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Episode 39: Writer's Corner transcript

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Feb. 10th, 2013 | 03:40 pm

Ep 39 Writer’s Corner
Host: emmagrant01
Guests: Diana Copland and Kryptaria
Topic: Writing Romance

Transcriber note: the audio does skip in places but the missed words are mostly decipherable from context and partial sounds and have been included, where they are not obvious or the fill is a guess these have been noted in square brackets in the same manner as other asides such as laughter.

Emma: Welcome to the Slashcast Writer’s Corner, my name is Emma Grant and my guests today are Diana and Kryptaria and the topic we’re going to be writing about today is writing romance. So first I’m going to ask both of my guests to just introduce themselves and talk about how you began writing fanfic and what fandoms you’ve been involved in, and any other names that you’ve written under.

Kryptaria: Okay, I am Kryptaria, I am currently writing in Sherlock and the James Bond. I started, oh, a few years ago in Supernatural briefly, did a little bit there, did a little bit of fandom in Watchmen, but really I didn’t get into it until Sherlock. That was April of last year.

Diana: I write under oldenoughtoknowbetter (oldenough2nb) in fandom, and Diana Copland is my publishing name. I probably first started writing in about 2006, I’ve always been a Harry Potter girl. I started out writing some Gen and then read some phenomenal Harry/Draco writers and was lured into that part of the fandom and have basically been there ever since.

Emma: Cool. Well the topic of our discussion today, as I said, is writing romance. And so we’re going to talk about this both in terms of fanfiction and original fiction, since you guys have done both. But I want to start off by giving you the formal definition of romance, which this is actually from the Wikipedia entry but it’s pretty standard if you look for academic definitions of romance anywhere there’s a very standard definition which is that a romance is a kind story in which the plot centres around two, or – in the case of many fanfics – more than two [someone makes agreeing noise], people as a romantic relationship develops between them and generally the main cont- and generally the main conflict of the story of the story is some obstacle that the lovers have to overcome in order to be together. And then the final- and then one more element that romances typically have is that they have an emotionally satisfying end and/or an optimistic ending. And so if it’s bad ending, if somebody- if it doesn’t work out at the end or if it’s not optimistic in some way then it’s not a romance, it’s another kind of- it falls to another genre. So with that definition in mind I just wanted to ask each of you: what do you think is a good romance? What do you for look for when you’re reading a romance?

Kryptaria: Personally-

Diana: Go ahead.

Kryptaria: - I want a challenge. I want a challenge where the characters need to fight for their relationship. I want them to really earn their romance. I don’t want to see love at first sight, I want a believable relationship that grows from their first meeting and becomes something that neither of them expected to have. As anyone who’s read anything by me knows I absolutely love misunderstandings and conflicts, let them fight, let them argue, and then let them really work to get to an ending relationship.

Diana: I agree with all of that. I think that the difference maybe about what I write is that most of my conflicts are usually outside of the main pairing, so that they kind of have to work together to overcome something else. I don’t write a lot of fics where they’re at loggerheads, but that just is a personal preference.

Emma: And don’t you mostly write Harry/Draco?

Diana: I do, actually, now that’s all I write in fandom.

Emma: And you write Harry/Draco where they’re not, like, constantly at loggerheads, as you say?

Diana: I do actually, because I think there’s enough of it. I tend to write them a little older.

Emma: Uh huh.

Diana: So my hope is by the time they’re in their mid-20s/early-30s that part of their relationship would be behind them, or they would have outgrown the need to do that. That I think there are a lot of people who do it very well, where they’re fighting when they’re in their late teens and early-20s, and they come to an understanding of what that fighting is really indicating. Rather than they really hate each other is that they’re dawn toward each other and so I tend to take it in a different direction; which is probably why original fiction works so well for me because even though my characters are name Harry and Draco occasionally they look more like somebody else. [laughs, Emma joins in] I kind of… yeah they don’t fight a lot in my stories, obviously.

Emma: So Kara, are your- you said that your conflicts mostly arise from misunderstandings and miscommunications with the characters so it, the conflict tend to be between the two people or do you also use the tool of outside conflict?

Kryptaria: Oh absolutely. Outside conflict, I mean: Mycroft. [Emma laughs] Right there you have a wealth of outside conflict. Um, I love exploring the characters, so any challenge I can put even an individual character through whether it’s a character fighting his own inner demons, or fighting to preserve a relationship against outside odds, or even in the case of Sherlock – let’s face it Sherlock’s not a nice person – so falling in love with Sherlock is kind of like shooting yourself in the foot. [Emma chuckles] So trying to develop a relationship with him you’re fighting against him. So any conflict, anything that can add depth to the story and make the reader really invested in cheering for the pairing: that’s what I go for.

Emma: Would you guys say that most of what you’ve written has been romance, or have you written in other genres?

Kryptaria: For me definitely not. But since I tend not to write much in the way of general fiction there’s almost always a romantic relationship aspect to it. And I don’t write relationship fics which have an unhappy ending. I can’t bring myself to write a death fic, I don’t like fics where at the end the pairing breaks up, or they never get together, or they walk away. I want a happy fic because, you know, fics are my way of escaping the real world. And I like a happy escape. But the romance has to grow naturally whether it’s on the framework of a mystery, for example, or a case fic or something bigger. So for me it’s just not always focussed on romance.

Diana: I guess that I would say that that’s what I do too, although in my own mind I’m not – my agent describes me as being a romance writer and I’m very comfortable with that label.

Emma: You know it’s interesting because before I really kind of dug into – about a year ago I started to dig into this idea of what romance is – and prior to that I would have never said that I write romance because, I mean the kind of thing that Kara was saying is that, or actually what both of you were saying, I write there’s like some kind of a mystery to be solved and so the mystery, solving the mystery is what brings the characters together and what ultimately kind of becomes the vehicle towards pushing them to having a relationship, but of course it follows all the other aspects of romance. And you might think there’s some conflict that they have to overcome in their relationship to get together at the end and there’s always a happy ending – like you guys I love happy endings – but, so I suppose that you know I didn’t think that I wrote romance, but you know – and again my background is not in English or in Literature or anything like that -

Diana: Right.

Emma: - but there’s an aspect of romance in almost everything that I’ve ever written, and it sounds like you guys are saying kind of the same thing. That there’s always that focus on the relationship somehow.

Diana: Well I think it’s one thing as human beings that we all sort of have in common. Is that either we have a romance or we want a romance, or we’ve had a cruddy romance I mean I think that it’s a unifying factor and it’s something that in one way or another everybody aspires to have, so I think that kind of brings everyone into the story from the same place. You know what I mean? It’s like everybody wants to be in love [Emma chuckles], and so that helps in terms of bringing a reader in.

Kryptaria: And really a good story, since it’s going to have a relationship of the relationships between people you’re going to have friendship or bromance if nothing else, so really where’s the line between what John and Sherlock have in the BBC show versus what we write? It might just be whether or not they take off their pants.

Emma: [laughing] Yeah.

Diana: Err, there you go. Sounds reasonable to me.

Kryptaria: You could argue that BBC Sherlock is a romance.

Emma: And many people have argued that, including some of the actors involved in the show.

Kryptaria: Exactly.

Emma: So you hear a lot of criticism about romance as a genre, it’s kind of dismissed as chick lit among other things, but one of the big criticisms that you often hear is that romance is too predictable because you basically know how the story’s going to end before you ever begin reading. You know that it’s going to have some kind of a happy or optimistic ending and yet we love to read them. I think women, just making a vast generalisation here, romance is typically written by women for women, which is not completely accurate, but generally. So why do you think it is that we love this genre even though it does have this predictability, it does have this kind of formula that it follows?

Diana: Because it doesn’t.

Emma: Mmm. Exactly.

Diana: No I think that’s an inaccurate assessment. Number one in terms of market stability it’s enormous, the romance industry is huge, so clearly whoever is criticising it has a bone to pick with it, and a lot of people don’t share that, but no two people fall in love the same way. So it may be predictable in terms of the outcome, at least we hope it is, but in terms for what it takes for them to get there it’s not predictable at all.

Kryptaria: Fifteen years ago I had somebody who tried to get me into writing romance and she gave me a formula: by chapter two this had to happen, by chapter 4 this had to happen. But that’s not how it’s done now. Now you can take the journey to the ending, to that happy couple ending. And you can go anywhere on the map you want. You don’t have to follow the formula of they kiss by chapter two, there is conflict, they don’t say I love you until chapter four, whatever, you can go any way you want and a good romance will get you in by showing you really well written characters who are struggling whether it’s against each other or together against the world. Um and they’re fighting for something and the reward at the end is that they’ve learned to love each other, they’ve learned to respect each other, they’ve learned that the love they had back in chapter one is worth fighting for and that’s what’s really engaging.

Diana: I agree. And I also think that sometimes, and I think we’re finding this in a lot of literature now, sometimes formulas are there simply to be upended by someone who doesn’t use a formula. I was told once the same kind of thing. There’s rules, and there’s the formula, and there’s storybuilding and you should be doing this, and you should be doing that and it’s all nonsense. What you have to do is be able to write full- full blooded, full bodied characters that readers are going to care about and then you manoeuver the situation, but this whole formula to writing a successful romance, I don’t believe that’s true at all.

Emma: So this is actually a really good point and I remember about a decade ago when I was considering, considering this idea of writing, of publishing something, but did not write like anyone in the industry, but I was told by people who had done, who had published who basically said basically 'you’re not going to be happy because you have to follow formula xyz’, kind of what Kara was just describing, you know this has to happen by chapter two, this has to happen by chapter four, and that if you try to write outside of that no one is going to publish you. Now obviously that’s changed, ‘cause I was also being told that if you try to write male/male romance no one’s going to publish that. That’s obviously very different now. [Noise of agreement from Diana] Yeah, exactly. So why do you think it changed, what happened?

Kryptaria: I was told that, what, a week, two weeks ago?

Emma: Oh really?

Diana: [over Kryptaria] That you couldn’t publish male/male?

Kryptaria: You will hate genre- no, no, no, I was told that I would hate genre romance because it was a formula, it’s not real writing. And it was kind of an uncomfortable conversation.

Diana: Who said that?!

Kryptaria: I’m not throwing out names.

Diana: Oh, okay I didn’t mean names. I just mean was this someone from the industry or was this…

Kryptaria: Somebody with a little bit of industry experience, but it wasn’t romance industry experience, it was publishing in general, and I think that even in publishing outside of a romance publishing house there is still that stereotype. There’s still that ‘oh every romance is predictable, every romance follows a formula’, because look at the, look at the covers, half the covers are the same exact thing. [Emma chuckles] You know.

Diana: Now to be fair half the books are formulamatic, they are.

Kryptaria: Right.

Diana:. They’re not all that way, but a lot of them are.

Kryptaria: Exactly. The other half, that’s where the good romance is.

Diana: Don’t you think it’s generational? I really do. I mean, and that’s because I have an eighty-five year old mother who also reads romance and she’s, she’s one of those formula gals. You know she’ll go buy the same cover and-

Kryptaria: Definitely.

Diana: -kind of the same plot because this is where her comfort level is. And then you start getting into the younger age bracket and they’re not so concerned with the comfort level and I think it’s that’s where you see this changing.

Kryptaria: I completely agree. It’s definitely a new market. There are readers out there who don’t want the formula. They want the moulds to be broken.

Diana: Yup. And also this whole, I think that the whole e-book revolution has also shaken the history in a lot of ways because now it’s instant reading. And I also think that there are some well-known, established organisations that are made up of romance writers that are having a little trouble keeping up and I think that it’s a very interesting time to be in the industry.

Emma: Do you think that, that the popularity of fanfiction in the last decade, and the ease of access of fanfiction in the last decade has had an impact on this? For example, as I said, about a decade ago I knew people who were writing, who would write slash, and then who were writing, like, het romance on the professional side, and basically said there’s no market for male/male romance. And obviously there’s a market now, and the market is very similar demographically to the people who read slash online. So do you think there’s been some kind of an impact there from fandom, or is it too simple to say that?

Diana: Yes. I think the impact of fandom can’t be, especially right now, especially given the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Emma: Oh god, yeah.

Diana: I don’t think that you can underestimate the impact of the difference that’s made. I, I’m not a fan of the books, I’ve never read the books, my daughter read the books but they were awful and- but what it has done is made publishers take a look at people who have a background in writing fanfiction and where at one time they might have dismissed them out of hand they can’t do that anymore. This thing’s a juggernaut, they can’t ignore it, and for that I thank her.

Kryptaria: That’s exactly what happened to me. I actually got contacted by a publishing company, by my editor, because of a slash romance I wrote, and she wants that exact story, just with one of the characters female, scrubbed of all of the show references, and she doesn’t want me to change anything. And again this goes back to breaking the formula, my romance that I published doesn’t follow the formula at all.

Diana: Yeah.

Kryptaria: And, but yet that’s exactly what she wants, and yeah it’s my highest hit story. It was a phenomenal success.

Diana: They’re going out looking for those, that’s the whole point

Kryptaria: Yep.

Diana: . Because after E.L. James with her 250,000 hits online they’re out looking for the writers of those stories. Absolutely. My agent I met through fanfiction. She was my very first beta, ever. If people are writing fanfiction, and are successful at writing fanfiction, and are interested in having a career in publishing there’s no better time than now.

Kryptaria: Yup.

Emma: That’s really interesting. And we’re actually going to come back to that point a little bit later. We talked little bit about sort of writing outside of the formula so how do you do that? What kinds of, what kinds of things do you guys do when you write romance that sort of breaks that formula, how do you make it not sort of predictable and clichéd?

Kryptaria: I specifically target the clichés. My two big romances are Northwest Passage and The Master of Latham Hall. Northwest Passage doesn’t start as a romance, it starts with two strangers who develop a physical attraction, so it gets into the bed before there’s even a hint of real romance. Yeah there’s respect and there’s friendship, but the romance comes much later, and nobody says I love you until we’re almost at the end of the book. I think it’s chapter twenty four or twenty five.

Emma: That’s actually quite typical of slash fanfiction, historically that there’s, the romance is not traditional, it’s not typical, it’s not what you would find in sort of the formulaic bodice-ripper harlequin type novel. And that, I’ve heard people say this before, that the ‘I love you’s don’t come until the very end. Like, it’s almost like there’s like a reverse of the formula, that often, it’s very often very common for sex to come first before there’s never necessarily emotions involved, and the emotions grow kind of through the sexual activity, and there’s not really that ‘I love you’, if it happens at all it doesn’t happen until the very end; which is kind of turning everything upside down a little bit.

Diana: I think that has everything to do with the fact you’re not writing a traditional male/female couple, you’re writing men. I just had this conversation two days ago, that for men, and I have a lot of really close friends, for men sex is much easier. The committing of ‘I love you’ to anyone, let alone to another man, I think they find that, maybe it’s more meaningful, but they’re slower to do that. The sex is easy, the love is harder, so I think when you’re writing that dynamic, when you’re writing a slash dynamic you have to take into consideration you’re not writing a man and a woman, you’re writing two men. And whether we want to admit it or not men do tend to process things different than women do. I think anyone that’s been married will say yes, that’s true. [Emma chuckles] And I- so I think that trying to remember what you’re doing is writing two men and not trying to make one of them the woman is a big key toward writing the genre successfully at all.

Emma: Now I think that’s a really good point, that one of the things that slash is very good at, and maybe that this is one of the reasons why a lot of people who now right male/male erotic romance, or male/male romance professionally came from fandom is because there is this tradition in fandom of writing about men in ways that don’t necessarily map onto that, on to the heterosexual relationship. I mean for obvious reasons.

Diana: You’d hope so.

Emma: Yeah. [laughs] But I think that for a lot of us who are a lot of us who are attracted to slash we actually like that, we like that it’s different, and we like that it’s a twist of the standard formula. It’s really interesting that that’s something that’s becoming so popular now, and is breaking the mould.

Diana: But I also think that we have a lot of writers in fandom and it’s great, because it’s this way for everybody to sort of test their wings and to try it out, to see if people, you know, you throw it up and see if anybody bites or salutes or whatever. But I also think you’ll find what you get in fanfiction is kind of a microcosm of readers in general and that is if the way you write works in fandom there’s a pretty good chance the way you write is gonna work in publishing. If you have writers that feminise either character, or if it starts to take the path of a traditional romance, at least for me as a writer I notice the response isn’t there. And then you get someone who has, I don’t know, this little hook that pulls people along, that is different enough, and then you get a feel for their voice then you see that that can transition into original fiction too.

Kryptaria: Well the nice thing about writing fanfic in general is that you automatically have a potential reader base. As soon as you pick a fandom you can start posting all sorts of diverse stories, I mean I’ve got, I’ve got stories about everything from real, serious, heavy angst, to BDSM, to were-velociraptors.

Emma: [laughs] Wow.

Kryptaria: Seriously, and I have people, I have people who’ve read all of them and their feedback helps me learn to be a writer, because they say ‘wow your humour really actually worked’, or ‘I liked how you did this’, or ‘I didn’t like how you did that’, and ‘please never try this again’. [Diana laughs] Because I can, I can really spread my wings, I can try out all sorts of new things without having to go through the pain of sending my manuscript to publishers and talking to my agent about thirty different writing styles, you know you can take the same characters and dump them into any AU you want from High School to Science Fiction, so yeah writing fanfic is a fantastic way to just learn to be a writer.

Emma: It’s like the world’s largest writing group, right? I mean…

Kryptaria: Absolutely!

Diana: I could not agree more, I absolutely could not agree more. And they’re so- the people who read are so generous with their feedback. And it’s stuff of what’s so funny about the generalisation about fanfiction not being for serious writers. The writers I know who are serious writers I met in fandom. I think it’s a great way to start, I think it’s a great way to learn and to grow. I’m doing a rewrite right now on a book that was published for me three years ago, and the writer I was then and the writer I am now, after having being in contact with a couple of really good editors, there’s absolutely no comparison. It’s always a growing process [Emma makes noise of agreement] there’s no regret in it.

Emma: So since this is Slashcast, obviously we’re interested in focussing this discussion on same sex romances, do you, would you approach writing heterosexual romance differently than a male/male or a female/female romance?

Kryptaria: For me it’s more freeing to write same sex than het. I’m not putting myself into the position of one of the characters if I’m writing male/male. There’s no socially expected power dynamic. You can’t automatically look at a couple and say oh he’s the one who’s going to decide what they do, where they go whatever. And that is prevalent in romance, even the stuff that breaks the mould.

Diana: I don’t think there’s any way to Mary Sue a slash. I really don’t. I think that that’s almost impossible.

Kryptaria: I think that you’d have to try really hard.

Diana: Really hard.

Kryptaria: So you break out of gender stereotypes, and while you can Mary Sue, you can have a character who resembles the author even if it is a male character it becomes, it becomes the author’s choice not something defined by gender. And it’s that gender definition that completely turned me off reading romance novels twenty years ago. The first time I picked one up I read it and my first reaction was ‘this is crap, I would never act like this idiot woman’.

Diana: I agree.

Kryptaria: I have very rarely found a romance novel where I could say, ‘wow yeah, okay I could see myself doing what she did’. And it’s so-

Diana: I think there are one or two writers who do it well, I have to say, although I think that they’ve even now become formulas of their own formula. Initially I think Nora Roberts did a really good job of writing women who weren’t obnoxious, and then I think that Jennifer Cruise writes a really good, strong female character, but yeah a lot of, especially the older gals who are writing the bodice rippers.

Kryptaria: And that’s the great thing about writing same sex romance. You can have a same sex romance bodice ripper.

Diana: Sure.

Kryptaria: And I think it would actually be kind of amusing to see.

Diana: Hilarious.

Kryptaria: But yeah most of the same sex romance that you’re going to get you have two, two people who start out on equal footing in society and in terms of expectations, of behaviour, of how they’ve been raised. And yes you can push outside of that, and like some of my favourite fics are the ones where Sherlock is asexual but he still gets into a romantic relationship with John. I think those are wonderful. So it lets you push boundaries much more than het.

Emma: Yeah that’s absolutely something that appealed to me about slash from the very beginning, that you take off that layer of societal expectations, of gender roles and you can just think about almost an idealised relationship between two human beings. You know, just that everything that they bring to the relationship you take away those, you know, the gender expectations and you can, it’s a more pure way of thinking about what relationships can be. Most people who are reading and writing fanfiction, slash fanfiction, are you know either women, or they are people who are queer, or they’re people who are transgender, or they’re somehow people who are disempowered in a way that they’re kind of driven to take the source material and transform it into something that works for them, that appeals to them. And so there’s something really powerful about if you are, if you come from sort of not a privileged group, you know, not one of the top privilege groups in society let’s say, if you’re not coming from a privileged background it’s really interesting to take, to take these two characters who are in a position of privilege and think about how to kind of remake them in the way that you would want them to be remade. So there’s this idea that women read and write male/male romance are trying to redefine what it means to be male, they’re kind of redefining masculinity in a way that is more appealing to them. So that’s like another argument about why people are interested in this. You know-

Diana: It’s also sexy. It is, it’s sexy. [Emma laughs] Seriously, if you watch, not for anything, but, you know, research. If you watch gay porn, and I have watched some in my day, they’re all beautiful. That’s the other thing. It’s like there’s, for women I think there’s this, I think it’s so much easier to root for one of two men in a male/male relationship. It’s like rather than putting themselves in the position of the woman because when you’re reading, I don’t care who you are, when you’re reading traditional romance and you’re a woman then I think there’s a sense of that.

Emma: Right.

Diana: And this way there isn’t. Even for the reader I think it’s very freeing in that regard.

Kryptaria: I think a lot of male/male slash writers, and I can’t speak to the female/female because I generally don’t read those, a lot of them write their characters as people not males, [Emma makes noise of agreement] if that makes any sense?

Emma: Yes absolutely. When people talk about Fifty Shades of Grey, I mean there’s a lot of women who had never read erotic romance, I mean they had read, you know, the heaving bosoms and the throbbing members and you know that kind of stuff [someone laughs over Emma’s words] that’s right, but they had never really read, let’s say for the sake of argument, was kinky. I won’t get into what was going on with the sex in that book, but I think there were a lot of women for whom it was kind of like many of us when we first discovered fandom and we first read our explicit slash and we went ‘[huge gasp] oh my god’, you know and then you kind of go ‘oh, okay’. The idea, I think there’s this idea that, especially in slash, when you have a sex scene between two men you’re able to kind of come at it a bit more objectively, because like we were saying before, you’re not- you’re not putting yourself in the position, necessarily of one of the characters just, you know, by the virtue of sharing parts, you know, sharing bits with them.

Diana: Sure.

Emma: But it becomes, it becomes a safe space for exploring sexuality. I never thought that I would ever be interested in reading BDSM, but a few years into fandom…[Emma laughs] shut [someone laughs] up right? I mean there’s all sorts of things like that, and even, I think, you know, this idea of thinking about non-con or, even you know heavier kind, you know really heavy kink, these are things that become especially safe to explore when it’s not, you’re not sharing a body with one of the participants and so you take away all those gender roles and things but you also, you can distance it from yourself enough that you can enjoy it in a way that’s not quite so personal, if that makes any sense?

Diana: I have to just say real quick in defence of Harlequin, because the publisher I’m working with now is an offshoot of Harlequin, they’ve got all these different publishing titles, these different, like, umbrellas [audio skips, probably says Harlequin or Harlequin Publishing] as a whole is like this enormous company and they’ve got all of these genres and they were one of the first to develop an entire e-book area for slash fiction, which is what we do. So I mean they’ve got some young, pretty hip people working for them now, which is a great thing. I also think that from the standpoint of non-con which is something I just can’t bring myself to write, I just, I understand that people really enjoy that in some instances but I think that some of the original books that gave women permission to enjoy the sex scenes were so non-con. I don’t know if you’ve ever read or heard of an author named Kathleen Woodiwiss, she wrote a whole series of books and I, when I was high school and college it was like the 70s and 80s, her stuff was so non-con it was crazy. And these women who fall in love with their rapists themes, I just think that that was one that kind of allowed women to read sex to begin with because they had no control over it, [Emma makes agreeing noise] but I think that’s evolved so much to the point where now, women who read romance now it isn’t permission to read sex, it’s ooh that’s kinky. So I think that there’s a whole different setup with it now than there used to be.

Kryptaria: I think it’s kind of interesting, the decision on whether to put an explicit sex scene or a fade to black, that’s one that I kind of enjoy playing with because inevitably from my betas, awful beta team who keep wanting me to go explicit, and I love them for it because I might chicken out without them. So I think that writers and readers are going for a higher level of sophistication, not just throwing in a sex scene for the sake of a sex scene, unless you’re writing Porn Without Plot, I think that they’re actually enjoying well-placed sex scenes that fit with the narrative.

Emma: Right. I like to, I like to joke that, ‘cause I write a lot of sex scenes and [laughs], I joke that I write porn but really I mean it’s like the sex scenes are really quite important to what I do, but I often like to joke that like with every sort of thing that I need to happen in the story I always ask myself ‘can I do it with a sex scene?’, like they could sit in a coffee shop and drink a cup of a coffee and have this conversation that gets them from point A to point EB, or they could have sex. And if it’s possible to do it through sex then I do, I joke, I mean that’s not completely true but that’s kind of my joke. But yeah that idea that sex scenes, I mean definitely that they’re serving a purpose in the story, and they’re forwarding the story in some way they’re not just there – if you can take the sex scene out and the story doesn’t change you don’t need it, right? – but I definitely agree with that. And I just try to do it with sex as often as possible.

Diana: There’s nothing wrong with that.

Emma: Nope. [laughs] I don’t think so.

Diana: I think for me, because my books don’t have a lot of sex, they have a lot of UST, we have a lot of build-up, which is why I don’t fade to black because I think people would shoot me [laughter] by the time we get there I don’t think that would be fair at all. But that I think that for me I’m not sure there’s a lot of plot forwarding going on during the sex, other than what’s being forwarded is the relationship, and therefore that propels the plot into a different place, so that’s kind of how I look at it.

Emma: Well we’re going to start to wrap up our conversation now, but before we do I’m going to ask you guys to recommend to our listeners a really great romance. What’s the best romance fanfic that you’ve ever read?

Kryptaria: I’m gonna go with MadLori’s Performance in a Leading Role.

Emma: Oh yeah.

Kryptaria: That’s the earliest that I read in the Sherlock fandom and my first thought was ‘this is something that could be published, this is really something that could reach beyond fandom’, it was beautifully written and I’d have to say my only criticism was she didn’t throw in what happened to them in Sydney. I’m reading one chapter I come to the end and then it skips and it jarred me out of it. But I was so into it, just from the first words and, you know, screaming for their romance to, to… them to get together, watching them struggle it was just beautiful.

Emma: Definitely. That’s definitely a classic in the Sherlock fandom, and we’ll link to that in our post-show-post so people can go and read it. For people who aren’t in the Sherlock fandom I think this is a story that you could read without- you don’t need to be in the fandom, you don’t need to know who these characters are it works on its own. It’s a really kind of a perfect AU in that sense, but the basic story is that you have these two actors who are both essentially straight male actors and they do a film together and over the course of the film they fall in love and so it’s the story’s about sort of the idea of coming out in Hollywood and what that means, and how that impacts their careers, and sort of what happens and how their relationship comes together. It’s beautiful, highly recommend it. So, Diana, do you have a recommendation?

Diana: I do and it’s not a multi-chapter fic, and it’s not real long. It’s one of the first ones I read that pulled me into this fandom. It’s called Under the Ivy by CoffeeJunkii.

Emma: Oooh. [recognition] Ohh, uh huh.

Diana:It is, it’s about 7 or 8 k, it’s not a long one, but what it did in those seven or eight thousand words, um, Harry has come out of the war with, it’s a profound disability where he can think something but what he says with his mouth isn’t the right word. And I think even now having a parent who’s going through this this speaks to me even more, because watching the frustration my Dad has trying to communicate, Harry has an incredible amount of frustration trying to communicate. Hermione is doing what Hermione does; which is sitting him at the table and going [audio skips]with the spoon and wanting him to talk, and she doesn’t recognise what she’s doing to him by treating him like he’s a pre-schooler and he can’t communicate that. And then Draco is brought, Draco has spell damage from the war, has a right side that is profoundly compromised and the muscles lock up and, you know, he can’t walk sometimes, and so he’s brought… and you know they’re all living at Grimmauld because had given the house to Remus, and so Remus is alive in this story. And what these two people go through to come to the place where they tr[audio skips] to love each other she does it so masterfully in such a few number of words. But, like, my favourite scene is of them sitting at the breakfast table and Harry is trying to explain what he wants and he’s saying ‘cold’, ‘Great Hall’ and finally Draco says ‘oh, I think Harry would like some pumpkin juice’, and he pours it and Harry was like ‘yeah that was it’, and so yeah it’s, like, poignant and heart-breaking and beautiful. Anyone who wants to write romance should go read it about two characters who aren’t perfect, and who find something to love in each other anyway. It just broke my heart, and I adore it.

Emma: Oh that’s fantastic. We’ll link to that one as well, so people can see that one. Um, and finally, what advice do you guys have for people who want to write better romance, either original fiction, or fanfiction?

Kryptaria: Well I have two pieces of advice and the first is write. And I mean write, write more, keep writing, don’t worry about the specific words just keep going because the more you write, the more your brain learns to create, the more you can write. And then the second piece is to make it believable. For fanfiction just because a huge portion of the fanbase ship character A and B it doesn’t mean that we’re going to believe anything you do to throw them together. We don’t necessarily want to read another love at first sight instant happy ending. Make it believable, give them trials and misunderstandings and flaws, and make them earn them earn their romance.

Diana: I would agree with all of that. I think that writing is essential if you want to be a writer. I would say that the other thing that is essential if you want to be a good writer is to read.

Emma: Oh yeah.

Diana: I think that writing, writing, writing is great and do a lot of writing. I also do a lot of reading. And I think that reading people who write your genre is important. I am reading, right now, my genre written by men. So illuminating [laughter], I am learning so much, the difference between how men write the genre is enormous. Because I think the biggest compliment we get as writers who are writing slash is when a man says to you ‘yeah, that works’. ‘Oh, thank you’, you know, especially if a gay man says that to you. Um, but I think you’ve got to read a lot of different writers, and then you find your own voice within the voices of others. I think that’s really true. I also think that you need to know your characters, it’s absolutely vital. I don’t think that necessarily means you need to write a whole extensive life history for each one of them and, you know, but I do think you need to know how they’re going to respond in a conversation, know how they’re going to react to outside stimuli, whatever it is that happens to them, you know what that gut-level reaction’s going to be or it won’t be believable.

Emma: Great advice. Well thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Diana: This was great, I learned a lot.

Emma: Thank you.

Diana: There’s some fics I should be reading.

Emma: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that’s it for this Writer’s Corner for Slashcast. If you have any questions or comments about anything we’ve talked about, anything that you’ve heard here that you want to respond to please leave a comment on our post-show-post on livejournal or you can leave us an ask on tumblr, or you can email us at islashdoyou at gmail dot com. Thank you.

Transcript by: angelbabe_cj

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