Look, I've talked about this before. There was a rather tongue-in-cheek post a while back about things males writers do in their books that would NEVER happen in romance novels (and for GOOD reason). I've also talked about characters who were completely let down by their writers. I've also mentioned things that the television and movie industry can learn from romance novels. But lately, I'm seeing more and more examples of writing atrocities, 99% of which are being committed by men (sorry guys), that could've (should've) been avoided. There's also A LOT of disrespect going on in the fandoms towards shippers (i.e.: folks who want to see a particular set of characters get involved in a romantic relationship). But guys, I'm here to tell you, embracing romance novels and shippers is a good move for EVERYONE. And now, more than ever, it's time to try new things. Here's what I mean:
Romance and shippers are NOT your enemy
Everything is horrible right now. People are scared. Audiences (reading and viewing audiences) need hope. And what's more hopeful than a budding romance? Now, I know what you're going to say. "But, Jennifer, my story isn't a romance! Why do I need to include a romance?" I'm not saying you do. In fact, I'd rather you DIDN'T manufacture a romance just to please some part of your audience--because romance fans can always sniff out a romance that was just included to pander to them. So, there's NOTHING wrong with stories that don't include even a hint of romance. BUT, if you've written a story and your audience inexplicably starts shipping a couple, would it kill you (or your story) to NOT have that ship end horribly? Here's an example.
Take The 100. Now, this show is NOT a romance. They've made that very, very clear by making sure that every budding romance on the show ends horrifically. But, against all hope, a HUGE portion of the audience has shipped Clarke and Bellamy for years. The sexual tension between these two characters has always been off the charts. And with the show coming to an end, everyone was waiting, breathless with anticipation, to see these two (who obviously loved each other, had killed for each other, and had always put each other's needs ahead of everything else, including the survival of the human race) end up together. Hell, we would've been satisfied with a tiny little kiss. But, alas...it wasn't meant to be. The show runner and writing team saw fit to have Clarke kill Bellamy in a fit of completely out of character asshattery, for no purpose whatsoever. Why? Well, rumor has it that the show runner had a beef with the actor who played Bellamy and killed him off out of spite. Further comments made by this same guy (Jason Rothenberg) throughout the years suggest that he was disdainful of the "Bellarke" shippers. So it's my theory that killing Bellamy was just his big eff you to those folks (myself included). He even went against the source material, the book series by Kass Morgan, to do it.
But, what's done is done. I do have to ask, though: Hey, Jason, since everyone on Twitter is pretty much calling you everything but a nice, upstanding boy...was the eff you really worth it? Would it have damaged you or your story to end on just a tiny sliver of hope, especially now when audiences need it more than ever? I think not.
And while we're on the subject--why the disdain for the shippers in your fandom? These are loyal fans who watched your show season after season. They showed up every week, probably bought some merchandise, and made sure your show was trending all over social media every time it was on. They're a HUGE part of the reason you lasted this many seasons, pal. What do you care if some folks in your audience want a couple of characters to kiss? Maybe think about that on your next project. (Assuming anyone will hire you after this dumpster fire of a last season.)
By the way, the romance novel industry is a BILLION dollar industry. There are a crap ton of romance fans out there. Most (not all) of them are women. If you're a creator and you are actively hating on romance fans and shippers, you're leaving money on the table. And also, you're quite possibly a flaming misogynist. (That last one goes for non-creators who hate on shippers and romance fans for fun, too.) Just something to consider...
Happy endings don't make you a bad writer
One of the biggest criticisms of the romance genre is the happy endings. "That's just not realistic!" critics cry. So, everything ending in fire, brimstone, and miserable, painful death IS realistic? Sometimes people are happy. That's a fact. And ending a story on a happy note, letting audiences know that the characters they've grown to love over time are going to be OK, doesn't make you a bad writer. Not every story has to be The Road. I'm a firm believer that any good writer is capable of creating a happy, optimistic ending (or, at the very least, an ending that doesn't send their fans into therapy) for any story. And if they can't...well, I would be tempted to argue that they just aren't very good writers. (Looking at the Game of Thrones dudes on that one.)
And also, you do NOT have to "subvert expectations" in order to be a good writer and tell a good story. Unless you're writing a mystery that hinges on a spectacular plot twist, it's OK to give people what they want sometimes. You don't HAVE to shock them. It is possible to tell a great story and not shock the crap out of anyone. I guess you'll just have to trust me on that one. Or, you know, read some great romance novels to see it in action. I can provide recs for anyone that needs them.
Strong heroines don't HAVE to be alone
"But...but...a strong woman doesn't need a man!" Oh, of course she doesn't. Everyone knows that. But wanting a family and a man (or woman) to love doesn't make a heroine weak. Rey could've walked into the sunset on The Rise of Skywalker holding hands with a redeemed Ben Solo and still been an awesome, strong heroine. The notion that "strong heroines" need to be martyr nuns is idiotic--and it seems to be something that SO many male writers believe. I'm here to tell you, guys--let your strong heroines have a romance. It won't ruin her as a character. Pinky swear.
I certainly hope you're listening to all of this, dude who killed off Logan in the Veronica Mars, season 4 finale (Rob Thomas). We all hate you, by the way.
Death as redemption is lazy writing
This is something that so many romance authors just GET. If you're going to go to the trouble of redeeming a villain, go to the trouble of writing the actual hard part--having him make amends to everyone he's hurt and be accountable for his actions. For example, redeeming Ben Solo, only to have him die moments later in an effort to save someone the writer felt was more worthy (don't @ me on that one. JJ Abrams actually said he didn't understand how anyone could relate to villains) was the epitome of lazy writing. If Ben had lived and had to go back to the rebel base with Rey to face those he'd hurt--to make amends to them? Now THAT would've been hard to write. And it would've been MAGIC to watch. But, hey, Abrams...you do you. How's that working out for you with your movie reviews, by the way? At least you made the racist, angry dudebros happy by writing Rose Tico completely out of the story, huh? *massive eye roll*
To recap, here are my key takeaways (in case any of you men are too lazy or busy to read the entire thing):
1. Romance fans spend money. Don't alienate them.
2. Shippers aren't the enemy. They bring money into your franchises. Don't alienate them.
3. Heroines can kick ass and still have romance in their lives.
4. Killing off your redeemed villains is lazy writing and everyone hates you for doing it.
5. WE NEED HOPE RIGHT NOW. LET US HAVE A HAPPY ENDING!!!!
And the universal rules that we can all strive to live by:
1. Live and let live. Let people like what they like. There's no need to yuck anyone's yum.
2. Don't be a dick.
3. Don't come for Romancelandia. They will cut you and laugh while you bleed out.