Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Genre Series: Unscrewing Romance

My genre article is about romance.


That's a broad topic!

I think I know a few things about romance. I mean—I write fricking Twilight fanfic... That should make me a sap expert, right? Alas, despite writing a couple of stories in this genre, I realized that I really didn't know that much about the subject. It's such a BIG topic, and it doesn't help that I thought Sweeney Todd was the most romantic movie of 2007.

Actually, all I really know is this:
Romance = Love ©

And come to think of it, I didn't really know that much about love, either. So, I did what everyone does when they are asked to write a paper about a topic they don't know shit about. I consulted Wikipedia. It said (or rather, the triangular theory by Dr. Robert Sternberg said) that Love is comprised of three elements:

  1. Intimacy: The specialness of the relationship that promotes closeness, bondedness and connectedness.

  2. Passion: The excitement of the relationship as well as arousal, particularly sexual arousal.

  3. Commitment: Your decision to love one another. An acknowledgment of a love connection, and the commitment to maintain the love and to weather adjustments of sharing your love to go deeper in the relationship.

For all three of these elements, there's a yin and a yang. A sexy part and an icky part. Intimacy could be cute, like your boyfriend dropping his guard and letting you see him singing along to Michael Bolton—but it's also peeing with the door open (eww). Not sexy. Commitment is sometimes cute—what girl doesn't get turned on by thought of marrying Prince Charming? Yet, Commitment is also weathering lay-offs, flu season, mortgages—all the mood-breaking facts of life—with your loved one. There's a lot more of the latter than the former. Passion, of course, is the sexiest category. It's also drama-filled. Remember playground flirting? Pulling your crush's pigtails? Kids feel passionate about their crushes, but they express it in a hateful way. And unfortunately, some people don't outgrow this mentality.

To me, a good romance shows the yin and yang of all of these elements, but, I also have a soft spot for stories that show these three qualities out of balance (see graphic). Intimacy without passion. Commitment without intimacy. These are all valid human relationships, and a helluva lot more interesting (to me) than the fairytale romance I've had read to me since I was two.

These are all stories that feature unbalanced love in some part of their plots:


(Intimacy) Basically, this is the Jacob/Bella dynamic in New Moon (at least on Bella's end). This is also a popular starting point for a lot of fan fiction; otherwise known as the "BFFS to Lovers" trope. A great story for this one is A Rite of Passage by Caracol. Edward and Bella start out really liking each other, but they aren't exactly committed to each other (or at least they aren't aware of it). Suddenly, they decide to be fuck buddies. UST ensues. A great story is born!


(Passion) This "love" is basic lust. It's biologically driven, no strings attached, straight-up fucking. A step down from fuck buddies. I find that not many stories in the fandom seriously focus on this. There's one night stands in stories (Bella messes up with Mike, Edward with Tanya, blah blah blah). But there aren't stories that really explore it. It seems that Twifandom sex needs some echoing of wedding bells.

Empty Love

(Commitment) Consecuencias by gustariana explore this with the Jacob/Bella dynamic. In the very beginning, you see Jacob and Bella gettin' it on. Even though the room's a-knockin, Bella's not exactly in the throes of ecstasy—in fact, she's thinking about her grocery list. Not a lot of passion. Then you see Jacob suggesting they become "swingers," and Bella hates the suggestion (though she eventually goes a long with it). Clearly, they don't know each other that well anymore, or else he would know better than suggest that. They're in an empty marriage, but they do want to make it work. Bella is so committed that she even engages in the swinger lifestyle to save her marriage. Another example of Empty Love would be Edward and Bella's relationship in the beginning of Wild Swan by ScarlettLetters.

Romantic Love

(Passion-Intimacy) This is basically the fuck buddy love. Fuck buddies screw, they joke around, they know a shit ton about each other—but they aren't exclusively loyal to each other. You Get Me Closer to God by americnxidiot is the classic fuck buddies story. Salacious Behavior and Earnest Speaking by thiscolony also comes to mind (the Jasper/Bella dynamic).

Companionate Love

(Intimacy + commitment) This sort of love is illustrated in Comfortable by Isabel0329. In the first chapter, Bella tells you how she loves Jasper. She describes their relationship the same way she would talk about her favorite pair of jeans. They are well-worn and dependable. The passion has faded in their relationship, and they do something quite unorthodox to restore it. However, the genuinely love each other. No doubt about it.

Fatuous Love

(Passion + Commitment) —This Love is HUGE in the fandom (though not many stories admit it). This is the Hollywood whirlwind romance, the "OMG I HARDLY KNOW HER BUT I LOVE HER AND I'LL DIE FOR HER!" It's Romeo and Juliet dying for each other when they've barely spent a whole day in each other's company. Mutually Assured Destruction by jandco is all over this topic—both the sexy glory of it, and the unhealthy nature of it (remember what happened to Romeo and Juliet!).

Consummate Love

(Intimacy +Passion + Commitment) Well, doesn't every story in Twifandom aim for this?

. . .

So, after dissecting what little I know of the fandom, I've come to the following conclusions:

Not a lot of stories seriously deal with the pitfalls of commitment and Real Life. All the warts are airbrushed out. People seem to prefer playground drama and high school-esque miscommunication. That's understandable: this is escapism. We deal with real life everyday. Why turn on a computer and read about it?

Most of the romance stories in Twilight are about Fatuous Love. And that's just the nature of the genre. Most romance stories center around the first few months of getting together. How can you really know each other—be truly intimate with each other?

Every romance story tries for some level of Consummate Love. The reason is obvious, as Twilight is all about soul mates. Still, I find this funny, because we can get plenty raunchy, and we love our Douchewards and Badbellas. Still, we force this mold of Consummate Love on them, even if they are the dirtiest, most immature assholes out there. Maybe it's sign of optimism: we believe that even the biggest douche can find his/her soul mate, or maybe, we aren't comfortable getting turned on by slutty sex. Who knows?

Gallantcorkscrews is the author of such luverly fictions as The Emperors of Washington and Wayfaring. (She also wrote a HarryxRon fic for HP!) Her interests include flirting with hot seventeen year olds, anything on HBO, and the dark and depraved. Oh, and if she could, should would so cut out 10-90% of the sentences in your fic. Her pen doubles as an axe. Finally, she owes Pastiche Pen pizza.


  1. Lol, thanks for that. Yeah I read all the Sunshine & butterflies stuff to escape RL. thanks for the rec's

  2. Well, if this article didn't come around at the right time, because I'm sure I'm defficient in the understanding of Love. Thanks for a great article, it's given me a great springboard.


  3. This article helped me kick writer's block. So thank you for this.


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