Ever wonder why some people prefer historical romances? The complicated dance between the sexes tended to be more clear-cut. There were societal rules for it too. Very specific rules existed, such as what behaviors were appropriate, for example the art of flirting with a fan. Two dances with the same partner at one ball indicated extreme interest. Modern romance is an entirely new ball game, especially if you want to write about it.
Back in 1984, with the acknowledged spread of AIDS, romance writers had to decide if they wanted their heroes to don a condom during a sex scene. Some writers firmly resisted this, claiming it wouldn’t be romantic. More than twenty years later, the male protagonist, who doesn’t don a condom, is thoughtless or the author has a pregnancy planned.
Even texting adds a new dimension to contemporary romance. The death of a courtship can be explained in communications terms. He called every night, then he texted, but always typed I love you. His texts became infrequent, loaded with text jargon and ILY as opposed to spelling it out. Eventually, he quit texting altogether.
Michael Masters, author of TextAppeal -- For Guys! The Ultimate Texting Guide, states that the hotter a woman is, the less texting a man should do. Unnecessary texting makes a man look needy. Inappropriate texting such as in the early morning, late evening, even at work can be annoying.
With this in mind, your hero shouldn’t resort to texting unless it’s a Young Adult novel. The exception is if you want things to be cryptic or misunderstood. Then texting can be a great conflict device. Texting, like email, doesn’t reflect humor or sarcasm. It would be easy for the receiver to take it wrong. People often react depending on what mood they are in when they read the text. Want a guy to act like a jerk? Have him break off with his sweetie via text.
Sorry. It’s not working for me. This text guarantees to make almost any woman see red and consider methods of painful retribution. A decade back, the email was the tacky way to break up. It shows a lack of character not to personally talk to the person.
Over the years, men and women have found numerous ways of breaking up from dead roses delivery to faking their own death by drowning. The harsh factor is the unwillingness to face the person they claimed to love only days ago. All these breakup methods popped up in the last sixty years. Earlier in the century, a woman or her family did sue if she felt she’d been promised marriage only to be dumped. It was referred to as Breach of Promise suit.
This was because being a wife and mother was a woman’s occupation. Not only did she lose a job she thought she had, but also lost social standing and possibly the opportunity to marry elsewhere. The court could not force the man to marry her but usually levied a sizable fine. This made most men think very carefully before commiting. It was one of the reasons people avoided dating too much. Another reason was they married much younger and expected to stay married because their faith dictated it.
Modern romance and the predictability of failing at it added a new factor into the mix. A woman can’t overlook a divorced man as a potential sweetie. It would be easy as a writer to write a tale about a never married man who never had a sweetheart or a vengeful ex who falls for his female counterpart, but where would the conflict be? Excluding victims of shattered relationships in a current romance would be the same as insisting gravity didn’t exist. People can identify with the woman whose guy dumped her via text message.
Even contemporary romances have changed in the last thirty years. In the earlier novels, a formula was used where the hero not only had to be taller, but older than the heroine. He had to be wealthy, handsome, and preferably foreign. The heroine was often described as being so breathtaking beautiful that the hero had never seen anyone so lovely. Ironically in the era of PhotoShop, people prefer realistic characters. Author Lori Copeland crossed a line when she made a hero shorter than the heroine. Author Debbie Macomber broke ground when she put her hero in a wheelchair.
Even ideas about happily ever after are changing too. The old school story ended with an epilogue where the heroine is married to the hero and have a couple of adorable children. With the changing nature of relationships, current publishing houses are willing to accept a happy for right now scenario. There is no marriage, no promises to stay together forever, and apparently no need to not use those character names again.
In fact, I’ve read a series where the heroine starts the second novel by bemoaning the fact her last relationship didn’t work out. This happened to be the same novel I’d spent hours reading and rooting for the two of them to get together. Now, she’s off to a new story with a new man, and possibly his two best friends, but that’s a different blog.
What changes do you think technology has made in dating and relationships?