The Fountain of Inspiration … A Survey on Romance
As the author of six romances (two published), I love finding new information on the chemistry between men and women, aka romance. It’s the fuel of inspiration and new ideas for stories. Sometimes it seems to me that after thousands of years of civilization, romance has changed little since the days Salome danced for King Herod. But even that scene sends my imagination into overdrive.
I recently came across a survey of “more than 100,000 men and women” on the subject of romance. The survey was published in Cosmopolitan, which humbly noted, “Here at Cosmo, we always have our pulse on what women (and men!) are thinking.” Which is why you’ll find them covering such searing topics as “It’s Official! 2014 Is the Year of the Grape,” “The Best Faux Leather Pants,” and my personal favorite “What It’s Like Dating a Male Model.” Way to go on the mind-meld, Cosmo.
All kidding aside, the writer in me was intrigued by the notion of dating a male model. I considered a story with a handsome narcissist and a feisty Annie Oakley type. Or maybe a hot guy who’s just trying support his orphaned siblings and an ambitious agent. Coming up with ideas is the fun part of being a writer.
Back to the survey … the first question was a little difficult to interpret since all we get are responses, but I think it must have been: Are men romantic? “Nearly 40% of women report that their boyfriends or husbands are not very often or never romantic.” But 75% of the men claim to be “consistently” romantic. Even I was astounded by that last statistic until I recalled that when my husband is feeling romantic, he checks the air pressure in my tires or barbecues a side of beef.
The results of this next question go in the Duh column. When asked if they would dump their significant other if that person “became fat,” less than 20% of the ladies said yes, while 47% of the men said yes. Which is probably why Salome was dancing while Herod sat on his fat butt. Just saying. Anyway, Cosmo’s response to this finding was priceless. “Advice from Cosmo: 6 Ways to Get Him in Shape.” Uh, hello? Didn’t you just tell us 80% of the women didn’t care?
Of course my muse wondered how this tidbit could be molded into a romance. What about a lady trainer—sort of a Jillian-type—who’s obsessed with staying in shape, but her life is empty until she meets … her old boyfriend. Maybe she dumped him in high school because he was a flabby nerd, but now …
The survey takes an intriguing turn at this point: More than one-third of the women admitted to lying to a guy about their number of sex partners, compared to 50% of the guys. I’ve read this before, but Cosmo failed to provide an important piece of information. Women tend to minimize their number of partners, while men tend to exaggerate. Some things never change … even if Cosmo doesn’t seem to know it.
Most romance writers instinctively use this phenomenon, paring women with one, maybe two past lovers with men who are opportunists in the bedroom. Me, too. However, one of my favorite stories by Jude Deveraux, The Invitation, pairs a lady with lots of experience and a guy who’s saved himself for her. I read it years ago and it’s still one of my favorites.
Here’s a survey result that Herod and Salome wouldn’t have understood. Nearly 30% of women report being dumped electronically. How is that possible when 80% of the male respondents believe “breakups should be face-to-face.” Of course they may be referring to breakups in which they are the dump-ee. People tend to think this way.
I see a great opening here for a book. The hero gets a text message from his girlfriend or fiancée breaking up with him. He storms over to her house, but on the way gets into a fender bender with the heroine. Something like that. Meet cute in the 21st century.
And finally, the survey turns truly romantic. Approximately one-third of both sexes will not continue a relationship with someone who is not husband/wife material. And my favorite: 85% of the men surveyed believe “in the institution of marriage.” It warms my heart to know that people still want “happily ever after.”
ABOUT MARI MANNING
Here’s the straight truth: I have always wanted to write romance novels.Well, at least since I was sixteen. Then it took another 25 years or so before I actually put pen to paper. (There were careers to start and kids to raise, houses to keep and dinner to cook.) It took six years to write the first one. I loved it, but I was alone in my delight. I decided to write another. This one took about the same amount of time. I sent it off to editors and agents. No one wanted it . . . but it was chosen as a Writing with Stars book for RT.
What an experience that was! To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I’d spent so many years in my little office writing, it had never occurred to me that the business of romance book publishing was a sophisticated bit of marketing and commerce with a core of artistic endeavor inside. Like a Tootsie Roll Pop.
By the way, I was cut in the first round of Writing with the Stars. Ah well.
Since then, I’ve joined Romance Writers of America and the Chicago North RWA chapter. The member of Chicago North have been amazing. They are truly committed to helping other writers, and twice a month we meet to discuss opportunities and triumphs, as well as disappointments. I have learned so much, and I hope some day I will be able to give back as much as I learned.
After Writing with Stars, I entered a dozen more contests — for the critiques, primarily – and in 2011 I finaled in the Golden Claddagh contest’s Contemporary category and in 2012 I finaled in the Valley of the Sun RWA contest in the same category.
The big news is that in February 2012, I sold my first book, a contemporary romance to a new e-book publisher, Crimson Press (part of Adams Media). The book was released on June 4. In April of 2013, Crimson Press published by fourth book, Angel Without Wings. You can find both books here: http://www.crimsonromance.com/mari-manning/
You can find me at www.marimanning.com.