is still out there, and not nearly as well written as what I’ve produced the last few years, so search it out at your peril). Unemployed, at loose ends, and still living in a state where trash-talking winter is second only to participating in the never-ending verbal rivalry regarding who has the better football team, Minnesota or Wisconsin (and I hate talking sports, so I was stuck with the weather), I got back into writing.

I started developing the style you all know me for today: clean but descriptive. No messing around. No “puffery.” And when I realized the publishing game had changed, I submitted my first short story. And was amazed when it was accepted three days later.

It all came together in one wonderful moment: the months I’d spent honing my skill, the emergence of m/m romance as a profitable genre, being able to graphically write sex on the page, easier access to publishers. I was ecstatic!

For the next several years, I wrote romance, I submitted, I was published. And when I realized I could self-publish, I leaped at the chance. Total control? Could write anything I liked? I was so there.

And I wrote Transgression, which didn’t fit in the m/m romance genre. It was more of a thriller than a love story (to me, at least), and then Wolf Bound, which was a love story, but the conflict between man and the animal side of himself took precedence. I happily drew the curtain on the sex scenes. I was sick of writing them.

This morning, I had an epiphany. I couldn’t write straight romance (no pun intended). I simply could not write a simple love story. I always had to change it up by adding other elements.

The Blue Paradise revolves around a stalker. Phoenix Rising features an immortal who is forced to kill to remain human. Blue River is a time travel tale. A Silence Kept is about a ghost. Precog in Peril offered people with special abilities.

See? I can’t write a simple romance. They bore me to death. And I’ve discovered I can’t read them either. If the story is boy meets boy, they fuck like rabbits for a hundred a fifty pages, and there’s an HEA, I probably won’t finish it.

I write what I want to read. You’d think this would have been clear to me, but nope. Had to discover it sitting on a toilet while moving my bowels. (You can make of that what you will, but I think the imagery is damn near perfect.)

But wait! There’s more! Part of this morning’s epiphany also revealed that I’m tired of writing romance in any form. I love writing snappy dialog, I love it when characters connect, and I love strong stories, tales that take you places and show you things you haven’t seen yet, whether that’s a place I’ve never visited, hobbies I’ve never explored, or things that border on the wild and mysterious.

Love stories are nice, but they don’t satisfy the itch. I want more.

Remember reading The Hobbit for the first time? How about Jurassic Park? The stories, the characters, take you on a journey into a different world. After I’d read the first two paragraphs in The Hobbit, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, it was so different, so fresh. Admittedly, since then, fantasies have become big business, but when I first dipped a toe in, it blew me away. Create dinosaurs from DNA extracted from amberized mosquitoes? Oh, yeah! So cool! I loved the science in that book.

I want to be Michael Crichton, and he’s dead now, so why not? I want to be J. R. R. Tolkien, and yup, he’s dead now, too. I want to tell a story about characters who are doing things, not just meeting some guy and jumping in the sack. I like stories with a lot of action, and if a couple characters collide along the way, that’s fine. I won’t mind. But they’d better take me somewhere interesting first!  

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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42 Responses to The Romance is Over

  1. Brandilyn says:

    This does not surprise me at all. Glad you figured it out 😉

    • Yeah, well, there are some things I’m notoriously slow at, and this apparently is one of them. It’s time to get serious. Knuckle down and write something I want to read again. Once it was romance, but now it’s something with more meat on the bones.

  2. Allison says:

    The beginning scared me there for a minute. It almost sounded like you were going to say you didn’t want to write anymore.

    As always, you have to write what works for you and since you can self-publish you can write it. I wish you all the success whatever genre you decide to write in, just keep writing, because I don’t want to think that you won’t be sharing more of your worlds and your words with us.

    • I can’t imagine not writing something. And I worked too hard learning my craft to throw it away now. The new stuff will likely have LGBT characters, but it will no longer be romance-centric.

      • Allison says:

        I think that is the direction things are starting to go so it’s good to see that you’ll be on the front end of it, leading the way.

        • I agree. While many readers still enjoy romances, there are those who are beginning to feel a lack in the books they read. And I’m not alone in this; there are m/m writers who are weaving other elements into their stories.

          Part of the reason I want to get away from romance is the “rules that must not be broken.” I want to break them. 🙂

  3. Carole says:

    I love those moments & so happy you had yours. I get it. I was that reader a few years ago that loved the sex scenes, yay! bring them on but now if a book has one or two fine by me. I get off now on the story & (unfortunately) the struggles of the characters.
    I would think that you would have to be passionate about what you write & if the passion is gone move on to something that gets you fired up.
    I had to laugh at your morning ritual. Such a guy!

  4. A.M.B. says:

    I think it’s rare for people to reflect on their art as much as you have in this post. I’m looking forward to reading what you write next. Good luck!

  5. Jaycee Edward says:

    Okay, you scared me, so I had to skim. I knew you weren’t talking about Florida, so that left writing. Now I’m at the end and I’m laughing. Why? Because this isn’t news to me. Most of your stories were never about the sex, or even the love story, really. At least not totally. It’s funny you don’t already see your writing for what it is. Probably like I can look at anyone else’s house and know how it should be landscaped, but I can stare at mine for hours and be totally clueless. I’m not totally sure your stories are even in the LGBT genre because that’s not ever the “subject” of the book either. I said this in my review of WB: Your characters just happen to be gay, but it has no effect on the story. It’s not the main conflict and they could be straight and it wouldn’t change the story. (Except Blue River – which, ironically is my favorite, but then I love angst.). At any rate, I’m just glad you’re still writing. THAT romance isn’t over. Whew.

    • 🙂 I always knew this about my writing but I couldn’t put it into words and understand their meaning until this morning. I start every book with the understanding it will be a love story. And then I get bored and throw something else in the mix, and it becomes different. Squarely facing this may free me to do my best work yet. I’m excited to see what happens next.

  6. Ka says:

    Go for it, I look forward to it. I will read anything you write as I like your style x

  7. kmac64 says:

    Like some of the others this doesn’t surprise me. What does kinda throw me a little is I now have a vision of your moving bowels, LOL. 🙂 I’m outnumbered by males and I’ll never get use to the frankness of bathroom activities. 😀 anyhoooooo (I’ve always despised this word, idk why I used it) I can actually see you writing something mystical and otherworldly people. Precog in Peril had that kind of feel to it in a way. When they visited the psychic lady, I can see them turning around, looking at the sky, inside her crystal ball lol. You can do it, I’m positive. It will be awesome!! Have a good week-end. 🙂

  8. Yvonne says:

    Like others have said here,a lot of your stories have not had a typical m/m romance feel to them. Your books have always had that ‘something different’ vibe to me. I don’t think I read any romance these past ten-fifteen years until I came across m/m romance less than two years ago. A big fan of detectives and fantasy so bring it on! And yes, I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time: pure magic (no pun intended).

  9. Lindsaysf says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your development over these past few years. Your fan fiction got me because it fleshed out pretty faces into characters I liked and wanted to hang out with, it gave situations I enjoyed experiencing vicariously, and places I could practically see, touch & smell. Ok, there was also the really hot sex of a type I thoroughly enjoyed panting over.
    Those aspects have continued to expand as you dropped fan fiction and broadened your creative world. Admittedly I sometimes miss the hot sex, but there you go. 🙂 It was always more about the people and story anyway. That’s what made it hot. P*nises aren’t hot for me; people are.
    My time in this body is limited. The older I get, the more I’m aware that I want to spend my time with people and situations I appreciate. Yep, there’s murk and people I wouldn’t want in my home – but I’m not going to hang out with them. You have always given me stories I wanted to hang out with and I’m sure you will continue to do so. I look forward to it.

    • Aw, thanks! So nice to hear. I’m glad you’ve followed along as my writing matures and changes. I hope to continue writing stories that entertain and maybe sometimes, inform.

  10. suze294 says:

    That precious time alone is known as ‘going for a contemplation’ in our house!
    You are a story writer (story author doesn’t sound the same, but means the same) so am glad you’ve come to that conclusion too – as you and others have said, erotic scenes have their place but if the story is strong, then generally an indication is enough if even that is needed – and your stories are strong enough!
    Hopefully the words will flow more easily now you dont feel you have to force them a certain way

  11. Sarah_Madison says:

    Hah, I feel the same way, Theo. A romance in and of itself bores me to tears. I need worldbuilding or a touch of the paranormal. I need something more than two characters meeting and falling in love–although most of my favorite ‘non-romances’ have a strong undercurrent of that in them as well. Lead the way! We’ll follow. 🙂

  12. We are sooo on the same page. Good luck.

  13. Isa says:

    I’m am so glad you figured this out. I thought you should have written a sci fi or mystery way back when I read Phoenix Rising. For some reason that is one book I can not forget. The story of the Phoenix intrigued me and I still want the rest of the story. Whatever you write I know it will be good.

  14. Karen H says:

    YES!!!! This will be awesome. So often the books that I read and enjoy the most have strong interpersonal relationships, a solid plot and the romance is just background to everything else that’s going on. Do it, write what your heart and head dictate. it will be fantabulous, I just know it and I will definitely be waiting and looking forward to reading it.

  15. Helena Stone says:

    Like everybody else I’m delighted you’ve figured out exactly what you want to do with your words. And, as some have said, I think you’re already more than half way where you want to be anyway. All I want to add to all the comments above is this. Please don’t aim to be Tolkien of Crichton (much as I love reading them), aim to get better at what you already are, the one and only, truly original and oh so talented Theo Fenraven. I’ll be on the sidelines cheering you on all the way.

  16. Elin Gregory says:

    “I want to tell a story about characters who are doing things, not just meeting some guy and jumping in the sack.”

    I always thought you did, lovely. And good! Those are the types of stories I want to read. They are the ones I try to write. I wish you the very best of luck with it.

  17. Hannah B. says:

    Like others have commented, when I read your title I thought ‘Oh no, he isn’t going to write anymore’. I have only recently discovered your wonderful books and I am so glad that you are planning to keep writing!

  18. Aren’t epiphanies great?! I do typically like “something extra” in my romance too. For me doesn’t always have to be paranormal or murder mystery or whatever, can also be adding in something unusual with a character, like someone has a mental/emotional/physical challenge, recovering addict, dealing with some sort of prejudice or is fighting for a cause, just so the story is “about” something more than just the romance aspect. I mean, life is more than just a love story, right? Anyway, so glad you figured this out & looking forward to whatever you write next 🙂

  19. I understand completely. I’ve had the same feeling about my work. I can’t write the romance stuff, so I write what I want to write and as a result, well it’s not selling and that’s okay, because I write what I want to write. I even started over, as it were with a new publisher and new penname.

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