Which strikes a chord in me, as an author, regarding my recent struggles to meld myself into the romanctic genres, the traditional guidelines of romance writing.
I'd been advised that, when it was hinted that the hero in my novel had cheated, readers don't like cheaters.
Readers don't like...
Last week I wrote about romance guidelines. Not only in m/m fiction (which my book happens to be), but in all romance genres...m/f as well.
So this is, I suppose you could call it, phase two of my grappling with writing in the real world. That world beyond writing for fun like I used to do in the old days. In the days of yore, when I first began to write, my characters could do anything they pleased because nobody could see them except me. They were protected by that wonderful privacy shield of writing-just-for-me.
Now, it's beyond the guideline phase and into issues with what readers do and don't like.
And it is confusing. It is intimidating.
Readers DO, overwhelmingly, like flawed characters. The demand is for flawed characters. These flaws often include bitter dispositions, substance abuse, issues of past abuse which turn them into angry individuals, selling themselves for sex, using other characters to get what they want, physical handicaps. Sometimes even just plain creeps for no good reason. And the list goes on.
The one flaw, one of the most common and emotional imperfections in the world of relationships---cheating---is, I am told, often taboo to write. The never-never-land of writing, the forbidden zone. It's not always avoided, of course, but it is a touchy subject matter.
Once, during a discussion on a forum, a heated debate erupted over the subject, with the majority rising up in arms over cheating main characters. The debate became vicious, names were called, cuss words flying like crazy. It was a hot, hot, hot button. The voice was clear, the people had spoken: NO CHEATING in romance fiction.
Which brings me back to Kind David. An icon in religion, a renowned man of valor and passion in history, a powerful king, a poet, a lover, a husband, a father, a...cheater.
Wait. It gets worse. Not only did David lust for a married woman, but his passion drove him to commit the hugest crime of all---he had Bathsheba's husband murdered. Talk about drama. But it was real. It was no make-believe fictional novel, it was real life.
Cheating. On a big scale.
And yet? David is beloved in history. His poetry, The Psalms, are revered. History adores the man. David was even called a man after God's own heart.
As powerful as he was, this king of Israel, he was flawed. In my mind, he's very likely one of the most perfect examples of flawed human nature I can think of.
And what about fictional characters who cheat?
What about ol' Scarlett O'Hara?
Poor Scarlett. She never got her chance to cheat, but she sure wanted to. I say poor Scarlett because, when she and Ashley were spotted in an embrace, Ms. O'Hara was forced to wear that deliciously devilish red dress as a sign of the harlot the town felt she was. And, yet, Mr. Wilkes---who was just as guilty as she was---got For He's A Jolly Good Fellow sung to him. Double standard, but that's another story.
What about Fatal Attraction?
Okay, so that was a case of cheating gone way wrong. But...but...the hero, who blatantly cheated on his lovely, always-smiling wife still managed to be the hero in the end. He fell from his heroic throne for a minute, but regained his noblity before all was said and done.
One of my very, very favorite films, How to Make An American Quilt, deals with another aspect of cheating. A young fiance having a last-minute fling, therefore cheating on her fiance, with a steamy Latino.
And one of the most loved infidelity films/novels of all, The Bridges of Madison County.