why it works, SBD

It's all endorphins.

I'll bet I've said it before: romance can help what ails you. Everyone else has said it. Every conference I go to has a big name romance writer speaker who talks about the most horrible moments of her life with the climax of her speech being How Reading/Writing Romance Helped Her Through It.** We're all sniffling along with her and then uplifted at the conclusion. Yowza, talk about endorphins. (Not to mention the buzz brought on by sharing common experiences)

I was just yammering about Depression. and Embarrassment. those downers that we can revive with no effort. Sometimes it's like yawning. Just recall an incident and bang! you're in that state of mind vividly. (ever noticed that about certain words? Say "yawn" aloud and I bet you'll yawn within minutes. Say the word "lice" aloud and your head itches. I've never had lice and I have that response. Weird.) Anyway, those negative emotions are so easily accessed...well, okay, some of us can get right into those files, no trouble. The joy, pleasure, pride, contentment might be accessible but seem to take more work. I know, I know. NOT everyone is like this. Just shut up about it, you happy types.

Reading intellectually stimulating stuff can distract you from the whole emotional route. But heck, why not go for happy? Romance provides a shortcut.

The secondary glow of romance shoves the reminders into your little lizard brain. Yeah, sure we're talking pornography--as in physical responses brought on by reading. Romance doesn't usually have the immediate schwing of a grunty sex scene. It's more like that bit about how "put a smile on your face and eventually you'll feel better." You know that line--you've wanted to kick people who remind you of that. Never mind that they're right.

Tragedy provides catharsis? I'd rather take a short cut when I'm in the dumps. Jump right over into happy escapism drugs, preferably natural ones produced by me with the boost of romance.

Okay, now I've convinced myself. I'm going to go pack a box for C. since I can't seem to produce the happy-time drug of romance myself just now.


** Or maybe she talks about the letter from the seriously ill patient who thanks her for the lift (and it's at that moment she Knows She's Doing Important Work. That's the key: Before That Moment, she thought Romance Was Not Real Writing or Not Really Important.

Tangent to my tangent: SOME DAY I WANT TO HEAR a romance writer who's NOT defensive about romance. OR maybe someone who does both literary fiction and romance and has no problem with either? I guess Eloisa James is the closest we've got these days--and she's not a bad advocate. Better'n a poke with a sharp stick.


  1. Is it that romance writers start out being defensive about romance, or that society in telling them that romances are Not Really Important makes them that way? A bit of the chicken and the egg really. Sure some problems lie with the writers and the inherent insecurity involved with writing and all art (who doesn't absolutely hate the thing they just finished?), but also with society assigning a lower value to something because it is designed to make people happy. Who knew that society hated endorphines?

  2. oh ABSOLUTELY it's society's view of romance.

    I'm not sure why but I don't know about your theory--after all, erotica is often viewed as Art and Worthy (I can see this in my own interactions as a romance writer and erotica writer)and it's definitely made for emotional ups. heh heh..

    I think it's more a matter of historically any interest that falls within the female domain is not considered serious and/or important.

    As someone said, we won't be free of sexism until little boys will be able to knit without getting guff. Got the girls playing soccer but woe to any boy who shows feminine interests.

    I'm just tired of romance writers of even bothering to respond to the issue. Write the romances and don't waste energy on what non-readers think of them.

    The urge to prove romance's worth can get purely stupid-- some RW's get into the zero sum game. They want to mock other genres to prove their genre's worth. Pfah.

    Literary fiction, mysteries, SFF --plenty of room. Maybe not so much room at the front of the bookstore, but I think romance needn't fret about that.

    I wonder if mystery writers were defensive before their books were considered "worthwhile literature." I think that happened preblog-time so I suppose the only way to find out is to seek out books or essays.

  3. Honestly, if I'm NOT defensive about Romance? If I dare to say that a ton of it is crap and I personally believe only three of four writers in the genre are anything more than average and the shelves are rife with cliches and melodrama and sickening sentimentality? If I do that, then before I can even get to the part where I say "But it's still quite worthwhile and certainly no worse than any other genre," a large majority of the Romance readers/writers will have shouted that I'm ragging on the genre and how dare I, traitoress.

    It seems like you have to be defensive (hyper-sensitive) or else you're not rising to the defense of the noble genre. That's what it seems like to me, anyway.

  4. This has nothing to do with anything (like most of the crap I say), but it might cheer you up to know what a dork I am. Everytime I see SBD I think silent but deadly. I can't help it because apparently I'm five years old.

  5. yeah, it's like any other mass market genre but honestly Beth, it's not that grim. You make it sound like a matter of black and white: Crap with two or three great ones.

    There are plenty who write along a huge spectrum of non-genius but adequate books. (uh oh..look who's getting defensive. yah so? wanna make something outta it? do I include myself in that more-than-crap group? well, what about it? huh?)

    Really though, I think one of your points gets lost: that this applies to other genres. horror or SFF have their cliches--maybe the sickening sentimentality isn't there . . . but is gratuitious (and tediously familiar) battling or Endless Out of Scene Explanation any less onerous than SSentimentality?

    Whoops. Does that count as dragging down other genres to bring up romance? Naw, I think I'm just throwing everyone into the same pit.

    Figures it would be the tangents that people bother to comment on.

    my word verification is "peehyg". Wonder what that means about this message?

  6. PS yes, cheryl b it does cheer me up, but only because I thought I was the only one.

  7. I think women are defensive in general. I'll bet women mystery writers and women scientific writers would respond just as viciously when questioned about the validity of their product as Romance authors do.

    Of course, they're not questioned as often now, are they?

    Ari, who likes endorphins. ..

  8. Kate:

    So sorry to hear some of your recent news. I hope C enjoys the love you send.

    As for being defensive, yeah, I'm defensive, but that's 'cause a lot of people who don't read romance are offensive. And since I can talk that Literary Fiction talk with the best of them, I take 'em on, even though I'm usually conflict-averse.

    Most books have some romance in them. Ours just put it face forward.

    And I think the mystery and SF/Fantasty genres are still thought of as lesser than LF.

    And, yes, there is a load of crap published under the romance banner, and I think it's okay to say that, although some people think if you dislike one author or book, you are bringing the whole genre down. It's a BUSINESS, people, not a sewing circle.

  9. Kate:

    There's a load of crap published in every genre, be it literary, scifi, romance or mystery. Most of this has to do with the sheer amount of books being spewed out by the publishing companies, how little time an editor spends with each book, and how driven they are to come up with the NEWEST. BEST. THING. EVER!! This means that the reading audience ends up with a spectrum of material that runs from craptastic to fantastic, hitting all the points inbetween.

    Very rarely does it seem that an author gets to spend the same amount of love and attention on their later manuscripts as they did on the first one they sold. Countering this, though, is the hope that author's get better with each MS, learning more about their own personal style. We've got a negative in one column balanced by a plus. Then you have to factor in natural talent. Some people are just better writers when it comes to stringing together sentences than others. Some are better plotters. Some are better world builders. Some come up with amazing characters. Then there are those who rock the reader's world with dialogue. As a reader, we take all of this in and weigh the strengths of each. Maybe we absolutely love a book because it has great characters and dialogue even as we acknowledge that the plot and pacing were only so-so.

    Does that make the book pure crap? No.

    Does it make it pure genius? A big no there too.

    By the very act of nailing some areas and not others the book falls somewhere inbetween. Could it have been a genius book if the author had taken more time, refined more, lingered more? Possibly, but most people writing would like to make a living, and very few get the advances necessary to live on for the two years between release dates.

    I think that Romance gets looked down upon so much simply because it is the genre putting out the majority of the books. It's the popular girl that everyone knows that her hair is sooo bottle blonde. As for people getting down on it because of the romance at the forefront. Well, let's face it. Romance hasn't been worshipped since the Romantics, and a lot of the stuff that was churned out at that point was kind of screwy, not to mention a large number of the main characters in the love couple died. To this day if a main character (who is part of the romantic lead couple) dies in a book, the book automatically becomes fiction instead of romance, and therefore raises it's value among those who are snobbish about their reading. Does this make the story any better than one of the romances that falls in that gray area between good and bad? No. It often seems to me that this decision to kill off part of the couple is done to preserve what the author thinks is love (love in a more Romeo and Juliet kind of way), but saves the author from having to deal with the fallout of real emotional intimacy.

    So really what this all boils down to is that if romance writers are so worried about respect they should just take the easy way out and kill off a character. Otherwise I agree with you. There will always be people out there that put down Romance, and there will always be books in the genre that give Romance a bad name with their craptastic presence.

    I would like to think that romance writers could all turn the other cheek, but let's face it. Throw in some hormones and I become one snarky woman. Attack something (I worked hard on) or someone I love during this time and I'll take you down. Mama didn't raise me to be biddable. Attack the work of some romance writer too many times and sooner or later she's going to snap.

    Perhaps all Romance writers should take up Buddhism. Meditation might delay the snark.


    BSC who is currently living in the realm of snark. Oh, and I responded to your comment at my place with a scene...and snark. Enjoy the suckiness!

  10. Sweet Jesus, that's one long ramble. Must remember to hit up with caffeine before commenting and taking over another's blog.


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