Realism vs Fantasy: Which Do You Prefer? by T.A. Chase

 Today T.A. Chase’s post is on a topic about which I feel strongly. I don’t believe there is enough diversity in M/M romances – sometimes the heroes are so homogeneous it’s difficult to tell them apart. Almost 18 months ago I wrote about a whole range of characters absent from M/M (men of different religious backgrounds, ethnic minorities, physically challenged men, older heroes – this includes anyone over the age of 30)  in a post titled Exploring Diversity in M/M;  not much has changed since then. Now T.A. is asking the question: What you want in your M/M characters?

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Hey everyone, Wave asked me to return for another interesting blog discussion. At least, I hope you find it interesting. 🙂  In rummaging through my brain for a topic to write on, I got to thinking about realistic characters. I don’t mean the things Stuart pointed out in his observations, and Wave posted about here.

 What I’m talking about are heroes who are disabled in some way, whether he’s in a wheel chair like in Sweet Toppings by Carol Lynne, or lost his hearing because of war like in Capturing Perfection by Trina Lane. Heroes who have to struggle through life, not just because they’re gay, but because they have other challenges to deal with.

 Three of my books out this year have heroes like that. Not Seeing is Believing has a blind vampire. Be the Air For You has a hero who is going deaf, and in Lift Your Voice, Bran has lost the lower half of his leg to a road-side bomb in Iraq.

 Now, some would say m/m romance, or romance in general, is about the fantasy that everyone can have a happily ever after…or a happy for now ending. That the perfect man is out there just waiting for us-or our heroes-to find them. And it is true. With a little bit of hope, we all can find a person to love and live with, though more often than not, they aren’t perfect. 🙂

 What I was wondering is this:  Do you, as readers, like to read stories about men who are slightly less than perfect? They might be older than usual, or not quite a hard body. One of the heroes could be in a wheelchair, blind, or deaf. Or do you like reading about perfect men? There’s no wrong answer to those questions…lol.

 Also, what else would you like to see in the books you read? Topics, ethnicities, or places you would like to see more of in your books? 

 Thanks Wave, and all of you, for letting me chat with you today. I hope you have a great Tuesday.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

85 comments

  • (Geez, I HOPE someone wants to read about an overweight, imperfect character, otherwise “Christmas With Danny Fit” is dooomed!)

    Seriously–I like some gritty realism shaken into my fantasy. If I’m going to buy that the chocolate cake is good for me, I need to taste some dust and zucchini in there with it… But, as in all things, it really does depend on WHICH details are presented. Some details will just flip my ‘off’ switch–and some make me say, “Yup. That’s real life. Now let’s see how these guys resolve this problem!” And sometimes, I will suspend my disbelief in order to be happy at the end.

    Reply
  • Great topic T.A. 🙂
    And good timing as well, since I’m writing a novel from the point of view of a blind man, in a magical fantasy setting, who cannot use magic to see and will not be getting his sight back.

    Granted, my story features a gorgeous but weathered detective – tall,dark,broad,deep voice, almost forty – but my main character is a blind 24yr old who has had to fight (with help from his parents) to get where he is now: mostly self-sufficient with a job he was never supposed to have, but is damned good at. Neither man is perfect, but they’ll catch the killer and will end up together 🙂
    Reality? Well, it is fantasy, but I am trying to keep it real.

    Anyway …
    One commenter mentioned something about not remembering what the characters look like, and I am kind of like that (which is why I often forget to write descriptions as well). I like creating my own image of the characters I’m reading about.

    Do I want more reality? Yes, definitely.
    I don’t read m/m books for the sex or the hunky muscled type, so I’m all for more diverse characters in less than perfect (health) situations. I do, however, read them to spend an hour or two enjoying two men meeting and falling in love, despite the hurdles they have to jump to get there, so that is what I want to end up with. Something with a hint of the bright future ahead that makes me smile when I close the book 🙂

    And, Josh, like many others, the imperfections of your characters is what makes me like them and their stories so much. Not to mention that there is something in your writing style that just compels me to read.
    Also: your tip about using sun signs to flesh out characters, is the best I ever had.

    T.A.: I’ve not read many of your books, but I have to say that Bitter Creek’s Redemption is by far my favourite.

    Reply
  • I adore heroes with flaws! It makes them stand out from the oh so perfect herd of perfect bodies and perfect teeth. I don’t mind a nice easy two perfect guys fall in love book but in reality I tend to forget these stories over time. It takes something real to stand up and get noticed by me. Or to stick in my mind.

    I think that’s why I tend toward the supernatural stories. The oddity of them is enough so that they can be their oh so otherwise perfect selfs. But when it comes to non sci-fi/supernatural fiction, I love it when the hero has their own issues to conquer.

    Right now my fav hero is Vic from PsyCop cause he’s scrawny and neurotic, like me. 🙂

    Reply
  • Great post TA.
    Hmmm that is one to ponder. I think, simply said, I like my romance wrapped in a good story and to me it doesn’t matter how that story is represented, weather the heroes or hero are flawed. It is as much the story that counts, the way it written as the happily ever after (or not)

    Reply
  • Great discussion. I guess diversity of theme is my friend. Like others have said, the mood I am in can dictate what storyline “type” I will want to read. As I reflect on what I really find myself “wowing” over when I read a story though, it always comes back to realism of emotion and interesting portrayal of the character of the characters! I think this can hold true whether the story is contemporary, historical, fantasy or whatever. I can think of a few authors in particular who just nail the “realism of emotion” factor for me every single time.

    One thing I don’t like is obvious sloppy research, or glossing over of certain topics within a story. Authors with great imagination get kudos from me, whether it’s thinking up a fantasy world or a new twist on “the usual”. Any author who can take the non-obvious route with a storyline gets a big thumbs up from me. I do believe there are plenty of authors out there who have written “less than perfect” characters and done a bang up job of it. As far as cheating in a storyline – if it’s vital to the plot and not just thrown in as “filler” and it is dealt with and resolved in a compelling manner, then it’s OK by me. While I read to “escape” I also want to learn and grow from reading experiences. One thing I have really enjoyed and taken away lots of food for thought about from reading M/M – especially the historicals – is putting myself in a different set of shoes so to speak.
    Probably clear as mud, seeing as it’s late. 🙂

    Reply
  • Many comments back, K.Z. brought up the fact that many authors want and do write stories with realistic, flawed characters. She also brought up the questions of what do readers really WANT to read.

    I would like to add to her thoughts. I believe that by virtue of reading this blog, most of us are readers out of the ordinary in the m/m sub-genre. That is, we all care greatly about the characterization, setting, plot, and our ability to connect in some way to the characters lives. However, do the majority of the m/m readers care as much about these elements, or do they just read for the gorgeous, good-looking bodies, and the hot sex?

    Ultimately, an author writes because of an intrinsic desire to write. But in order to continue to pay the bills and put food on the table, an author who desires to be published and continue to be published, has to stay somewhere within the parameters of what the majority of readers will buy and read. As an established author, isn’t it a little bit easier to stretch and take some risks?

    I’m in the camp of liking my realism with some fantasy. I like real characters, complete with flaws (or not), but HEAs or HFNs are a must.

    Reply
  • I prefer realism. Personally, I would like to see more books with regular people. Rockstars, actors, and supercops can be fine, but in a lot of ways they are just as big a fantasy as the vampires and werewolves. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    I think there is something really powerful about the meeting and falling in love of two people. . .and that sometimes gets overshadowed by all the window dressing.

    And that being said, when real people fall in love they have to deal with their differences, be those of race, religion, socio-economic status, or simply upbringing. Exploring those things about your partner is a wonderful part of discovering each other, even when at the same time it can be the source of tension and drama.

    To me the ‘then what’ can be most interesting part of any story. Yes, you are in love and the sex is great. . .those are actually the easy parts. Now make it work. That’s the tough part. And that is where the issues of diversity really come into play. It is one thing to fall in love with someone of a different race. It is another thing to really understand what it means to be a person of color in the US, and how that effects the relationship. And the same could be said of religion, background, etc.

    Great topic!

    Reply

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