Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SFR With a Twist: Why Write a SFR Told Solely From the Male POV?

A Science Fiction Romance told completely from the hero's point of view?

It's a highly unusual way to present a romance, even when the story falls into the more imaginative genre of Science Fiction Romance. I've only read one other SFR related from the hero's POV and that was Diane Dooley's Blue Galaxy. I know there are others out there, but they haven't yet joined my ARP--Already Read Pile.

After writing the first SFR novel in my series, I had many a critique partner, beta reader, respected author and editor (whilst in the process of pitching) tell me I couldn't sell a romance novel told in this way. That I simple had to include the heroine's POV in the mix. After all, what's a romance if the reader can't get inside the heroine's head to know what she's thinking and feeling?

Yeah. They had a point. A BIG point.

And at first, I believed them. Attempting to rectify my heinous error, I tore my manuscript apart to include the required female MC POV. And as soon as I started the process, my muse sent an urgent memo: "Cease and desist. This is not working! This is not the story in your heart."

Befuddlement ensued.

Time for some major soul-searching. Time to measure instinct against common sense. Time to weigh all the advice to write a story in the classic romance style against some great authorly words of wisdom that say, "Write the story that needs to be written."

The internal deliberation went something like this:

Point: A reader wants to know what the heroine is thinking and feeling.
Counterpoint: Sharing the heroine's direct thoughts with the reader will destroy the future revelations about who--and what--she really is, but her feelings can be conveyed even without her POV.

Point: A reader must get inside the female MCs head to relate to her.
Counterpoint: The mystery surrounding the female MC's words and actions will heighten the tension and conflict.

Point: If reader doesn't know who she really is, they may not like her.
Counterpoint: Let them not like her at first glance As the veils are lifted, reveal her finer qualities and true intentions through the hero's eyes.

Point: No reader is going to be interested in a romance that doesn't include a female POV.
Counterpoint: Take it as a challenge to write a story that will interest them in spite of the "missing" POV.

The counterpoints definitely held sway for what I wanted to accomplish, but something else finally tipped the scales, and that was a look at the current market trends. What was selling extremely well in romance?

Male/Male Romance. Ta-da! Hero POV times two.

That provided strong evidence that the female POV is not essential for a romance story to appeal to the readership. It implied romance readers (and maybe the "rebel" SFR readers, in particular) may be more flexible in what they are willing, and possibly even eager, to experience in a story. That they may be quite accepting of romances presented in new and different ways. Maybe it's never a good idea to prejudge what readers will and won't embrace. Let them decide for themselves.

I'd love to hear other thoughts on a sole hero POV. Do you think you'd enjoy a story presented in this way? Or would the absence of the heroine's POV be a problem for you? Have you read a romance with a single male POV that you enjoyed?

About the Author


Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and science fiction romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which now totals over 500 members.

Her extended family includes her husband, David, four dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico.

When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director.


Her first published work is a SFR novelette titled Farewell Andromeda (written in the Heroine's POV). Her second novel, INHERIT THE STARS, is the subject of this blog.

You can connect with Laurie at the following links:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads Author Page

25 comments:

  1. I would read a hero - centric POV without blinking. As long as it is authentically male I wouldn't miss a female POV at all. I would dislike a story where the males thinking didn't sound genuine, though.

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    1. Great point, Amy. The male POV needs to read "authentic" male. Not always an easy task for a female author. LOL

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  2. I agree, it can depend on what you want the characters to know, especially if one mc has key information and the other doesn't.

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    1. That was my motivation, Aurora. The female protagonist has some big secrets, and I hope those reveals have more impact when discovered via the male's POV. :)

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  3. Pardon me for shouting here. I WANT MORE ROMANCE WITH HIM AS THE LEAD!!!!!!!! I not only will read a romance told entirely from his POV, I DEVOUR it. It's what I crave more than anything else.

    I write heavily skewed to his POV. My Name Is A'yen is told almost 70% from the male POV, with most of it going to A'yen of course. Fae, the heroine, is definitely the secondary character. The pattern continues throughout everything I write, including subsequent books in A'yen's Legacy.

    I would love to write a romance entirely from his POV and never have to worry about getting her to talk to me. Still looking for the right hero and the right plot.

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    1. I agree, Rachel. I'd love to see more Hero POV novels, especially SFR. (I have MY NAME IS A'YEN in my TBR stream.)

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  4. Actually, most SF is written from the male POV, so it's not so unusual. It's only when you add in the romantic elements that it begins to be out of the norm. I think you're right, Laurie, that SFR readers are going to be more open to this change in perspective, since many of them come from the SF side. Personally, I like to write things from both sides, though I'll usually start with the heroine.

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    1. Yes, when it comes to SFR, the lone male POV is very unusual. Though I think there's a chance that trend could change. Most novels already include both POVs, or M/M POVs so it's not that much more of a step beyond. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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  5. Great post, Laurie! I love that you stayed true to your muse.

    My SFR is all written from the male protagonist's point of view. I haven't had a reader complain about it yet. Writing from the male protagonist's point of view taught me a lot about "the female gaze" and what it means to be desired by a very independent female protagonist. It was (and continues to be) a great experience.

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    1. Thanks, EJ. I think listening to our instincts as a writer is a very important thing. I think it worked well for INHERIT THE STARS. I'm really looking forward to reading your work!

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  6. I can remember when romances were only told from the heroine's POV. Felt like reading a book with a straight jacket on. Can't wait!

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    1. LOL Pauline, that's a great description!

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  7. Thanks, all, for your comments! I'm glad to hear you're all sounding open to it. Strangely, none of my other novels are written in the hero's POV (most are ensemble cast POV, though Farewell Andromeda is first person female MC POV). It just really worked for this one, so.

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    1. I am so glad this is the one you're putting out first! I've never read a novel done up in parts, so this one will be my first.

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    2. Thanks, Rachel! In addition to the story elements, I found it really intriguing to write from a male POV. Especially this particular male, who has quite a tragic backstory. I would like to find more Hero POV SFRs.

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  8. BTW, the novel I'm referring to just had an exclusive covers reveal on The Galaxy Express tonight! (Yes, covers! There are three.) You can copy and paste this link to take a look: http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2015/01/exclusive-triple-cover-reveal-laurie.html#more

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  9. In addition to Diane Dooley's BLUE GALAXY, I enjoyed the following SFRs with hero POV:

    ALPHA - Catherine Asaro
    WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM - Veronica Scott
    SKY PIRATE: SAFE HARBOR (this one actually features a trans hero!) - Spring Horton

    I also wrote one--THE WATCHMAKER'S LADY--although the hero-only POV was dictated more by the heroine's unique nature than an intention to write a story solely from the hero's perspective.

    I'm open to any kind of POV in an SFR, but I'll only keep reading if the story as a whole is compelling. :)

    It's true there aren't that many books like this and I'm betting a significant reason why is that, like Donna pointed out, thousands upon thousands of SF and romantic SF books have already been written from the male protagonist POV so the audience for those stories has been served, and in plenty.

    What a genre like SFR offers is science fiction + romance wherein heroines can equally drive the narrative. That's a huge appeal for an audience (women) that's been underserved--and continues to be underserved--for so long. Some readers will certainly be fine with a hero-only POV, but it seems to me that a significant number of women romance readers have made their preference for dual POV known via their pocketbooks.

    I wonder what drove the shift from heroine-only POV to the now common dual-POV. Anyone got a handle on that part of romance genre history?

    It'll be interesting to revisit this topic about twenty-thirty years from now to see if the current trend takes deeper root or shifts again.

    SFR with a hero-only POV is more unique if it has a romance, definitely, but even more so if it's driven by the female gaze rather than the male gaze. Which is why I prioritize women-authored SFRs in my reading--they tend to consistently deliver the female gaze regardless of POV.

    Anyway, an author should always go with her Muse. She's the first reader, after all. And some stories would indeed call for a single POV, hero or heroine.

    Here's a 2010 discussion on hero POV at Dear Author where many romance readers weighed in on the topic:

    http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/is-the-male-point-of-view-essential-for-you-as-a-reader/

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    1. *smacks forehead* WATCHMAKER'S LADY! Forgot that one, Heather. WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM is in my TBR stream.

      Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts and added info. I think this treatment really worked for INHERIT THE STARS, but it's the only one I've written this way. The other bookend novel--INHERIT THE VENGEANCE--is told primarily from a female MC POV, though the reader will be in Sair's head (hero from INHERIT THE STARS) for a good part of the story. Multi-POVs is my preferred way to tell the story.

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  10. Another issue that might arise for some women readers is how POV impacts the love scenes. An all hero-POV means experiencing the sex scenes only from his POV. Which, again, is something women have experienced time and again in films and countless-male authored books. There are readers who like being in the heroine's shoes (so to speak!) during the love scenes because of the fantasy aspect. :P

    That said, given that many SFRs feature an external plot, a hero-only POV might fit better in SFR than in say, contemporaries. So I agree that SFR readers might be more open to it given the genre's hybrid and experimental nature.

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  11. The trend in romance as a whole is the opposite of what you're thinking, Heather. M/M in all its variations is the fastest growing segment of romance in terms of sales. I don't know if there's any hard data to back me up (yet), but from what I've seen in my various romance haunts, M/M of all stripes is giving erotic serious competition for the most popular digital romance sub-genre.

    One of the most anticipated books last year was the M/M addition to The Black Dagger Brotherhood. One of the most anticipated books this year is the next Psy-Changeling, which features a mysterious Psy named Aden who we know very little about. We don't care about his heroine either. We want to know about him.

    Romance readers drove the change from heroine-only to dual POV. They wrote authors and demanded the hero's POV be included. After all, a romance is about a growing relationship, and there are two people in a relationship. Now romance readers are driving a change to stronger heroes who are slowly taking over the narrative. We're asking for it, and the books that sell the most are the ones telling the hero's story.

    I live in romance reader circles far more than SF, and I'm a romance reader/writer first. Easily 80% of the discussions I'm in about romance books, we're talking about the hero. We don't care about the heroine, and we often think her unworthy of the hero because she's a bitch or a shrew or an idiot. This is especially true in the paranormal circles, and the rise of the paranormal has a lot to do with readers latching on to the heroes in these books. The Black Dagger Brotherhood, the Lords of the Underworld, Psy-Changeling, and Dark-Hunter, are all series where it's the heroes we talk about, and Psy-Changeling is the only one of these four where the heroine is routinely seen as worthy of the hero.

    Another common thing when talking about paranormal romance is to to refer to books as, "insert hero's name" book, not by the title. For Psy-Changeling, Judd, Hawke, and Kaleb's books are the most popular. With Dark-Hunter, there's no list of female character stories we want to see. It's a list of men we think deserve their own book. We talk about Thorn and Jaden and Ash and Nick, not Artemis, Tory, Apollymi, and every other heroine.

    There's been some very interesting academic research into romance the last few years, focusing on the rise of the hero within romance. One researcher, Dr. Sarah S.G. Frantz, posits that romances are not about watching the heroine or living in her shoes, but about watching a man experience feelings, have to deal with them, and move from the "masculine economy of use to the feminine economy of exchange."

    Here's the post where she details this theory in relation to the rise of the M/M romance. It's almost 10 years old now, but very much still relevant since M/M gets more popular every year. http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2006/07/alpha-male-syndrome.html

    I write hero-centered romance. It's my reading preference, and what comes naturally to me. I don't relate to most women and the things they deal with, so getting into their heads and writing them believably is incredibly difficult for me. It shows in my writing too. When I focus on the hero and make the story about him, every element comes together in a gorgeous symphony.

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  12. The breakout indie hit of 2014 that everyone was talking about was Transcendence by Shay Savage. It's told ENTIRELY from the hero's perspective, in first person. And he's not just any hero. He's a caveman.

    It was on the of most beautiful, touching, memorable books I've ever read. I cried in multiple places and was almost sobbing at the end. Ehd is every single thing a romance hero should be.

    The heroine gets one POV thing, in the epilogue at the end explaining how she ended up going back in time. Never once did I find myself wishing to see things through her eyes. It would have destroyed the story.

    Shay writes hero POV only romance, and she's the biggest selling indie you've never heard of.

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    1. OMG! Gotta read this one. You totally sold me, Rachel. Off to find it.

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    2. It's amazing! Blew me away. It's also one of those where readers either love it or hate it. The science foundation is quicksand, at best, but I fell so hard for Ehd and Shay's voice I didn't care.

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    3. My print copy arrived yesterday! I'm reading The Martian at present, but I think I'll bump this one up to the top of my TBR pile. I've got a long list of SFRs I need to read (especially since The SFR Galaxy Awards hit yesterday...woohoo!) but my muse really needs a well-told male POV Romance right now, so it's going to get bumped up to the priority spot.

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    4. Don't forget about my SFR either. It's dual POV, but heavily skewed to him. I actually have four POV characters, only one is female.

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