Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: email@example.com).
Today I’m excited to welcome Roni Loren as part of the Literary Genres Blog Series. She’s giving a glimpse into what its like to write in a genre with one of the biggest stigmas and what the genre is actually all about.
One of the most interesting aspects of being a romance writer so far is the reactions I get when people ask me what I write. The responses can range from one extreme to the other. Many give the wink-wink-nudge-nudge response as if you’ve shared some scandalous secret with them. I haven’t. I don’t hide what I write. Though, I do usually just say romance or sexy romance and not erotic romance because the “erotic” word scares the bejesus out of some people for some reason.
But I’ve also had some pretty negative reactions–a snort and a curled lip from a female doctor (won’t be going back to her), people who immediately jump to the stereotype (“So will Fabio be on your cover?” Which makes me want to say – Um, have you looked in the romance section in the last twenty years?), or people questioning if I’m just writing this “stuff” to break in so that I can write “real” books eventually.
It’s frustrating and annoying and if I add that to the general public’s perception of…
- romance as female porn (it’s not, there is actually, ya know, a story),
- romance readers as old maids who “can’t find a man” (most romance readers are in committed relationships and bonus–have twice as much sex as non-romance readers),
- and the idea that this genre is “easy” to throw together and formulaic (I say to those people–try to write one and get it published).
It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. I also think it’s funny that so many people who pick on romance novels turn around and go see the latest romantic comedy at the movies or watch True Blood. Um, hello? Those are just romance novels on the screen.
So what is romance, really?
It’s a story about a romantic relationship that has a happy ending. That’s the the only rule.
Anything else–the world, time period, heat level, subplots, etc.–can be what you want them to be. That’s why it’s such a huge genre (and if you add in that YA seems to be almost 70% romance these days, it’s even bigger). You can get a bit of everything–suspense, mystery, paranormal, whatever–but you also get your guaranteed happy ending.
A few main subgenres of romance:
- Contemporary – Takes place in current times, can vary widely in heat level. Includes subgenres such as Romantic Comedy and Chick Lit.
- Historical – Takes place in a certain historical period (regency, medieval, American West, etc.), heat level can vary
- Paranormal Romance/Fantasy/Futuristic – Supernatural creatures or powers are present. Or the story takes place in an entirely different world. The romance is primary though and the paranormal stuff is subplot. Urban Fantasy is usually the reverse–romance is usually secondary to the action plot in those. And some are about a 50/50 split–think Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series.
- Time-Travel Romance – Usually involves one main character from contemporary times somehow stumbling into a situation where they fall in love with someone from another time period. (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is probably the most well-known–SO good.)
- Inspirational – Christian romances, pretty strict requirements on physical relationship between couple, can be contemporary, historical, etc. as well
- Erotic – These are romances where there are no closed doors for love scenes and euphemistic language isn’t used to describe sex. Passionate Ink describes it best: “The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline.” There are many subgenres under this one as well–contemporary, historical, paranormal, BDSM, male/male, menage, etc.
- Romantic Suspense – The hero and heroine are usually involved in trying to solve some crime.
- Category Romances – These can fall under any of these other genres but are shorter (55-65k) and are typically published by Harlequin. Because these are shorter, there are usually less complex subplots and focus mainly on the romantic relationship.
- Young Adult – A romance where the characters are teens.
There are many more smaller subgenres and new ones popping up–romantic thrillers, romantic horror–so really, the possibilities are endless. All you need is your happy ending.
Nicholas Sparks is pretty well-known for kind of turning up his nose at the romance genre and insisting his books aren’t THAT kind of book. And you know what? He’s right. He writes romances, but then kills off one of the main characters, so he gets to be shelved in another part of the bookstore and call his books mainstream. If I, as a romance reader, picked up a book labeled romance and then you kill off the hero, I’d be PISSED. Seriously. Letters would be written.
I don’t like reading depressing or tragic books. Some people do and that’s fine. To each her own. But the reason why I write and love romance novels is because I want an escape where I know no matter how bad things get in a story, good will triumph, and love will win. That’s what satisfies and entertains me. I love that warm, fuzzy feeling I get from a happy ending.
So I refuse to apologize for writing in a genre that is all about hope, love, and finding the good in people. And I also refuse to apologize for writing stories that are *gasp* erotic. People expressing their love for each other through a physical connection is a beautiful (and natural) thing. There is nothing ugly or tawdry or wrong about that. So to those who trash romance: *sticks tongue out like a mature adult* You don’t have to read it, but please go bring your judge-y selves to someone else’s party. We’re having too much fun over here at ours.
Feel free to throw any questions at me that you might have about the genre. Do you read or write romance? Have you ever been judged for what you write–I know romance isn’t the only genre that gets flack?
Roni Loren wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, is now available from Berkley Heat. Website: www.roniloren.com
See the schedule of the upcoming guest posts and genres for the rest of this blog series, in this post.