I want *that* job

I read a lot of romances, you all know that. I didn’t used to — I was pretty much a sci-fi/fantasy fan, and when I went off that track it was usually to Robert Ludlum, Stephen King or Clive Barker. Generally, I’ll read anything, but we all go through our phases and stick to what we like. Romance was never really on my radar. I mean, I read a couple. Yes, I even confess to reading my friend’s Sweet Valley High books if there was nothing else. Still, it was never my genre of choice.

In 2007, I moved and with a lot of time on my hands, searched for free online romance reading and found Literotica. And I read, and I read and I saw lots of possibilities and other things. It was fun and I found I liked reading about people who were friends and who fell in love and who got past problems and obstacles to have their happily-ever-after (HEA) ending. So I started writing, just to see if I could.

Next I started reading romances, figuring I might as well see what else goes on. I went with Nora Roberts, her name being the one I knew best from what I think must have been some sort of pop culture hypnosis. I think the first one I read was Angel Falls. By now I’ve read probably hundreds of romances, in print and e-formats and have discovered a few things in said books..

One that hit me a few days ago was work and jobs. I often have a tough time trying to think of employment for my characters — hockey players notwithstanding. I have not had many jobs in my life. I know that’s odd to hear, especially these days when it seems like people job hop all the time (or is that just a media conspiracy? hmm? kidding!). I had summer jobs, then work-study at college, then a job in grad school, and then I found a job that I stayed at for nearly fifteen years, leaving only when I moved. I know there are tons of jobs out there, but when your experience is limited, and you want to get things right, it can be hard to do.

I find a lot of romance writers get around this mainly in two ways. One, the woman owns and/or runs her own business. Second, she’s independently wealthy, usually via inheritance or a trust fund. Of course, in the latter case. the woman rarely just sits on her but and drinks champagne. She will either have a job, or she will devote a lot of time to some sort of charity or cause. Either way the main thing is that in doing this, the woman has control of her own time. (For the record, this seems to happen just as much with the leading men.)

How real or realistic is that, though? If you run a business, I bet you’re there nearly 24/7 unless you’ve been at it for a long time and have staff you can trust. I’m not talking someone being a CEO of a big company, although there’s that, too. But I’ve lost track of the number of women in these romances who run their own shop (often lingerie), their own bar or restaurant, their own advertising or other business and for some reason have lots of spare time to spend with a guy. If they don’t have that time, then the guy convinces them to take it (and really, no one should be a workaholic).

The other side, as I said, is some kind of independent wealth. A trust fund or inheritance (allowing the woman the occasional bout of sadness or wistfulness as she misses her parents or other relative) pops up pretty frequently. Like I said, these women are still usually people of character, I guess you’d say. They don’t want anyone to think they simply sit around being taken care of, and they find constructive ways to use their time.

I’m not against either of these, by the way. Women do own businesses, and it’s refreshing to see them in these businesses and be successful. It’s also cool to see women not sitting around even though they have money and doing something constructive with their time.

I think I’ve done this once, in Game Misconduct, where Tabitha Daniels owns and runs a bar.

Most of my other heroines just have jobs. Office-type jobs. Hey, they say write what you know. Still, even then, it’s tough. I don’t want everyone to be a secretary or an accountant. Another problem is that I don’t know what a lot of jobs entail, and although I can look it up and ask people, I don’t want to get anything wrong. That’s just plan embarrassing.

Obviously another reason for this (I think) is just the fantasy of it. Who doesn’t like the idea of being in charge and calling the shots? Or being comfortable from a financial standpoints, whether it’s an inheritance or whatever? For the purposes of these stories, I find it also allows the woman — and men — freedom of movement. If you’re in charge, you can call or cancel a meeting, cancel or reschedule appointments, etc. You can make yourself available for a rendezvous with that special someone (nudge,  nudge, wink, wink).

As I said, I don’t mind these devices in books, and it keeps it in the fantasy realm for me. Not sure if that’s good or bad, and it’s probably neither. It’s just outside of my experience and occasionally makes it a little harder to relate to the characters; they are just in circles that I am not. Which, I imagine is why I tend to have my characters have “regular” jobs. I know those jobs, those people, that world, and as those of you have read my stuff know, I like a certain amount of realism in my writing (and my reading, although I’ll let a lot slide there).

So I doubt I’ll have a lot of CEOs, male or female, popping up any time soon. Unless I get this idea that…

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6 responses to this post.

  1. I struggle with stories when the “real world” doesn’t work. I understand that the point of a Romance/Fiction story is to portray just that…fiction. However…if modern day issues can’t be accounted for I tend to find myself losing interest. Where are all these “wealthy tycoons” and “heiresses” coming from? I got a Kindle for Christmas and admit I have hit up the free Romance section of Amazon. Most of the stories are either repetitive or just flat out laughable. There are those few rare gems though.

    Irrational problems is another thing that bothers me. How some authors need to create conflict to have that “we overcame our differences” moment…but the problem just seems far fetched and forced. Like you…I enjoy stories where they were friends first because at least that seems more plausible then “Oh my god! That woman across the bar…her eyes…*gasp*…she must become my wife this instant!”

    Back to the money/jobs thing…I do find myself sitting there going “And how do you pay your rent?” “Man I wish it was that easy to get out of school and have all of those things lined up for me.”…etc. I look at my life now and realize how I have it pretty well off (thanks Dad for the help =P)…and then I look at certain characters…I just don’t see how it all fits.

    Wow…I apologize for my total rant. You just hit a subject that has been bothering me for a while. I just have to say…your stories have never steered me wrong and I await the next chapter of Rhythm whenever you can get around to it.

    Reply

    • Ever notice how in TV and movies, people in middle-class or labor-intensive jobs can still somehow afford awesome apartments? I think there’s a corollary here. 😉

      I’ve posted before about love at first sight (or LAFS 😉 ) being one of my pet peeves. I can go with lust and all that, and I find this occurs most often in nonhuman stories — wolf identifies mate and there’s little in the way of “chase,” which is what most people want, right?

      However, as I note below, I was referring to contemporary, non-fantasy romances. I write people in 9-5, white-collar type jobs because that’s what I know, and that’s what I bet most people have. I don’t mind the occasional CEO (male or female) or what have you, but even for escapism, it’s nice to read about people who are more familiar, who go through similar problems and are in a similar social and/or economic spot. Because sometimes it’s fun to read about those people escaping, or at least solving, their problems and getting their HEA.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Lady Falcon on February 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Oh Wow! I haven’t thought of Sweet Valley High in ages! I am guilty of owning a few of those way back when.

    I don’t know that the job of the characters ever really concerned me or I didn’t really pay attention to it. In the romances I tend to read (historicals) everyone is a member of the Ton and so have money or at the least have a set of rules for social discourse that every one follows so it all kind of works. The other romances I read are paranormal…and when you bring the sci-fi into it…well normal rules seem to go out the window because there is some serious danger going on which prevents the “normal human” from going on with his or her life and whichever one is the paranormal has been around for a very long time and accumulated a gazillion dollars.

    Besides, I read to escape and or see a different life….it doesn’t really have to fit in with what the normal plausible would be…if that makes sense.

    However, I appreciate your attention to detail…maybe that is why I can never get past the first few pages when I start a story.

    Take Care and happy writing,
    Sharon

    Reply

    • I should have been clearer that I was referring to contemporary, non-supernatural romances. And to some degree I’m probably experiencing “romance fatigue.” As
      Amanda has, I’ve gotten a ton of free romances from Amazon, and after a while, you just notice the patterns and similarities.

      Certainly in sf/f and paranormal and all that, the rules change. I think in my stories (Exiled, etc.) I tend to mix my nonhumans in with the human world a little more because to me, it gets a little tiresome: Oh, here’s another pack run by a big alpha male and they have lots of money socked away somewhere and etc., etc. Which is not to say that I don’t recognize how devices and short-cuts like that can’t be beneficial.

      I imagine most historical romances use the Ton, or royalty or what have you, for much the same thing. Their time is then all their own, and you can have them set meetings and such whenever. Of course in those stories, much of the time the heroine (at least) is fighting against strict social rules about how to conduct themselves and that adds a different set of challenges than you’d fine in a contemporary romance.

      Reply

  3. I am continually amazed at how anywone writes fiction. I can build a machine to do a necessary job or write a technical manul, but when it comes to fiction I totally suck. I guess thats why I finally started telling my wife the truth, although some time not all the truth. Even thpough I am an old male I am still a hopeless romantic. I even like most chick flicks. The only thing is a Loving Wives story. When it is actually that I usually love them. However when it is used sarcasticly I am very upset with them because of what one of my son’s wife did to the family.

    I just bought a kindle so I coule download mainly your and Tamara Clarke’s books.

    Thanks for the chance to rant

    Reply

    • Enjoy your Kindle! I know I love mine (and I’m flattered, btw). Nothing wrong with being a romantic, male or female. I think we all have enough of a grasp on the real world that the odd romance won’t hurt us none and might help.

      Reply

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