I had another post I was writing for today but Sirius and I were emailing about something else entirely and the topic of overwhelming angst in M/M romances came up. We had a long discussion about the pros and cons of angst in romances so I thought I would write about it. Blame Sirius for my inspiration. 🙂
Angst seems to be a common feature in many contemporary M/M romances and right now I’m suffering from a condition called angst dissonance. lol Some of you LOVE angst and say bring it on! Buda, one of our guest reviewers, can’t get enough angst, so whenever I start reading a book which has lots and lots of angst I usually pass it to him to review since I know how much he gets off on it. 😆 Sorry B, I know it was our little secret but I couldn’t resist. At least I didn’t tell them about your tat with the hearts and flowers on your *ahem* 🙂 Oops.
I don’t mind a reasonable amount of angst in romances but I can only tolerate a certain LEVEL before my eyes glaze over, my stomach churns and I have to stop reading or my mind and body will rebel. Relationships evolve and change in RL and romances are no different, except everything is emphasized in fiction where everyone’s reactions to different circumstances or issues are more extreme. However, when I read a book where the writer just piles on the angst which is over the top to begin with, and I no longer can see where the story is headed or even what was the plot of the romance in the first place, and the angst becomes the focus of the book rather than the love story, I give up in disgust and it becomes a DNF, unless I’m reviewing it and I have to finish it. My hard drive and Kindle are full of books that I bought but never finished, due mainly to their over reliance on this plot device. Some experienced authors have an instinctive sense of when to rein it in and add humour, and they also don’t forget that the book is supposed to be a romance rather than the heroes’ struggle for survival, but a large percentage of authors just don’t seem to know when enough is enough IMO.
As you know, there are different aspects of a story that can cause angst – one is whining about life in general and being dealt a bad hand which at times can go on and on until the end of the story; then there are the small misunderstandings between the MCs which some authors elevate to a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved by having them simply talk to each other, but hey, where is the fun in that? After all, men don’t communicate, right? Other authors use angst through hurt/comfort. MCs are viciously beaten, raped (gang rape is becoming more frequent), maimed, humiliated, or injured to the point where they are in hospital for weeks and their bodies are permanently broken. It seems to be a case of “how much more can I add without killing this guy (don’t want to piss off the readers) so before I give him his HEA let me also throw in a situation where he gets beaten to within a inch of his life one last time.” Some characters are injured so many times in a story it’s a miracle they are still alive when it ends. Don’t the protagonists have fun any more outside of the sex?
I don’t equate good writing with the amount and level of angst in a romance, and I don’t believe many of you do, so why do some authors feel that hyping the angst to an unbearable level (your mileage may vary) makes a romance more marketable and therefore generate increased sales? Conflict in a romance, or any book for that matter, is essential for it to be interesting and enjoyable, and that’s the best way to hold the readers’ interest – there’s no fun reading a romance which is all kisses and light and bike rides to look at the sunset. Creating believable conflict is difficult to do but that’s called writing.
The boom in M/M romance is still going through the roof, with new authors coming on board every day. Perhaps the pressure to rise to the top and stay there in this very competitive field leads to many writers deliberately escalating the angst which they know some readers love, because they think this will make their books more popular and give them a significant advantage over the competition. However, a high level of angst in a book is no substitute for a good plot, intelligent prose and dialogue as well as three dimensional characters, qualities that make stories memorable. No amount of angst can cover up deficiencies in a plot or failure to write an interesting story that holds a reader’s interest from cover to cover. A book that has my stomach in knots from beginning to end is not usually an indication that the writer is hitting all of my hot buttons, unless it’s a high octane adventure.
I have recently stopped buying or reviewing books by certain authors because extreme angst is their signature and I don’t want to read about the escalating amount of injuries inflicted on their heroes. These writers seem to delight in bringing their characters to their knees with massive injuries and they usually end up in hospital, some almost at the point of death for extra dramatic effect, before their HEA. Where is the fun in reading a book like that? Is this a trend in M/M romance where the heroes’ lives are made as grim as possible so readers will feel they deserve a happy ending? I expect protagonists to work for their HEA, but is there no limit to the amount of excruciating pain and tragedy that they have to endure before The End?
I saw this today on another site which gave me a chuckle:
“Hey, Let me tell you something. I just finished this show/movie/book, and it’s awesome! You’ll totally love it! It’s so artistic! You’ll fall in love with all the characters, and when you see what happens to them it will just break your heart! If the final part doesn’t cause you to cry for weeks, then man, you have no soul!… hey, where are you going?”
However I think some of you may prefer this quote 🙂
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?”
We all have different personal tolerances and I understand that mine and yours could be as night from day. I never developed a taste for lots of angst, probably because I started out reading fantasy and murder mysteries, not romances. I think that’s where I went wrong. 🙂
Bring out the brickbats guys. :strike: Buda you don’t get to wield a bat. 😆