Thoughts on the Romance Novel

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I was over on the AAR ATBF forum and came across a discussion that frequently pops up regarding romance novel conventions. Particularly the need for the HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

Some folks wouldn't mind seeing this requirement dispersed with completely, they feel it hampers the growth of the genre and may contribute to trite, cliched, weak plotting & characterization and the overall marginalization of the genre as a whole. (I'm clumping/paraphrasing a whole heap of generalizations that I've read *over the years* here, and not necessarily anything specifically said over on AAR by any persons at this time.)

While I can see some points to the latter argument, I think that could be more about either what an author is happy writing, what they are capable of writing (skill/craftmanship) and readership expectations. That is to say, one woman's tritely cliched, might be another's emotionally satisfying fantasy and/or comfort read, or a bit of much needed, non-too complicated, entertaining, escapism. Nothing more, nothing less. To each his own.

Anyhow, I'm more in the former camp. I require an HEA (very loosely defined) and since I figured I should get another blog post up here, I've just copied and pasted my contribution to that discussion, here:

I read across the board in just about all genres--romance, mystery, fantasy, thriller, mainstream literature, biographies, etc,--and within the romance genre I'm more or less game for any cross genre/subgenre/tone, but *for me* this is the one possibility on the list that does meet requirements of the *romance* novel (genre/ TM):

"A relationship-based story that may or may not end happily"

It really must (for me, and I gather quite a number of folks) have a uplifting ending that is strongly directed towards a long-term or short-term happier emotional future for the two main protagonists (together). At the end of the book they must be at a better place as individuals and as a couple, mentally --ie self awareness-- & emotionally. With it being implicit that this positive condition/grow/change will continue (smoothly or not) into a future *together* (short or long term).

Note, there's no requirement or reference to marriage, or children, or even the characters being absolutely positive this person is 'The One For All Eternity!' tm.

While there is without doubt ‘romances’ that end tragically or in disappointment in real life, in terms of genre conventions (the fantasy or formula), “may or may not” just doesn’t cut it. If it does not end ‘happily’ (based on that wordy--yet fairly loose, I think--definition above) then it is a ‘love story’ or romantic fiction or some other animal but not a Romance (genre) Novel.

Btw, not saying my definition (opinion) is the end all/be all of what genre romance is, I was just trying to encapsulate what I’ve observed in almost 30 years or reading romance (& trying to write it in the last few years) and what I’ve heard others say that they want/love about the genre.

I think what is wished for, or needed, of the genre either expands or constricts with each individual reader, fair enough, but what makes the romance novel uniquely what *it is*, the HEA, should stay intact. My opinion. YMMV.
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Jordan Summers said...

I agree. I need that implied HEA or the spelled out one, but either way it has to be there. Otherwise, it pisses me off. I don't have a problem with other genres, although I do prefer uplifting endings. They can do whatever they want. Romance, not so much.

Jaye said...

What really pisses me off (and others) is when a book is sold as a romance but there's no HEA. WTF?! If they ever changed the guidelines of the romance genre to included non-HEA endings, I'd honestly buy even less because I'd become even more picky about my choices and go to great lengths to *make sure* I was getting an HEA.

I don't think the parameters are goig to change though, for awhile there you got the feeling that some folks wanted to lump chick lit under the romance genre umbrella and that didn't go down to well either.

raine said...

Agreed, even if there's no marriage or secret baby, and even if the 'ever after' is 'for now'.

sybil said...

What is so wonderful and smart about misery?

Tell me that? Why is a novel ok or 'great fiction' because it ends in death?

The 'fiction' books I have read recently had two people kept apart just about all their lives only to have the chick tell the guy I always 'wanted' to be with you but needed a sign. To which he thanks her because 'just knowing' makes it ok and then of course he DROPS DEAD. Or the other gem which starts with a death and has the guy screw his friend's wife the same day he 'almost' screws the good woman. But she 'matters' so he can't... and of course she just wonders if it is because she told him recently she was a rape surviver. Or how about the six? seven? book series at least that is where they are now there will be more... where the H/h have gone through cheating and repair only to end in... yeah you can guess it can't you.

I am sorry... fiction sucks. Give me a HEA. And the next time I buy a romance without a HEA I am so returning the thing. No if, ands or buts about it. And I do not return books.

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