I love the MM community on Facebook, where authors and readers interact in various groups. One of these groups is a relatively new one called M/M Angst Lovers, and of course, I joined as soon as I spotted it, haha. But it made me wonder: what constitutes angst in MM romance? (or MM+, but let’s not get too technical…)
Readers often describe books as “angsty” or “high angst” (or not angsty and low-angst), but what does that mean, exactly? How do readers (or writers) determine the level of angst in MM romance? Luckily, someone in that group asked the same question in the form of a poll, and I asked if I could write about the results.
What do Readers Consider Angst in MM Romances?
Here are in order of votes the elements readers consider to contribute to a book being angsty:
Past trauma-physical abuse
Current trauma-physical abuse
Past trauma – sexual abuse
Accident or injury of a main character
Past trauma – other (homelessness, etc.)
Current trauma – other (homelessness etc)
Past trauma – mental abuse
Current trauma – sexual abuse
Past trauma – mental abuse
Current trauma – mental illness
Low self worth
In the closet/hiding relationship
Relationship woes other than cheating (thinking the other doesn’t love you)
Escaping from difficult life circumstances such as gang, mafia, criminal
Side character death
Accident/illness of a side character
As you can see, this is quite the list, but it can easily be summarized into four main categories:
1. Past trauma
2. Current trauma
3. Accidents, injuries, or even death from main character or side characters
4. Relationship struggles
Now, we can debate some of the details here, like if having a mental illness should be categorized as a trauma, but let’s leave that out of the discussion.
I thought this list was illuminating, because it shows the kind of story elements that give readers angst. This is subjective, of course, because some elements may not be angsty at all for certain readers while these will totally stress out others. Personally, I find current trauma way, way more angsty than past trauma, for instance. But the bottomline is clear with those four main categories.
What About My Books?
Obviously, I was now curious how my books would rank on “level” of angst, so I asked. Here’s what readers thought:
No Shame series: angsty
Irresistible Omegas series: a little tense at times, but not really angsty
Ignite: angsty, both because of the trauma these guys went through as the current peril they’re still in
The Time of My Life: angsty
Ballsy Boys: very low angst
As you can see, I have something for everyone, haha.
Now I’m curious, of course. What’s the highest angst book you’ve ever read? One that had you squirming with stress for the main characters?