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,” click here and here (warning: this one is a bit hotter than the first!). -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 (since it’s out of print, best I can tell, you can find chapters here, if you’re interested).  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.

47 comments

  1. Verena - Reply

    That was a very interesting post. I’m not that familiar with yaoi, but I have to admit I’m very intrigued 🙂

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Verena. These boys are particularly wonderful, IMO! Thanks for entering the giveaway! -Shira

  2. Kate - Reply

    I bought “The Trust” to support my friend and triathlon training partner who co-wrote it, and…I’m glad I did. It’s a great read! I’ll be happy to recommend it to my friends on FB.

    About yaoi in general, I find that analyzing relationships through the M/M prism provides me with extra insight not into relationships as such, which it does, but into men in general. And I love men – I married an awesome one after all. If one good man in a romance is an asset, two are even better! My effort at changing a M/M romance into a F/M romance has, in addition, provided me with insight into the social roles women have that I have taken for granted for so long. Men act differently around men than they do around women, and nothing will bring this into focus faster than a simple scene of two guys having their Friday drinks after work. Change their genders! The resultant ladies turn into rude and slovenly pigs. Amazing… and I don’t think I’ll be changing genders again. It’s too much work.

    Congratulations on your new release!

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks so much, Kate! I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      I think you make an excellent point about MM romance – strong characters are part of what appealed to me when I started to write in the genre. That, and the undercurrent of social prejudice that still affects gay relationships (although things are certainly getting better!). And of course, I love men (gay and straight). I can see that taking a MM story and transforming to a het one would be an eye-opener. I think what you’re getting at is part of why I don’t think I could ever go back to writing het romance. Maybe what we need is a female role model in romance we can be proud of! But sadly, I haven’t found her (or imagined her). -Shira

  3. Elizabeth Noble - Reply

    Great post, and I’ll definitely be looking for Crimson Spell, I’m making a list of the rec’s I’m getting.

    I agree about M/M romance, men are much different with one another than with women. That’s a large part of the allure for me. Well, and okay, the guys are hot!

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Spell is hard to find in print, but you can find it on the web. I did manage to snag the one of the two English volumes when it was still in print (I think the publisher went out of business last year). I liked it so much, I spent WAY too much on the other volumne. I just HAD to have it. And yes. It’s definitely about the hot guys, really…

  4. Charlie Cochet - Reply

    Hi Shira! Thanks so much for this. I hadn’t heard of Crimson Spell, but I’m certainly going to go hunting for it! Love the style. I’m very particular about style when it comes to watching anime or reading manga whether it’s yaoi or not. If I can’t get into the style/artwork I have trouble with it. This one looks great! Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Charlie! It’s out of print in English, I think, but you can find chapters on line easily. And it’s ongoing – something to look forward to!

  5. Yvette - Reply

    I have never read Yaoi but am learning a lot and meeting new authors. Thanks for the post.
    Yvette

  6. Tali Spencer - Reply

    My reading list is growing by leaps and bounds. But hey, it’s research! 🙂 Great post!

  7. Trix - Reply

    I just love m/m and yaoi because I love men, and there just seems to be an endless variety of ways to explore the dynamic between men. Great hop, great post!

    vitajex(at)aol(Dot)com

  8. Shira - Reply

    I agree, Trix. Nothing better than a story with two men (well, I guess there are some with three that are pretty good, too!). Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Jbst - Reply

    I think sexual tension is a factor that makes a good romance. In one of your reply comments, you mentioned that Crimson Spell may be found on-line? And it’s on-going? Meaning the story is still continuing?

    • Shira - Reply

      Yes, Jbst! As far as I know, it’s ongoing in Japan (although who knows when we’ll get Volume 3 here in the US). I think it was just updated a month ago. http://www.mangareader.net/1013/crimson-spell.html

      I think tension, sexual or otherwise, is the key to a great book. Without it, as readers, we just don’t feel the urge to keep going. Not that I haven’t read some classics that are sorely lacking in tension for the most part (my husband regularly jokes that he’s on chapter bezillion of “Moby Dick” and he’s still reading about whaling techniques!). Not that there aren’t redeeming qualities in those sorts of books, but I crave stories with sexual and plot tension. I love the ache I feel when MC1 and MC2 split up because they misread each other’s signals. And the wonderful feeling I get when they figure things out and end up with their own HEA. Probably why I’ve never written a book without a sweet HEA. XD

  10. Hayley B. James - Reply

    There is hot sex in Crimson…I’ll agree to that. Whoo.

    Sometimes in yaoi, the two will get to sex or get to kissing or even live together and be in a relationship and one will still claim he’s straight and not in love lol. It’s frustrating but still just so cute. Yaoi has a special quality to it that makes it so darn lovable.

    Thank you for participating in the hop, Shira ^.^

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Hayley! It’s fun. That silly “I’m not gay” thing is just that – silly. I think it must be a Japanese thing, honestly. Homosexual relations have been more accepted in their society in some ways (teacher/student in historical times) and far less in others (as in permanent gay relationships). Plus someone suggested that women might be more inclined to lust after one of the characters if he’s not sure he’s gay. Interesting observation…

      But yes, Crimson has some HOT HOT sex. And the boys are so pretty, without being to effeminate for my tastes! -Shira

      • Hayley B. James - Reply

        Women more inclined to lust over it if one is unsure…That makes sense. The sex is just THAT good that it turns a straight man into a writhing mess. Hmm. Yup. Totally understandable.

        • Shira - Reply

          Personally, that vibe doesn’t rock my world, but I’m not a Japanese teenager, either! But I do like the idea that the other protag broadens the reticent one’s perspective about sex!

    • Shira - Reply

      Jadette- I just checked online tonight and there was a chapter up I hadn’t seen yet! So hot! Things aren’t looking good for Prince Vald right about now. I think it’s time Havi showed up and rescued him. *g*

  11. Erica Pike - Reply

    I also came to m/m romance from yaoi ^.^ Learned a lot from yaoi, but that was mostly the technicalities of male-male sex and different possibilities of it. The actual, more realistic relationships between two men I learned from guys I know and m/m romances. I love yaoi though. I’m more for the contemporary than fantasy, which is weird, because up until I started reading yaoi and m/m romance, I was all about the paranormal and fantasy.

    • Shira - Reply

      I think that was me, too, understand the possibilities and realizing it could be damn hot! I think what drew me to Crimson Spell was the artwork. Then the sex scenes are just too hot for words…. Funny, that I tend to read less fantasy in MM and am drawn to contemporaries! Maybe it’s something to do with our imaginations and how they work in terms of digesting fantasy. I’m very visual in how I write – I imagine scenes playing out in my head. So the manga satisfies that visual craving, I guess! -Shira

  12. Lou Sylvre - Reply

    Hi Shira! Great post. As a person familiar with structure in fiction in a broad sense, and with M/M romance, but not at all familiar with the yaoi manga, I appreciate the way you broke it down. Makes sense, and promises some good reading!

    Lou

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Lou! Not all yaoi plots are so straightforward, but this setup is typical. My favorites tend to be the more complex plots, like the ones I recommended! -S

  13. Night Tempest - Reply

    Great post and I haven’t read Crimson Spell, but I think I might have to now. *rubs hands in excitement* Haha, thanks Shira for sharing. 🙂

    ~Night Tempest♥

    • Shira - Reply

      Thanks, Night! It’s about as yummy as they come. Thanks for stopping by, and I have you entered in the contest! -Shira

  14. MA Church - Reply

    Oh my Lord, you’ve got my interest stirred up! I’m new to yaoi, but plan to change that as fast as possible, lol. 😉

    ~M

    • Shira - Reply

      I hope you enjoy learnign about yaoi! My Crimson boys are darn hot… *g* Thanks for stopping by, M! I’ve got you entered in the giveaway. -Shira

  15. Nancy S - Reply

    I didn’t think I had read any yaoi but I’ve seen Jet Mykles Heaven Sent series listed on another post so maybe I have read some. I just know I love the mm romance genre.

    • Shira - Reply

      Some yaoi are really worth reading. Of course, I think “Crimson Spell” is about the hottest. 😉 It’s definitely not as “deep” as MM – it’s more about instant gratification – fun reading, just not an in-depth, realistic story like those in MM.

      Thanks for stopping by, Nancy! I hope you check some of the recommendations of the blogs out. And I’ve got you entered for the giveaway. -Shira

  16. Manda - Reply

    OMG. I can not express how happy it makes me that you are a Crimson Spell fan also. It was the first Yaoi I ever read too, I even have the first volume in print. It was torture trying to hunt it down online, and I SO appreciate the link! I think I am going to bring the manga to GayRomLit, and we can fangirl over it together lmao. XD <3

    • Shira - Reply

      I’m a total fangirl! I’m going to bring Black Sun to get it autographed at Yaoicon on the same trip (the noncon bits give me the willies, but I have to admit I loved it). Definitely a guilty pleasure. But Vald and Havi are my absolute favorites! I’ve got a WIP inspired by them. Just got to get around to finishing it (and with all my other stuff, it’s hard to find time!). Can’t wait to meet you at GRL (and Hayley, too)! Oh, and I’ve got you entered in the giveaway. -Shira

  17. Lilly - Reply

    I love your description of the path from yaoi to mm! Though I know next to nothing about yaoi I am excited to learn! And I already know I like mm so I’m off to look at your titles 🙂
    Lillywriting@gmail.com

    • Shira - Reply

      Yaoi is definitely different from MM, but it’s a lot of fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I’ve got you entered into the giveaway. Good luck! -Shira

  18. Lyra L7 - Reply

    I love Chrimson Spell, but I hate the wait for the next instalment. 🙁

    One of my favorite non-fantasy shonen-ai series is Kiss me teacher, though the drawings were not as pretty at the begining. Love Mode is my favorite yaoi series!

    • Shira - Reply

      Hey, Lyra! I think I’ve read “Kiss Me Teacher,” but I’ll have to check out “Love Mode.” Definitely! And yes, I’m the same – I hate waiting for the next installment of “Crimson!” Especially since this one was a real cliffie! Where is Havi? He needs to find Vald really quickly or Vald’s going to be in serious trouble! Ack! *g* Love it!

      Thanks for stopping by and I’ve got your name in the giveaway. -Shira

  19. Amy - Reply

    Boy do I know what you mean about yelling at the characters! My nephew has heard me talking to the books/manga I read or the anime I watch… lol!!

    lina7391(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • Shira - Reply

      That’s me, too. Even better – sometimes I yell at my OWN characters. Now what does that say???? I think it means they have minds of their own. 😉 Thanks for stopping by, Amy! I’ve got you entered into the drawing. -Shira

  20. Tracey D - Reply

    I enjoyed the post; it was a great read. The Crimson Spell is one of my favorites. I think it’s time for a re-read!

    Thanks,
    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

    • Shira - Reply

      LOL – after writing the post, I ended up rereading the first volume last night! Thanks for stopping by – I’ve got you entered into the drawing. XD

    • Shira - Reply

      Tracey D is the winner of the Manga and Romance Blog Hop contest. I’ve emailed you, Tracey – you get a choice of one of my Dreamspinner titles. Just let me know which one and I’ll make sure it’s put on your bookshelf! Thanks to everyone who entered.

  21. Ana Bosch - Reply

    I’m still trying to figure out how I missed reading The Crimson Spell! I’m going to have to check it out. Thanks for posting that link!

    • Shira - Reply

      Oh, I hope you like it Ana! I think it’s too yummy for words. XD -Shira

  22. Emily W. - Reply

    Sorry for the late comment, but my computer crashed right before I finished submitting my original comment (true story). Anyways, thanks for participating and I love Crimson Spell as well. The art, the story, the sex. One of my all time faves. i wrote more originally, but as I am currently brain dead, I can’t really remember what I wrote, so again, thanks for your post!

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • Shira - Reply

      No problem Emily! I have you entered in the drawing and I’m so glad to have found so many Crimson Spell fans out there. XD -Shira

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