I stopped reading romance novels when I was fifteen. The heroines were boring me and there wasn’t enough about the men. Now I can look back and realize that I wasn’t identifying because the male POV was so underrepresented. When that started to change, I got back into romance. Then I found slash—TWO male POV’s. I never looked back. But that fresh love of romance is slowly dwindling because of the gluttony of clichés. Namely, my least favorite, The Oh Noes I’m Gay plotline.
Being gay should be addressed. Hatred and bigotry and all of that should be included in books. Prejudice and hate is prevalent today. And the closer we get to equality, the more the nutjobs are going to kick and scream. Although, I did read a recent comment about how there’s hardly gay prejudice in the workplace and everything is peachy keen for gays in today’s awesome society. This from a gay man oO.
Let’s be clear, society is not shitting rainbows and spurting the milk of human kindness at gays from sparkly titties. It’s just getting better. Because of people like you. But The Woe Is Me, I’m Gay routine is kinda over for me. Not completely, but for the most part.
I live with prejudice every day. I came out as trans to the people who play date with our dogs. They stopped responding to my calls and texts–which was how we set up the dates. After four tries, I gave up. Six people stopped playing Scrabble with me online because I told them what I wrote and that I was trans. These were long term game partners that I played with daily. My husband even freaked out when he heard I came out to the doggy play-date people and he’s as supportive as they come. I live it, therefore I don’t want to read it. I have a feeling that’s the deal with a lot of clichés in the m/m world.
Hang with me here Gay Angst Lovers. Put the tomatoes down and let me clarify.
A while back, I read this awesome discussion on The Slash Pile about what tropes people hated. Funnily enough, as many people hated one trope, there were five that loved it. That’s true about The Gay too, right? I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of you out there reading this article and going “But I like The Gay Plotline”. So let’s state fully, and for the record, Tropes Are Good and We Love Them but Clichés Are Very Very Bad and We Hate Them More Than Rick Santorum Hates His Himself For Wanting to Suck Dick.
Tropes Good. Cliché Bad. Got it? Okay, let’s analyze!
I’m going to talk about my book now–assuming that most of you who give a shit what I say have already read it =). I’d pick another book, but I can’t get into another author’s head. So this isn’t a promotional whirlwind (if it was, I’d post this closer to Not So Innocent’s release date. PS: don’t ask about that =P).
I have some tropes I really love: Opposites Attracting—esp young innocent/older knowing guy, free spirit/uptight guy, poor/rich, cop/rentboy etc. I write stories I want to read, so I grabbed a bunch of those tropes, read a book about writing and used its advice: “What if?”
Cop/rentboy, rich/poor, young innocent/older knowing, free spirit/uptight guy = Shattered Glass—but wow all those tropes in one story? How not to make that so cliché that I bored myself with my own kinks?
So I asked myself, What if?
Start with the easy stuff. What if the older guy wasn’t the top? What if the cop wasn’t the top? What if The Gay wasn’t the story?
What if, like real life, The Gay was a thorn and not the brier patch?
What if Austin was rich, but that only brought him down? It didn’t give him Agency, but it actually was his Achille’s heel? And because of it, he was immature, selfish, friendless, family-less and self-involved.
What if Peter wasn’t a hooker with a heart of gold. What if he was manipulative, selfless to the point of ridiculous, guilt-ridden, dangerous, a liar and using Austin for his money?
Well, how do you make these men—the manipulative liar and the rich self-absorbed manboy—sympathetic?
Well, okay, I could do something cliché, like make Peter turn into goo and this utterly compassionate sweetheart, genius with a forty inch cock.
And I could make Austin this totally loved, amazing cop who bedded women and left them breathless for air and unable to comprehend how he could possibly be gay when he could fuck like a Love Craft™ Magic Fantasy 3500.
Excuse me while I clear my throat and mouth of the vomit that came from that thought.
Austin protects young kids and those at risk of being victimized, he uses self-deprecating humor, he doesn’t lie, not even to himself. But the one trait I find most loveable about Austin is his longing for a family. Which came ready-made with Peter. Notice that Austin didn’t get a baby like the cliché of romance. He wants a family, he gets one. I give him his happy ending. But not a traditional one—he gets a son that he’ll never get to call “son” and he gets Cai—a full grown teenager with mental health issues. Oh yeah, it’s pretty obvious that Austin was a terrible lover. More than one woman said so in the story. Another cliché down in flames.
Then there’s Peter, who loves with his whole heart and soul and will protect those he loves by doing anything for them. He’s kind, considerate and everyone misjudges him because he constantly has to watch his facial ticks. His whole life people viewed him as beautiful-but-cold (very clichéd in romance), but unlike typical heroes, he’s fully aware of what he looks like and he’ll use that beauty whenever and however necessary. And I like that about him. No, I LOVE that about him.
Good points without clichés are harder. I’m not sure I was entirely successful in keeping them out of the realm of the Gary Stu in that category, but I doubt you’ll find many other characters with the glaringly obvious flaws. And only one of them was fixed by the end: Austin’s stereotyping.
My last cliché to break was the ending. Austin didn’t have some miraculous change. Neither did Peter. Only our perceptions of them and why the acted like they did changed. Austin still made crass jokes, he still took very little seriously, he was still an asshole. And Peter still manipulated to get his way. He still lied. He still used his looks and he still maintained an iron grip on Cai.
Spoiler ALERTS FOR NOT SO INNOCENT
So let’s take my next novel, Not So Innocent. What’s are the tropes in there?
Young Innocent/ Sophisticated older man, Sophisticate/Unconventional, The I’ve Been Raped Trauma, The Alpha Male Syndrome, The Super Genius.
What did I hate about older novels? The value of innocence and the value of virginity. What else did I hate? That rape became this way of saying that sex didn’t happen and that the characters were virginal or still “pure”. Like what the fuck? Virginity is the most sacred altar we should all worship? The voices in my head are going NO NO NO NO NO. (yes, Darryl is loudest with his “FUCK NO!”)
So the first thing I did about Cai was I stripped him of any virginity. He had fun in Europe. He didn’t wait for Riley, no matter how much he loved him. And Riley values that. Riley approves of that.
I don’t find anything wrong with virginity. Please don’t take it that way. But I find things wrong in the devaluing of the sexually adventurous.
You know what? I wrote more, but I deleted it. That’s all you get from NSI =D. Just one of the tropes that I disintegrated and rebuilt into my own vision.
Two last teases: All the sex scenes are from Riley—the Top’s POV =). Whatever you think about Darryl, this article should tell you that things aren’t what they seem.
So let’s try a game in the comments section of this post. Pick your favorite trope, reply below and then let’s play: What If?