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Where’s the ‘Man’ in Romance? (A Flash Fiction Competition With a Difference)

September 14th, 2015

Romance_blogSummer’s nearly done here in northern England. The kids are back at school, days are getting shorter, the first yellow leaves of autumn are just starting to show. All of which makes our family holiday (fifteen days in a caravan in Brittany) seem like a lifetime away.

I got loads of reading done in that caravan, and one of the books I devoured was a sci-fi novel by English writer Jacey Bedford called Empire of Dust. It’s a romping space-opera, like something by Isaac Asimov, but mixed in with all the interplanetary politics and wham-bam action is a boy-girl romance straight out of Mills & Boon. I’d never read anything quite like it. It was great.

Chatting with my wife about Empire Of Dust, we started up a holiday-long conversation about romantic fiction for men. Was there any such thing? And did stories have to be specifically written for men? Couldn’t they just enjoy the same stuff that women read? To this I had an immediate response – No Way! And why? Mainly because of the way men are depicted in women’s romances – all those wealthy, chisel-jawed hunks. They may be the stuff that dreams are made of, but they’re so far removed from everyday life, us ‘normal’ guys just can’t relate to them.

I started thinking back through books I’d read, trying to remember anything that had love as a central theme. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan Of The Apes and Stan Lee’s early Spiderman stories were all I came up with (and they don’t do very well on the everyday life scale either.) Apart from them, all I could think of was Good Will Hunting, which isn’t even a book.

Now this seemed odd to me, because guys fall in love all the time. In fact, from puberty on, one of the main things most guys think about is girls – and it’s not just sex either. On the quiet, intimacy and trust are just as important to men as women. And everyone, man or woman, knows that when Matt Damon walks out on that job of a lifetime to go ‘see about a girl’ at the end Good Will Hunting, he’s doing exactly the right thing.

Getting back from holiday I started looking round on the web. Surely, in these days of men’s grooming products and health magazines, there must be something out there? Well, there is … but not much. A few paragraphs on Wikipedia, a couple of articles in online magazines, a chat-room discussion at Amazon … General consensus seems to be that, for a book to be considered a male romance it has to be written from the man’s perspective. But as far as I can see, there aren’t many out there. Two titles that kept popping up were Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Somewhere In Time (originally Bid Time Return) by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the book that inspired one of my all time favourite movies – The Incredible Shrinking Man. I’ve started Beautiful Creatures already and, so far … well … I think it might just have the best opening chapter of anything I’ve ever read.

So, with all that in mind, here at the Writers Bureau we’ve decided to launch a new competition – Flash Fiction, a romantic story for men. The prize is a Fiction Writing course, and you can click here for full details. In brief though, we’re looking for love stories aimed at a male readership, with a word count of 500 maximum. Other than that, it’s up to you – thriller, comedy, sci-fi, horror … it can be whatever you fancy. Though, wherever you place your tale, if your lead male is a towering Pierce Brosnan type who just inherited a fortune from his doting grandparents, you’re probably sniffing up the wrong tree.

Keep on writing!

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