Monday, July 6, 2015

Romance Novels Are Not Just About Sex

I love attending writing conferences, and especially those that focus on the general fiction market. Don't get me wrong RWA people, I love the romance conferences as well. But here is the thing. When I attend the general fiction conferences, I get to really teach about the romance genre. There is a huge misconception there as to what this genre entails.

For many, here are the thoughts people come in with regarding the romance novel. They believe it is a romance if:

–“I have romance in my story.”
–There is a relationship
–It is in a romantic setting
–The characters get married
–The characters have sex

But here is the thing. While many romance novels utilize these common elements, the romance itself focuses exclusively on the building of a relationship. We are watching from the sidelines as two characters fall in love with one another. Let's look at the specifics.

The relationship is the central story arc - As I said, the romance is the central story arc. You can pretty much write about any other sub-plot as the backdrop. but if we chart out what the main story is, it would be watching the hero and heroine discover each other and fall in love. 

There is a happily ever after - I know a lot of people have a hard time with this one, but with the romance, we want to know, when we finish the book, the two are together, and will be together for some time. This might not be the actual marriage, but we know they have committed to each other by the end of the book. 

The focus is primarily from a female perspective - This is not always the case so please understand this. You will likely have scenes from the male POV, but the heaviest emphasis is from the female POV. A lot of authors seem to feel that if they have a female protagonist, she is the narrator and she falls in love, then this is a romance. The POV is just one part of it. It is seeing the world through the female lens that puts romance into the women's fiction genre. 

The story is about human nature Because it focuses on that relationship, we want to see how human nature is bringing the two characters together. We want to see how they react and behave to the things the other person says and how they act. 

As far as the sex element, we have to remember that this is not what makes a romance. There are a ton of romance novels out there where the extent of any physical interaction is a simple kiss. The level of sensuality you put in the story is really up to you and your readers. Remember though, when the sex becomes the storyline, you are now moving out of the romance genre and moving into the erotica genre. 

So, for those of you heading off to those conference, remember to really examine your novel before pitching it. If it is not a romance, then don't pitch it as one. 

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