18
May

Writing Romance in the New Millennium

I write romance novels. By definition, they’re kind of cheesy, I suppose. In this day and age, where people meet, get together, hook up, whatever, via Tinder, Grindr, and others I’ve never heard of, it’s a bit of a dicey proposition, you know? Do people really meet-cute anymore? Do they fall in love? And the big question, does anyone want to read about it?

I’m banking on a resounding “Yes!” 

A girl can hope, right? Or a retired, middle-aged substitute teacher can hope, I guess.

But it’s a brave new world. There are issues these days, like using protection and monogamy, that need to be tackled. 

I wrote about an anonymous hook up outside a club in Pete & Daisy, and (in an earlier draft) I stupidly wrote that they didn’t, uh, use anything, because the woman in question was already pregnant. Back in my day, that was really the only consideration.

I heard about it. Boy, did I hear about it. 

It was stupid.

It was dangerous.

It just wasn’t done this way anymore.

And the worst: It was wrong and irresponsible of me to write it this way. 

I was woefully out of touch. 

I just assumed that most people assume the people they choose to be with are clean. 

Notice that I used the word “assume” twice in that sentence? And you know what they say about people who “assume” things, right?

Yeah.

There just was no way, in the world in which we live today, a young woman, no matter how pregnant she was, would skip wrapping the guy’s equipment, not if he was a stranger, not if it was casual.

No way.

So I rewrote the scene, and had Daisy grab a condom from her purse, rip it open with her teeth, and roll that sucker on (apparently, she should not have opened it in this way, either, but I let that one go).

I’m perfectly willing to change things, modernize them, in the name of safe sex, and being realistic (though, if you think about it, she must have made some bad decisions somewhere along the way to have wound up unexpectedly pregnant in the first place, right?). I also added in a conversation between Pete and Daisy about “being clean,” about not having any diseases. Apparently, this would also be commonplace. I figured that they’re married, she’s pregnant already, it would just be a given that they wouldn’t need to use protection. But no.

People are so smart these days.

In addition to the “cleanliness” issue I just discussed, there’s also the issue of monogamy. In my day, it was just assumed (that word again!), you know, that if you were dating someone, that someone was the only person you were dating. 

These days, however, it seems that, until you have “the talk” about being exclusive, it’s Mardi Gras time, socially speaking. 

My head is beginning to spin, you guys. 

So I went back to my manuscript and wrote in another conversation about how they were going to be only with each other, at least for the duration of the marriage. It needed to be said, apparently. Again, though, I wanted it to fit into the framework of the story I was creating, so I put it in the context of the law, about how if they were discovered participating in a marriage of convenience, there would be repercussions, fines, possible deportations, all that stuff.

Within the parameters I’ve set up, the flimsy framework of “true love,” I still want to be realistic, you know? I want things to ring true, emotionally speaking. This is getting harder and harder to do, because we live in a world of AIDS, STIs, and testing on a regular basis. The days of taking a pill and forgetting about it are long gone. And meeting someone and just deciding to be true blue to that person is an antiquated way of thinking, practically antediluvian.

In addition to HEA (Happily Ever After), HFN (Happy For Now) is also a thing. There’s a reason for that, I suppose.

All this practicality makes my books seem extra mushy, overly sentimental, and almost ridiculously emotional. My contention is that it’s precisely because we live in this world that my stuff is so wanted. Needed, even.

It’s so hard to be a hopeful romantic these days.

But I’m going to keep trying.