All I Ever Learned About Romance I Learned from Reading Yaoi (Well, Almost!)

Thanks for stopping by for the Manga & Romance Blog Hop!  While you’re here, please be sure to comment on this post to be entered into a drawing for your choice of my Dreamspinner Press titles:  “The Trust,” “Blue Notes,” and “The Dream of a Thousand Nights” in your choice of ebook formats.  And be sure to check out all the other wonderful blogs (click on the blog hop icon on the left) participating and enter to win the grand prize (lots of goodies)!  Also, if you’d like to read excerpts from my brand-new MM spy thriller/romance, “The Trust,” scroll down the blogroll. -Shira

My introduction to gay romance came not by “slashing” characters from my favorite book or anime, it came in the form of a yaoi manga:  “The Crimson Spell,” by Ayano Yamane.  Not to say that I haven’t slashed my favorite couples over the years on fan fiction websites.  I have.  Totally.  But Vald and Havi have lingered, far beyond my interest in writing for fandoms.  They’ve inspired sex scenes in my original works and even inspired a work in progress that’s been simmering on the back burner for a few years.

For those who might not be familiar with the manga, “Crimson Spell” is populated by stunningly beautiful men (more toward the masculine than the feminine, as some other yaoi manga tend to lean), an exciting albeit flimsy plot, and lot and LOTS of incredibly hot sex.  Swoon, drool, hot, hot, HOT sex. Havi, the powerful wizard, begins to fall for Vald, the handsome and incredibly naïve prince who comes to Havi seeking to break a curse that transforms him into a demon at night.  Havi (brilliant and very horny wizard that he is), realizes pretty quickly that he can tame the prince/demon through sex.  The prince, who at last begins to realize what’s been happening to him when he’s in his demon form, realizes that he may be a bit more interested in Havi than he’d like to admit.  Perfect, yaoi heaven!  Dubcon becomes consensual and, true to yaoi memes, Vald fights his attraction to the obviously gay Havi.  No, we still haven’t gotten a HEA yet.  *sighs*

So how do you get from yaoi fantasy, which really has so little to do with real relationships,  to writing gay romances?  It’s not all that difficult, really.  If you boil down the main elements of yaoi—mutual attraction, fighting mutual attraction (as in, “I’m NOT gay!”), hot sex, a little bit of plot to move things along, and finally surrender—you get the “bones” of a real-world romance.  Sure, not all romances follow this formula, but a ton  of them do.  Why does it work?  Romantic tension and sweet resolution.

MC #1 claims he’s not interested, MC #2 pursues (the typical Harlequin het romance setup I remember from when I was a kid).  The two MCs butt heads because neither wants to admit he is in love.  In the case of yaoi, there’s the added tension of being perceived as gay.  Eventually, as the plot carries the two men along, they realize they can’t fight the attraction anymore and, bingo, hot sex. In the case of most yaoi, this pulling and pushing (no pun intended!) would either be drawn out over endless chapters or replayed in each chapter.   Finally, the story ends with confessions of love on both sides.

Why do we love the formula so much?  Because the ultimate admission of love is the most satisfyingly sweet reward for all the angst we suffer along the way.  You feel the angst in your gut, you scream at the characters to stop being such idiots and just frigging ADMIT IT!  So when you get to the long-awaited happily-ever-after, it’s as good as the inevitable climax of a great sex scene.  Maybe even more satisfying.

About Shira Anthony

Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. She’s a die-hard romantic who discovered the world of M/M romance when her good friend and fellow writer, Venona Keyes, convinced her to co-author a love story about a violinist and a conductor. In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle. Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 30’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
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