Romance Novels? How Embarrassing.
Formula One is not just for good looking European race car drivers anymore. Welcome to Inktropolis’s foray into the high drama truth behind writing a romance. Yes, there’s a formula. Isn't that what makes them so 'easy' to write'?
I suppose that’s raised some hackles. Good. Hackle-raising burns calories and gets the blood flowing. Good. Now, see the side bar please and note the disclaimer that the opinions of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of all the citizens of Inktropolis. Please read through to the end before jumping to romance’s defense. . . And by the way, I write romance. (Historical Romantic Suspense for the Inspirational Market--try fitting that on your business card.)
Literary fiction (you know, the REAL writing, the kind that writers would like to write but can’t so they write genre?) may not have a formula other than to make you think real hard and end up confused and depressed. KIDDING! Well, not completely. I can think of a couple books that stuck with me for weeks after I'd finished. I like that but I can't say they were uplifting either.
Anyway, when I pick up a Tony Hillerman mystery, I know what I’m getting. Mystery has a formula. If a mystery doesn’t have a crime and a body right up front for the “sleuth”, in this case Detective Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee, to investigate and solve, then I want my money back. Thankfully, mystery "formula" and great writing ruled and I always had an enjoyable read. (Thank you Mr. Hillerman, with love, for years of entertainment. You'll be missed.)
I hope I’m not bursting any reader’s balloons. If you read romance, mystery, thrillers or fantasy, please realize that the writer has to fulfill certain expectations or they will hear their agent and editor laugh out loud. In other words, try selling a romance without following the formula. Formula, Formula, Formula. There, I said it.
Skip this next paragraph if you don’t want to shocked by the emperor’s man boobs.
Simplified: Boy Meets Girl, Boy likes girl, Boy loses girl, Boy gets girl back. Expanded: they should have superior motivation to achieve clashing goals and have a worthy conflict or opposition. Next is the black moment when all appears lost, and then (hear the chorus of angels?) all will work out and they’ll live HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
Or HEA in writer-speak.
Now take that formula and “Make it fresh”. Okay. Sure. Right. If you’re not writing, you don’t know how difficult this is. Note: I said difficult, not impossible.
Why is it that romance novels are the largest portion of all published books each year, and yet they are still looked down? Is it because they follow a GASP! formula? What's wrong with a formula. Duh. I think they work. Do you see any authors on the NYT list that have a good thing going and stick with it? I think so.
I blame all the anti-romance snobbery on those book covers. You know. Fabio. Ripped bodices on women whose hair is tossed by wind and their model-perfect makeup is on, even if its 1583 and they've been under attack by the border lords since MayDay and haven't had hot water for a bath in a month? Okay, that I can't argue with. But inside there better be a good story above all else.
Inspirational fiction has to take all the ‘must haves’ of good writing and add the dimension of spirituality. We are real jugglers. Christian Romance is not an oxymoron, either and if you think so, you're not reading today's market. Christian Romance celebrates the heart and the passion that draw two people together and keeps them together, sexy AND cerebral and held together by modeling the kind of love God has shown us. Selfless, strong, everlasting. Doesn't that get your motor running?
So, that’s my little rant on romance. Come back tomorrow and we’ll discuss how unrealistic or realistic it is. Oh dear. You won't all go away mad, will you?
Oops, before I go, I have to bring up Waller and Sparks. You know. The men who ‘write romance’. Well, honey, they may make you cry and say, “oh, how romantic”, but that’s not a romance novel. (See above on HEA.) I think they make a dollar for every tear that's shed. As I told my daughter, women write romances with happy endings, men write them with heartbreaker endings. I’m not such a cold old thing that I don’t cry my way through Message in a Bottle every time I see it, but my gosh, someone has to have a good relationship that works out. They can’t all die.
(And my apologies to the REAL men who write romance in the shadows of a women dominated field.) We have some great grand prize drawing gifties that will be awarded at the end of October. We have two super packages to draw for. But you must leave your EMAIL address to go into our Prize Czar's bucket. And please remember to leave your address safely, so the antagonists out there can't make things worse for you, our protagonists. We want a HEA.
Thanks for stopping in,
Debra (or if you don't like this post, my name is Gina)
Thank you to Flikr and DML East Branch for the Tony Hillerman tribute banner.