Realism in Romance. Why not?

marysue_buttonRealism in writing can be deadly serious, high comedy, or fall someplace in between. Out of those people who read for enjoyment versus those who only read at gunpoint (e.g. for school), many read for pure escapism and anything harder than a ball of fluff is not welcomed. But there’s a lot of people who want the grittier side of life; otherwise, why are mysteries, thrillers, and non-fiction some of the best selling genres of books again and again?

I’m not one for stats and figures, but I don’t think any of these genres can put a serious dent into the romance genre, and the romance genre has to be one of the most unrealistic genres out there.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of Archie comic books. Archie and the gang looked so mature and grown up to me that I couldn’t wait to go to high school, have a group of fun friends, and get up to a whole bunch of hijinks.

Boy, was I disappointed. It’s not that I didn’t have a circle of friends and that we didn’t get up to (some) hijinks, it’s just that kids and teenagers can be so cruel. Yes, there were rivalries between Archie and Reggie and Betty and Veronica, but they all were self contained and inflicted little or no lasting damage. I stopped buying comics on a regular basis around my sophomore year in high school and remember reading some of my older comics and thinking, “You kids never went to my high school.”

These days, the publishers of Archie Comics have done an excellent job of inserting reality into their storylines by addressing issues like death, homosexuality, and interracial dating. But I think it was that revelation I made back in the mid 1980s that really got me looking at what I read in a different way. In a more skeptical way.

archiesgangRealism can come into the story by way of the plot itself, but even if your plot is one of the most unusual, fantastic plots every conceived, you can still insert realism into it by way of the story’s characters. We tend to criticize books and movies with unrealistic characters. Not everyone likes Mary Sue or Marty Stu, so why not provide characters with some realistic attributes?


Did you know that people fart? It’s true! I’ve seen it happen! I’ll tell you something even more shocking. People fart…in bed.

I know! Amazing, isn’t it? Some people do it in their sleep. Some people do it on purpose. Some will aim their fart at their unsuspecting partner, and some will “playfully” try to suffocate their bed mate by farting in bed and pulling the covers over their companion’s head in the nefarious and noxious manoeuvre called “The Dutch Oven.”

Another subspecies of the fart is the vaginal fart or the “queef.” This happens when air trapped in the vagina is released. It doesn’t always have to be during sex, but that seems to be the situation most talked about.

For more ideas about this, see an earlier post on this blog, “Who Farted?”

Tampon Trips

realmenbuytamponsNothing says, “I love you, honey,” than a man willing to go out in public and buy his woman’s feminine hygiene products. This is a man secure in his masculinity and he is on a mission. Not even the slings and arrows of mocking and suspicious looks will stop him as he bravely walks down the supermarket aisle to face “The Red Ninja” and do whatever it takes to get what his woman needs so she can Ride the Red River to safety.

Or is it just the Walk of Shame for men?

Pickin’ and Flickin’

Men do it. Women do it. Little kids definitely do it. But is it done overtly or covertly, and where do these little mounds of mucus end up?


Fornication and copulation that could result in multiplication. Between lying back and thinking of England to begging for more, the act of sex itself provides great fodder to introduce realism into a romance. Sex can be tragic, magic, funny, or foul. If someone were to write a story about Mary Sue the Queef Queen…they might tap into a lucrative audience.

So, come on, authors! Loosen up and get real. We can take it.

I’d like to hear your comments on what sort of things you would like to see—or have seen—when it comes to realism in romance. Feel free to recommend books that you feel live up to this challenge.

©Zetta Brown, 2013

2 thoughts on “Realism in Romance. Why not?

  1. Good post. Great food for thought as I write and work more realism into my own work of fiction. Thank you.
    With regards to your question:
    Masturbation––perhaps I should say self-gratification, is yet another taboo topic that most love scenes shy away from. This is true of many novels, but I’m not certain that it is the case with the romance genre, as I don’t particularly read that genre, per se. I think the topics you mentioned such as interracial dating, sexuality, and death have become standard fare, or at least should. I don’t see how one can skirt over these issues, let alone, ignore them altogether in a credible piece of fiction. I think that sometimes authors are afraid of whether/how their bias will come through if they cover these items in their work at all.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I think genre conventions help keep certain realities of life out of some books, and it takes brave writers to break the mold, which is scary.

      I’ve been reading some old Silhouette Desires from the early 1980s lately, and at the time, they were definitely more sexual than its predecessors. It would be interesting to see mainstream romance address masturbation more often. I haven’t read many lately to say one way or another.

      The doses of reality don’t even have to be OTT, but if one–or a small group–of writers started adding a single characteristic that any man or woman could relate to, it may be shocking at first but then become accepted or even expected. For an example, I think about how vampires have evolved from what Bram Stoker wrote about to what has become accepted as “truth” for the vampires written about today.

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