The other day, on social media, I asked my friends what initially drew them to romance as a genre. The variety of answers was interesting and informative. One response caught my eye, in particular, and has caused me to think a lot about what that person said. This reader said she was not a fan of today’s romance and one of the reasons was because these romances have strayed from the theme of love, and feature the theme of redemption far too often.
This blew me away. I think every single one of my books, on some level, has dealt with redemption.
Now, of course, this reader is perfectly entitled to read whatever she likes, as are the rest of us. However, I can’t help thinking love and redemption are linked. I believe the reason so many of us read and write romance is because we want to see those characters redeemed. Reborn, if you will, through the healing power of love.
This is not to say every romance character has to have major life issues, although I do like writing them that way, probably because I’ve had major life issues. I’m sure there are romances out there that feature characters who are perfectly content and well-adjusted. People who have a plan. I just don’t necessarily identify with those people. Me, the woman who started writing romance in her 30’s, after careening through a variety of careers? Yeah, probably not. It took me some time to figure out my plan.
Shouldn’t our characters also have wounds? If you read any writing manual, experts will always tell you characters needs wounds. They need flaws and they need to put their feet in their mouths from time to time. They must make mistakes in order to be interesting.
Our wounds shape us and drive us. I know my own wounds have shaped me. If I hadn’t witnessed my father’s gambling addiction, if I hadn’t seen my parents separate when I was seven, if I hadn’t lost beloved family members, I wouldn’t be the person I am. I am sure I still make mistakes because of my wounds. I have tried to rise above them, but do they still compel me to see the world through a particular filter? Of course.
I suppose it’s because of my own mistakes that I want to see my characters redeemed. I try to give them experiences and secrets that shape them, hoping my readers will identify.
I don’t ever want to simply hand that HEA over to my characters. I want them to fight for it. I want them to develop as people, and to realize through finding love that their wounds don’t have to color their world anymore.
In other words, I want them to be redeemed.