My Shipper Heart: The Role of Romance

This month, likely in honour of Valentine’s day, the WriYe blog topic is about the role of romance in the fiction I write. Well, actually the topic said “in your novels” but I write all kinds of stories, and actually the role of romance changes depending on the type of story, which I thought could be interesting to explore. I’m talking of course about fanfiction, hence the use of the term ‘shipper’ in the title of this post.

Having said it changes, as I was considering how to begin, I realised I’m not sure it does change. With my stories I consider them all to be character-centric. I’m telling a tale of a journey and yes cool stuff happens in cool places but it all comes back to character. Now obviously journeys can take multiple forms – it isn’t all about romance! Personally I’m ace/aro and so romance plays zero part in my life personally. However, I probably do write a lot of romance. It’s a very rich story vein because romance at it’s core is love. Now love can be family and friends obviously, but a lot of what I come up with is romantic love. To be honest until I started writing this post I don’t think I’d quite realised how much.

I was going to say that I never write pure romance, there’s always something else going on, but I don’t think that’s true. Not if I consider fanfic where sometimes there’s a plot (and the relationship weaves around it) but sometimes the relationship is the plot. I remember years ago saying I could never write pure romance, that I couldn’t think of anything more boring, how do you even move the characters across the page without a crime to solve? or some kind of gun battle? But I wrote a 50k arranged marriage fanfic last year and managed just fine. There wasn’t a gun to be seen.

So what role does romance play in my novels?

Let’s go through a couple of examples. My sci-fi thriller where the former agent turned mercenary is framed for murder, and goes on the run with her ex-girlfriend (who happens to be a PI) and has to dodge her former colleagues while trying to clear her name. Obviously the ‘ex’ is not such an ex by the end, as part of the character journey has her realising she shouldn’t push away those she loves just because she’s scared. A leap of faith kind of thing. So there’s lots of running and shooting and intrigue (hopefully) but the romantic relationship, and working out the issues between them, is a big part of the book.

Then there’s my Arthurian retelling about the Fall of Camelot. There’s no relationship drama in this as Mordred and Galahad are firmly in love, but that actually forms the bedrock because they have such a strong bond, and they can seek support from one another. This will contrast with Arthur’s grief at Guinevere’s death. It will be an important thread given their immortality. Promising someone a lifetime is one thing, but spending eternity together? What relationships crumble and what relationships deepen, and navigating that.

With the fanfic that I write I have ‘ships’ like Helen, John and James from Sanctuary, they are my OT3 and current major obsession. I’m also shipping Bering and Wells from Warehouse 13 really hard right now, and to be honest Artie and MacPherson too. That ship doesn’t even really exist (I think there’s less than 10 fics on AO3 and one of them is mine) but on my last rewatch I couldn’t unsee it, and it’s a thing now. On my fanfic WIP list I have a combined total of 10 ideas at the moment, across three fandoms (Sanctuary, Warehouse 13 and the Librarians). Some of the ideas are AU, some of them are canon-divergent. All of them have happy endings with the ships making a life together. Interestingly the sole Librarians fic doesn’t revolve around a ship, though of course I will write Flynn/Eve into it, and wherever the fic ends they will still be happily together.

So in summary…

I’m circling back to what I said at the start of this post – my stories are character driven, and romance plays a much bigger role than I think I’d appreciated until now. Therefore I would class romance to be something of a cornerstone of my stories.