Exploring Alternative

       Lifestyles In Romance:  

        Must You Write What
                You Know?


                  ©Judy Bagshaw
                All Rights Reserved



I need to declare from the start here, that I’m a heterosexual woman. And I write heterosexual romances for the most part. But in my latest work, a free eserial called Desperate Hearts that I’m providing online, I have a lesbian romantic couple that are beginning to play a large role in the story. Can I, as a hetero woman, truly and with integrity, capture the essence of what it is to be a lesbian in a relationship? I believe so. 


As a newbie writer, attending workshops and reading anything I could on the craft of writing, I heard the same message over and over: Write what you know. It made sense to me to draw from my own life experiences to craft a story—at the time. But then I found myself writing a story about a woman who had survived spousal abuse, run away and gone into hiding, assumed a new identity and gained fame as a blues singer. (Lady Blue) None of which I had done! Then I wrote a book about a stalker who follows the heroine to the Caribbean where she’s tutoring the daughter of a wealthy businessman.(Teacher’s Pet) Never been stalked. Never lived in the Caribbean. Then there’s the heroine being preyed upon by a clever con artist intent on stealing the millions he mistakenly believes she has. (Big Fat Lies). I’ve never been a con man, although I could tell a whopper to my Mom now and then while growing up.


So I revisited the notion of “writing what you know”, and decided that it didn’t necessarily have to be. I could write about whatever I was moved to write about, as long as I educated myself on what I didn’t know. In a word, researched. And so I come to the theme of this article.  


GLBT is an acronym for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender. It is another fast growing segment of the romance and erotica publishing industry. ePublishers like Samhain, Loose I.D., and Amber Quill etc., carry GLBT titles in their catalogues, and experience high sales levels with them. The market is there. 


So, as a writer, I want to tap into this market if I can. But can I write for the GLBT romance reader if I’m not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender myself? Of course I can! And the truth is that GLBT romances are not just being read by GLBT readers. An avid reader is going to read a great story regardless. Face it, a good love story is a good love story, no matter what the central character’s particular lifestyle. Consider the popularity of the film Brokeback Mountain or the television series the L Word. 


So the key, in my opinion, to breaking into this “alternative” area of romance writing, is to craft a truly great story. You must give your readers characters they can believe in and identify with. Develop main characters that will inspire them. Make them human, with flaws and foibles, but show them succeeding despite these. 


Keep the dialogue fresh and real. I personally love when the hero and heroine (or hero and hero; or heroine and heroine…) banter and tease with one another. There’s something so flirtatious about clever banter. Allow the reader to see their individual personalities and make the reader believe that no matter what obstacles are thrown in their path, the couple will triumph and end up together; for romance must have its happily ever after ending. 


Readers want to live vicariously through your characters, so provide them with intriguing settings and story lines that resonate, full of conflict and suspense. Keep the story moving at a brisk pace and unfold the love story, showing how the couple grow as people and ultimately are destined to be together. 


And focus on the budding relationship, the romance, the emotions and motivations behind the character’s actions, not on the logistics of what’s happening in the bedroom. It’s far sexier to be swept up into the sensuality and emotion of the moment, then on what body part goes where. 


So don’t allow yourself to be limited by the adage that you must “write what you know”. As writers, it is our nature to use our imagination, to explore outside the narrow confines of our lives. As romance writers and readers, we understand and love the genre no matter who stars in the leading roles. 


www.desperatehearts.homestead.com   Desperate Hearts, free e-serial, new chapters posted the first of each month. 


Some other articles to consider: 


http://romance.writer2writer.com/making-heros-and-heroines-real-book-in-a-month.htm    Making Heros and Heroines Real by Vivian Gilbert Zabel 



What Makes a Hero? by Judy Bagshaw 


http://romance.writer2writer.com/develop-a-kick-ass-plot.htm Develop a Kick-Ass Plot by Lynette Rees 


http://romance.writer2writer.com/seven-ways-to-inject-suspense-into-your-novel.htm Seven Ways to Inject Suspense into Your Novel by Lynette Rees




About the author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website www.judybagshaw.com 




Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell