In my experience, I’ve noticed that when the topic of realistic fiction comes up, romance is often dismissed as something other than real.
Of course, plenty of folks read romance books to escape, to get that guaranteed Happily Ever After ending, and plenty of authors write sweep-me-away, fairy-tale-like tales with stunning heroines and well-muscled heroes falling into each other’s arms to take readers to a blissful place for sighing and swooning.
I’m not here to discount fairy tales or to pretend that bliss doesn’t matter.
Rather, I mean to knock any notion that all romance and love stories in fiction are meant to be fairy tales and that romance itself isn’t a critical, deep, and very real aspect of life to read and to write about.
Romantic love is a fundamental, far-reaching, universal part of the human experience that involves all manner of implications and that has been impacting countless lives for eons. It would take lifetimes upon lifetimes to describe all the ways that romantic love has and continues to play major roles in people’s lives all over the world—for better, for worse, and for more.
And when it comes to Christian Fiction especially, it sounds strange to me when fellow ChristFic fans say things like, “No, not romance books. Let’s talk about books that deal with real issues.”
Christians and readers of Christian books: Doesn’t the Bible itself take very little time before addressing a foundational, distinct kind of relationship between two people, right in the Bible’s first few pages?
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” and “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (from Genesis 2:18 and 24, KJV). In addition to all the many other chapters and verses in the Bible that involve that distinct kind of relationship (including metaphorical references concerning Christ’s relationship with the church), isn’t there an entire biblical book dedicated solely to the topic of romantic love, called the Song of Solomon?
Doesn’t that give some indication that romantic love must be something real and important, and further, that it’s real and important enough to have a valued place in Christian writing?
I figure that the age-old universality and significance of romantic love isn’t anything most people aren’t familiar with, whether by experience or other basic knowledge. Why, then, is romance often referred to or brushed aside as an issue that is somehow less real than other true-to-life issues in fiction?
Well, I guess fairy tales do play a big part in that, stories where realism simply isn’t the goal. And sure, there’s no telling how many romance stories out there have cookie-cutter characters and fluffy storylines that aren’t the most believable.
Again, I’m not discounting fairy tales or fluff. If fluff is what you enjoy, then by all means, be free to swoon away in your place of bliss! 🙂
Even so, not all romance writers are out to write fairy tales. There’s a whole lot of romantic fiction—from heart-wrenching love stories to layered romantic comedies—that reflect real life, that play out in realistic ways, and that delve into the nuances and complexities of romantic love, often tackling all kinds of other deep, vital, true-to-life topics along the way.
Naturally, it’s more than okay if you prefer to read realistic fiction that involves little to no romance. Everybody has their preferences, and romantic stories don’t have to be your thing. Still, it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to then say or imply that all romance novels and love stories are about stuff that isn’t real.
Romantic love is critical. Romantic love is profound. Romantic love is mysterious, multifaceted, powerful, and timeless. It’s one of the realest aspects of human life, more than worthy to be read and written about. More than worthy to be regarded as a real and important matter in fiction.