I’m a woman, and I’m also a writer, and I like these two things about myself. However, I don’t write love stories. I did once, way back in high school, while nursing a broken heart over a crush that didn’t reciprocate my feelings. It was terrible (the story and my heart), and both characters died in a car crash in the most monumental and over-blown drama that you can imagine. But besides that, as a strict rule for myself, I generally avoid romance. Or, if there are any romantic elements in a story, they usually don’t turn out well. This isn’t because I don’t like love, and this isn’t because I’m bitter. Sure, I’ve got my fair share of chips on my shoulder, but I’m not very different from anyone else in my appreciation for love — for wanting love. It’s a wonderful thing; I’m just simply not interested in writing about it.
I think there used to be a common misconception about women writers, though. I want to preface this by saying I know it’s not everyone — of course it’s not everyone — but there is, still, a slight stereotype, and I’d like to talk about it. Women are classified as being the more emotional of the two sexes. People say we’re more “in tune” with our feelings, hence, all matters of the heart are fair game. Okay, sure: I consider myself in touch with my emotional side, and I’ll get weepy in sad movies. But that doesn’t mean it transfers over to my writing. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
Usually, my characters are pretty stilted in terms of “emotional openness.” In other words, they’re a little fucked up. They’ve already got so many other problems that the idea of romance just isn’t feasible to the story. Sure, a lot of my stories are about women, but these women aren’t usually going on dates, worrying about a boyfriend or anything like that. Instead, they’re dealing with death, with getting stuck in the air, with battling depression, and with major family problems.
One time, I let a guy read one of my stories, and he told me afterwards that he was shocked by how violent it was. I didn’t ask why, because I already knew why. I was a young female who wrote magical realism, and he was expecting pink powdery puffs of sentences, of lightness, of beauty. I do try to incorporate beauty into my stories, and oftentimes there are rays of lightness, too. But they’re generally dark, and not on even on purpose: they just are. And the violence? Can’t I have a violent imagination as well? Can’t I consider things like rape or murder fascinating and disturbing topics, and write about them if I so choose?
Even I, in some instances, have been surprised by the rawness and violent overtones in a female writer’s stories. But then I catch myself, saying wait a minute, she’s still a part of the human existence, which includes ugliness and ferocity. Why shouldn’t she be able to write about those things, and write about them well? Of course, the stereotype probably stems back to the fact that most romance novelists are women. I don’t really have an argument for that, except to say I’m glad they’re writing about what they enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with it. But there are others of us out there who wish to write about other things, darker things, things that make the reader uncomfortable. And it’s that sort of chilling writing — the kind that digs in deep, and which surpasses romantic love — that I enjoy.
I like romance, the concept of it, but don’t expect me to write about it just because I’m a woman.