Monday, April 13, 2009

Breaking the Rules

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you." ~A.A. Milne

"I felt it shelter to speak to you." ~Emily Dickinson

"Soul-mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you." ~Author Unknown

I picked up a Writer's Digest the other day, and one of the articles talked about creating the perfect romantic couple: what your hero and heroine should/should not be made up of. Among the top qualities: make them imperfect, don't make them mean, and above all, don't let them commit adultery.

OK, I can agree with all of that. But here's the problem: my latest WIP, Entwined, breaks one of these rules.

First, let me just say that I don't think Entwined is going to be a typical genre romance novel. It always has felt much more women's fiction/literary fiction/mainstream than something that will fit neatly into "contemporary romance."

Maybe that makes a difference, maybe it doesn't.

Here's the thing: my hero commits adultery. When the book begins, he is living with his girlfriend and their 4-month old baby girl. By the third chapter, he has moved across the country (doing research for his dissertation), met the heroine, and begun a torrid affair with her. Let me qualify this slightly by explaining that from the start, we know his relationship is miserable. His girlfriend won't sleep with him, barely tolerates him, and he has a suspicion she is seeing someone else.

No, I know this isn't an excuse. But much of the book's premise centers on the notion that sometimes we are drawn to another person despite every rational thought and every effort we make to stop it, that there are such things as soulmates and when we meet ours, we know instantly that is the person we are supposed to be with. No matter what. No matter the mess it might create around us.'s my question: do you think I need to change the opening chapters somewhat? I don't want readers to think my hero is a total jerk. And much of what happens to him is explained and justified later in the story. But at the start, he's a semi-committed guy who falls for another woman and acts on his desires.

Will you dislike him for that?

[Note: I'm cyber-waving to Liz, who has already read the first 2 chapters, so I'm hoping she'll drop by and tell me what she thinks...]


Marianne Arkins said...

I suppose I'd have to read it to be certain, but adultery is a total turn-off for me. If he isn't strong enough to end the first relationship--especially if it's rotten--then IMHO he's not a worthwhile risk for a woman. If he'll cheat on one (regardless of circumstances), he'll cheat on another, and I'd spend the book shaking my head at the second woman's idiocy.

OTOH, maybe you're handling of it would convince me. But, as a general response, adultery is absolutely a no-no in my book.

Liz said...

I wouldn't really consider it adultery because they are not married. Also, I think you've established that the girlfriend has checked out of the relationship. Maybe add a point that he's staying for the child. And since this is not a strictly a romance I don't have a problem with it. Many 'mainstream'stories are rife with it. One of the most famous stories of all time is comes to mind is King Arthur's story.

Mary Ricksen said...

I myself would have to read it. But if they are not married it's not adultery, it's just cheating. Which can be hard to accept to. It depends how his relationship is with the mother of his child.
And I wouldn't consider Readers Digest the authority of Romance Novels in any case.

Pen said...

Just to add my two cents worth. I'd be wary of having the hero cheating. If I was the heroine I'd always be wondering in the back of my mind if he would do it to me one day. There would always be that doubt.

Perhaps the relationship is over but they are still living in the same house because of the child and she is seeing someone else? Just an idea.