February 23, 2014

My Writing Philosophy: Why "Mates" Cheat


I'll be the first to admit that I can be an Overly-Analytic Bitch when it comes to the stories I read and write.  But I think erotic romance, and especially paranormal erotic romance, as genres, get a bad rap in "mainstream" circles, and in some cases I think it may be deserved.

First of all, there are lots of "cheats" that end up being used in erotic romance.  The concept of "mates" is one of them.

I know I'm about to challenge a somewhat sacredly-held tenet of paranormal romance, but "mates" is a lazy, overused concept.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a brief rundown:

For paranormal characters -- most specifically werewolves, but it's been used across the spectrum -- there exists a bond between mates. In many cases, erotic authors have elevated this bond to the bond of soul-mates, unshakeable and unbreakable, and a bond decreed by fate and destiny, rather than the choice of the partners.

Kresley Cole --and let me state here that I very much enjoy her as an author, even though I think she cheats -- makes these bonds the crux of a lot of her paranormal couples.  Vampires have "brides", the one woman in the word who can bring their cold bodies to life again; Lycans have "mates", the one lover they are meant to be with, whom they know by scent; Demons find their one true love, to be bound to forever, when in the throes of passion--they just know.

Why is this a cheat?  Because it removes the foreplay, the buildup, the conflict.  In several of these cases, the paranormal creature just "knows" their love interest belongs to them. Even if there's an "odd couple" quality to the match, or if the chosen mate resists... there's always that permanent, destined bond that ultimately tells the reader, "no matter what, these two will be together". But ultimately, it's not because of any emotional journey or personal choice. Even if the author can make it look that way, as long as they've invoked the sacred concept of "mates", the love connection can be put down to a case of "as it is written, so it must be".

There's really nothing terribly wrong with this, I suppose... I simply find it rather overused lately, and unfortunately lazy.  I think in some ways it's become a staple of the genre, and my suggestion to other erotic authors is:  lose it.

There's nothing wrong with paranormal creatures finding themselves a mate. It's the "ultimate, destined, star-foretold and unbreakable" manner of the mate bond that I find questionable. If you fall back on that, you're protecting yourself and your characters from conflict. Why be afraid of that conflict, though? Why put off such things as the very real possibility that one lover might not choose the other? Or--even harsher--that one might unforgivably betray?

All I'm saying to erotic authors is, don't rob yourself of true conflict. Don't rob your characters of truly earning their happy ending. Paranormal world or no, genre fiction thrives better with a foundation of reality and detail: and love relationships are more worthy when, as in real life, they must contend with the reality of  uncertainty that relationships deal with.

So if you write erotica, don't let your "mates" cheat.  Make them work, make them grow, make them earn what you want them to have. Don't be afraid to let them face uncertainty. But give them better than a 'destiny' that makes their struggle superfluous and their actions less than meaningful.

Remember we are still hosting our Valentine's Day Giveaway!  I know  V-Day has passed but I plan to make it last!  Be sure to sign up! You won't be sorry...


  1. This is a very thoughtful and well written post. Yes, I suppose the destiny and the soul-mate card are overplayed in all romance sub-genres, including paranormal. However, is that cheat overplayed anymore than the apparently prerequisite HEA ending?

    Seriously, how much does HEA happen in real life? Yes, I know readers like a feel good story, but what's wrong with ending the story with questions or doubts as to whether or not the couple will stay together? I'm not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg - or the destined mates spawning the HEA.

    1. Oh, this is just the first of my commentaries on the sacredly-held tenets in erotica. :) I'm determined that the genre needs to be taken seriously and we authors can make it so as long as we give it the right foundation and authenticity!

  2. I'm a sucker for soulmates, but I think they definitely have to work for it. The bond is created and strengthened from the conflicts. My writing as of late has been devoted to a favorite online rp character of mine. My friend and I didn't plan for the two characters to be involved, but it happened as the roleplay evolved. And we learned just how deep the bond between them went. The fun for me as a writer is to see how things evolve, what changes (as there is time travel involved), and any other elements that come into play--as I write multiple versions of this character in the same setting. Not all of my characters have soulmates, but I do find the ones who do tend to be stronger for me to write. Just sometimes my characters really click with other people's characters. I can count on one hand the amount of times this has happened for me, though. I do completely agree that there needs to be more going on in the characters lives than the soulbond, though.

    1. It's not really the concept of "soulmates" that I have an issue with... its the idea that one can know their soulmate on sight (or smell, or by some other irrefutable signal), and it's as simple as that. Real romance has real uncertainty, especially in that respect, and to do away with that certainty with the invocation of this sacred "mates" formula, it undermines the authenticity of the romance and the genre.


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