1. PaintingWriter
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    PaintingWriter New Member

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    How to Make the Romance Genre Respected

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by PaintingWriter, Dec 27, 2015.

    I'll admit that I've read many romances in my life, and have tried to write romances of my own. The reason why I say, "I'll admit," is because there are so many people out there who say they disrespect the genre, especially the Harlequin series books and books with a formula. They'll call it trash and look at you with disdain if they ever find you with one of those books in hand. What I want to call attention to are classic gothic romances such as, "Jane Eyre," and even, "Dracula." Was it just in the past when romances were considered artful and beautiful? That is why I call my books love stories, not romances so much. Do you personally see any value in the romance? The last two books I bought were romances, and even though some writers would call the writing flowery, I still highly enjoy reading them.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I see lots of value in romance stories. It's a definite part of the human experience. But how to make it more respected as a genre? Hard to say. The formula aspect of certain publishers like Harlequin doesn't help the matter, though they disdain the term formula and insist on format. The very term formulaic has negative connotations in any context. A light search across the net shows me many articles that focus on this aspect of romance novels as a key point of contention. Just one as an example: http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=13050

    That's a hard hurdle to get over for a reader/writer who sees formula as a negative.

    I love Science Fiction and as a kid growing up in the 70's and 80's I remember only too well how the genre was regarded as juvenile, meant only for sad little awkward boys unable to engage the real world. Today Science Fiction is everywhere and it's not seen that way, or at least not as much as it once was. Why? Not sure. Maybe because the generation of kids who grew up with it most entrenched in their childhoods are now most definitely adult and so what we loved as kids is now our adult entertainment? Maybe. That's just a guess. I'm not exactly sure what made the genre cross over into more respectable, adult territory. There may be no one thing that did it, but a host of things culminating in that end result.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't think a single book can change the respect for a genre. I'd just write the romance novel you think elevates the genre and be happy with that.

    One thing to remember, some people are not going to give a certain genre the time of day no matter what. On the up side, romance novels are big sellers with a loyal readership.
     
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  4. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I don't read romance, but it can't possibly be more formulaic than some mystery/suspense series. Janet Evanovich has written the same exact book 27 times and she's worth $120 million.

    I'd go ahead and write your novels, and if you can make them stand out from the formula somehow, all the better.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like reading love stories a lot, where two people fall in love and do (or sometimes don't) end up together. It's definitely a subject that attracts me as a reader. However, I don't like formula Romances at all. I don't want to have expectations when I start reading a book. I want to be surprised ...blown away, if I'm lucky. I want the story to be unforgettable. Formula Romances just blend in to one another in my head.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who cares whether romance gets respect?

    Lots of people who don't even read romances think they know everything about the genre and dismiss it based on their own ignorance.

    Who cares?

    If you enjoy reading or writing it, continue reading or writing it. The best way to deal with wilful ignorance is to ignore it.
     
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  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I love romance books. I wouldn't worry too much about getting respect - you'll have reader loyalty. Write what you like. I have fond memories of stories others would call lame-brained. ( one my favorite series as a child was the First Love from Silhouette books - which were Harlequins for teens. ) Not to mention ( but I will - :) ) Wildfire romances, Caprice, Wishing Star, Sweet Dreams, Keepsake. First Love was my favorite though as they always had exotic locations and ideas. I loved them so much I still collect them. And read over the ones I missed. I even think of a few authors - Beverly Sommers, Elaine Harper, Caroline B Cooney as among my favorites authors.

    I think why romance gets a lot of disrespect is that it, probably out of all genres, is the hardest to create believable conflict for. The writer has to come up with a reason to keep the loved ones apart or struggling. And if that's overly familiar and the characters are familiar and the setting is familiar - that's where problems and a bad rep comes in.

    But I also think stats play a big part in the reputation. If any other genre had to keep up with reader demands the same thing would happen. It's not that the stories are bad - it's just that the publishers are in such a hurry to get them available that there's bound to be some mediocre stories along with the good. If romance takes up nearly half of the fiction market what are the odds that not all of it is going to be good?

    Write what you like - stats, rep, odds be damned.
     
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  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am not one to read Romance, but have read a few books with it as a part of the storyline. In a way I find the theme somewhat depressing, as it is much better to experience it as opposed to observing it. Then in the past few years there has been a new trending sub-genre of "Monster Romance", utilizing classical monsters and aliens. Perhaps and this is just opinion, but modern Romance falls into the societal idealism (i.e.: highly attractive people, add other cliché's that society idealizes). In other words it comes off as unrealistic, or forced. Part of this is based on the cover art depicting people with above average physical features, and not the average that we come into contact with. Maybe subconsciously there is a retraction/repulsion to the average people we see in daily life. So there must be a need to portray the unattainable standards of physical beauty to engage the reader. Overall I see the genre as a shallow way to allow the lonely and unhappy a somewhat skewed view of the intimate interactions of people.

    I know my view of the genre is jaded. It is a lot like Pop Music, it is so over the top and everywhere. So at a point it will eventually become a parody of itself.
    So write what ever you please, there will always be those who enjoy it and those who don't. That's the way it works. :p
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Romance is a really varied genre.

    In the past year I've read romances involving physically disabled characters, characters with mental illness, gay characters, straight characters, an elf and an ogre, working class characters, white, black, Asian, Native American and Indian characters, teen characters, retirement-age characters, and many other variants. They've faced challenges ranging from parental disapproval to being caught up in intergalactic war.

    Hell, looking at just the Romances I've personally written I'm seeing gay and straight, old and young. I'm seeing homeless street kids, small-town hockey players, an elite soldier and a bookish scholar in a medieval style fantasy world, a heroin-addicted prostitute, an Anglican priest, a man just out of jail for manslaughter, a female MMA fighter, a farmer fighting to look after his younger siblings, two revolutionaries in a futuristic North America, an artisan carpenter fighting against a gravel pit being built next to his home, several horse trainers, an artist, a gym owner dealing with his grandmother's death, a small-town handyman, a daredevil monster-hunter who falls for a guy who's part monster himself, and more.

    Thinking of Romance as just Harlequin-style books (Category Romances) is a mistake. Judging Romance based on on reading a few Category novels is a bigger mistake.
     
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  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well the first question is how your define "respect". If you're talking about respect for the capital-R Romance genre from literary critics, well, good luck with that. Literary critics generally praise Literary Fiction, which they self define to exclude all "genre" and "commercial" works - this includes pretty much all Romance, Thriller, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Crime Procedurals. This is usually phrased in terms of rejecting works that focus on plot and whose goal is to entertain, as opposed to "Literary" works which focus on artful prose and whose goal is to provoke thought.

    What's really funny to me is what we are now seeing the emergent "Upmarket" category - which was meant to straddle the boundary between the commercial and literary by being both artfully written and well-plotted to the point of being (shock! horror!) entertaining. (This is your "Gone Girl," your "Life of Pi", etc.). This worked for a while, but now the critics have defaulted to sneering down their noses at THESE books for supposedly being trashy and childish - basically the critics have wised up and now want to push them back into the untouchable literary ghetto in which all genre books supposedly exist. I keep going back and forth as to whether to feel sorry for these people because their critical respect is being taken away for no reason, or laugh at the fact that they expected to keep it.

    Here's a great article on that trend, by the way: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/24/good-books-women-readers-literary-critics-sexism?CMP=share_btn_fb

    Now, all that is to say I really don't really value the input of literary critics when it comes to any form of popular fiction, and I really don't think they need to be regarded as what constitutes "respect". Within the Romance genre, I would really define "Respect" in terms of which writers are looked up to by writers and critics within the genre rather than a very small clique of people who write off everything outside their own very narrow genre of interest. (And yes, we should start talking about capital-L Literary Fiction as a genre rather than as somehow above the concept of genre. It has it's own tropes).

    Plot-construction is a really important craft for genre writers. It's what we have to do to succeed, it's the biggest component at the heart of our stories, and if it doesn't work perfectly, the whole thing blows up like a nuclear bomb. We build precisely calibrated fireworks shows designed to shock and amaze.

    ...which means we probably should not be submitting those fireworks for approval to a panel of people who reject both the concept of "plot" and the idea that entertainment is a valid pursuit within fiction. If a literary critic praises a genre work - great! However, relying on them for an opinion on whether or not a Romance or SciFi novel is any good would be like hiring the curator of an existentialist philosophy library to judge the above mentioned fireworks show. Not only is he likely to find little meaning in it and reject the idea that the show has value...he also lacks the background in pyrotechnics to judge a shoddily made firework from a masterpiece.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
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  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh and addendum to the above. I'm a SciFi writer myself, but I think we in the SFF community should definitely look at Romance novelists as comrades in arms.

    What we write might be as different as night and day but we are all genrenauts!

    (Addendum to the addendum: I have nothing against Literary Fiction, just people who reject genre fiction as inferior.)
     
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  12. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Exactly. I've read a lot of romance novels lately along with articles that disparage the genre. It's an interesting thing to note, but of all the genres out there this one really does seem to get ridiculed more than any other. The best comments I've heard have come from critique groups I've belonged to who literally joke about it every chance they get---comparing someone's MS to a 'Romance', making fun of the themes, readers, plots, etc.

    I've read well over a hundred now, I think, and while there are certainly some that are annoying, they are certainly no worse than some of the mysteries, fantasies, and Sci Fi out there that are ridiculously formulaic, as well.:( There are romances that are very well-written and researched (especially some of the historicals), and while they do adhere to a formula, there's still a lot of variation within those boundaries.

    Another thing it's important to note is that many of them have themes that empower women. Years ago many of them didn't which was a drawback, IMO, but the majority of today's stories do and authors are keenly aware (maybe more so than in any other genre) that they have a responsibility to portray the issues of women in a strong light.

    People have a lot of theories as to why this genre isn't taken seriously, but at the risk of starting a war here :)ohno:)someone on Jennifer Crusie's blog did ask a pivotal question one time. She asked what authors of other genres had that romance writers didn't, and someone replied, "A penis." :whistle:

    And aside from that (IMO) there is a certain comfort in knowing how a book will end sometimes. With all the ways that real life can suck, it's good to know there are happy endings somewhere.
     
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  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah that all sounds about right...plus you're probably dealing with cultural perceptions of what is or isn't morally appropriate reading material, plus Romance is probably the most widely distributed genre within the mass market paperback market...which means we mentally associate it with the shelf full of random cheap books at the local Walgreens. We in SFF get told that we're being childish and simplistic but we don't generally get told that we're trashy.

    But a good Romance novel requires just as much effort to pull off as anything else. In this business it takes the same amount of work to get two characters together as it does to blow up a planet. (and honestly it's probably harder to convincingly get two people to fall and love than it is to convincingly blow up a planet...as I fret about my own dreaded romantic subplot).

    And for what it's worth, I've always seen the Walgreens bargain shelf as a goal to aspire to...I figure that's the sign that you've gotten big enough to be read by the type of people who don't go to bookstores.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
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  14. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I hear you! I have a romantic subplot of my own and am constantly worried that the book will be "too romance-y." Wizards and Gods, Elves and Dwarfs, Demons and purple porcupines from outer space, all battling for control of a plant presently being used as a science experiment for magical mice being oppressed by an omnipresent evil cat, not a problem. Two people falling in love? Gasp. Completely unrealistic.

    When I hear the term "Romance" I immediately think, one-dimensional characters who simply move from one sexual encounter to another. Not that this is a bad thing. It's like television or the movies. Sometimes you want a well developed cinematic experience, other times you just want the Flying Circus!
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm writing a work in which the main character has to work closely with a female counterpart. At the beginning of the novel they hate each other. But by the end the novel they find out that what they were feeling for one another was, all along, an intense dislike for one another.
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I've never read a romance in my life. That's not a criticism, it's simply that it's not my bag. I read and write sci fi fantasy. Both of those genres have been alternately lauded and lampooned as well.

    But my thought is - what does it matter?! You write a book and people like it. In the end it is that simple.

    You aren't going to change the mind sets of people about a genre, because like me most of them will find they either like or dislike a particular genre and that's fairly much the end of it. And you'll never sway the opinions of the literary snobs. They disrespect all genres - and especially in fact anything that could be vaguely popular.

    So write, enjoy your writing, do it well, get other people to like what you write, and ignore the rest. It really doesn't matter.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not a reader of the capital-R Romance genre, but I would think that like anything the characters in a really good Romance novel would be anything but one dimensional (hell, if I have to be all up in someone's deepest desires for a few hundred pages, those desires had better be complex).

    Actually that gives me an idea seeing as we've now got several non-Romance writers in here trying to talk about this....

    Could one of you Romance writers actually recommend a REALLY GOOD
    capital-R Romance novel for those of us who don't know the genre?

    We all like to talk about Romance novels as if we know something about them but a lot of us don't read them. Plus we SFF types usually start having anxiety attacks when we hit our romantic subplots.

    So, Romance writers, if you could recommend us just ONE Romance book that's a master-class in the form, what would you pick? (And I'll straight up dare any other SFF people in here to read the thing with me and do a reaction thread here on the site.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
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  18. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    Its not about genre but the work on its own. There are great works of art in every genre but it usually takes a few generations for them to get their due.

    Same thing happens with painters or any other great artists theres just a huge chance for us to make more m8ney when were dead.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ha ha! That will not be popular with the Romance readers of this universe, but I love it!
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Romance is too varied to recommend a single book (I also think there's so much personal taste that goes into reading that recommendations are really hard to make without knowing a reader pretty well).

    Like, I could recommend a historical romance to someone who only reads SF/F, and it probably wouldn't work for them, or I could recommend an erotic romance to someone who doesn't like on-page sex, or I could recommend a shifter romance to someone who hates paranormal stories, or maybe I'd recommend a m/m romance to a homophobe, etc.

    Romance is kind of an umbrella term - once you get beyond the Category romances (the ones I assume people are talking about when they say Romance is formulaic) the only rules for romance is that the relationship is at the centre of the story and there's a happy ending. Other than that, anything goes.
     
  21. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Bayview is right that there's a ton of variation so no doubt anything we recommended could be viewed as trash somewhere, LOL.:) But two I can think of that were impressive (IMO) were 'Bet Me' by Jennifer Crusie and 'Flowers From the Storm' by Laura Kinsale. The first is a contemporary (and really, hysterically funny), and the second is a historical that was well-written and well-researched. Both are completely different in style but still have the required 'parts' (a central relationship and HEA).
     
  22. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well - there are two suggestions in there - of those "Bet Me" is the shorter so let's go with that.

    Anyone in here willing to join me on a hilarious "Watch the SFF geeks read a Romance novel" Progress Journal thread. (I'm looking at you... @psychotick, @KhalieLa, @Cave Troll, and @Jack Asher - we were all stupid enough to try and comment here, right?)

    I'm dead serious about this. If I can get at least one other person in on this, I'm totally getting the book.

    Details: http://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Bet-Me-Audiobook/B002V8MS68/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1451418486&sr=1-1
     
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  23. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @Commandante Lemming Can I substitute it for something with in the genre? It ain't no fun being broke, but it won't hinder my ability to be objective. Will try to find a book by the author if possible. I trust you will understand that i am willing to commit, despite my short comings. :D
     
  24. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. Could work but we'd need to find one that both of us can read at the same time AND that's generally regarded as "a good one" by other Romance writers (Last thing I want is to have to read a BAD Romance novel :p)

    You can get this one used on Amazon for dirt cheap (like less than a dollar plus shipping) and it's probably available at your local library: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312303467/?tag=writingfor07a-20
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're not going to find a single book that everyone who reads/writes the genre likes.

    Even here, with only two readers, we've got a fifty/fifty split, because I don't generally like the lighter, fluffier type of romance, which I think is definitely Crusie's trademark.

    So, read the book if you want to read the book, but don't read the book and then think you've gained an understanding of the whole genre. That would be like someone reading one book of literary fiction and deciding they liked/disliked literary fiction as a result.
     
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