Monday, 8 August 2011

How about romance:I need a genre!

So how am I going with the question of historical romance?  Sure myself that my definition of historical is correct but I am out of step with the world I turned my attention to the next question. Have I written a romance?  Well I wasn’t immediately sure; being an old woman my definition of romance is a little broader than seems to be the case these days – and it doesn’t start with love affairs. Thinking I may be wrong I went back to the dictionary.

 Oxford Dictionary
Romance is defined thus

1  a: Latin derived languages
   b:Medieval vernacular verse or prose narrative relating to legendary or extraordinary adventure of hero, of chivalry
  c: Extravagant fiction – wild exaggeration
  d: Historical ballad, short epic poem (in Spanish context)
  e: Fictitious narrative depicting setting and events remote from everyday life especially 16th & 17th century
   f: Literary genre with romantic love and highly imaginative events or adventures forming central theme
   g: Romantic or imaginative character – prevailing sense of wonder or mystery surrounding mutual attraction in a love affair and/or suggestion or association with adventurous or extraordinary events.

 2 a: Narrative etc having the nature or qualities of romance in the form or content
    b: Tending towards or characterised by romance in stylistic basis
    c: Pertaining to movement or style of late 18th and early 19th century in Europe - marked by emphasis on feeling, individuality and passion
    d: Of a story, novel, film etc having romance or love affair as a subject
    e: Characterised by idealised fantastic or sentimental view of life, love or reality appealing to imagination and feelings
    f: Influenced by imagination
    g: Fantastic, quixotic, impractical project

Romantic love between unmarried man and woman does appear in the list, but it is not the first or even the second definition.  The definition of romance that I grew up with is the wide one.  It is the epic narrative, the natural, emotion and feeling driven; fantastical, wild and adventurous.  I cut my reading teeth on novels of a hundred or more years ago.  I read and thrilled to Sir Walter Scott and Herman Melville later reading James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving and, of course, all those wonderful epic narratives such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Arthurian legends.  These merged effortlessly into works from Dante and Spencer.  Romance, but not I fear in today’s terms

I discovered historical romances with the likes of  The Scarlet Pimpernel and, as I grew,  discovered the newer definition of romance in William Makepeace Thackeray, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, with their huge sweeps of life.  Then George Elliot, the Bronte’s and Jane Austin.  If I had realised it at the time the definition of romance was growing ever narrower.

I realize that romance is now equated only with love between man and woman although it means I have to re-file all those great novels and epic narrative poems I grew up with to different areas, a little sulkily I admit because the very word romance conjures up to me wonderful vistas of excitement and adventure, larger than life heroes and heroines, amazing deeds and splendid sweeping tales straddling every known emotion.  Feasts indeed.

But reading, on the advice of many, the guide lines of Romance Writers of America I also realize that the world has not only captured and caged the bird of romance but has clipped off its wings and de-beaked it as well.

Guide Lines
            Plot must revolve around two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship with each other.
            Both conflict and climax should be directly related to that core theme, developing romantic relationship.
            Must have emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Although they have allowed, for instance, that Romeo and Juliet is a romance because the focus of the story is romantic love.

            As long as these basic guide lines are followed there are many sub genres allowed into ‘Romantic Fiction’.  They include amongst them:

            Time Travel

I’m thinking these ones should be in the main genre and the romantic love between man and woman, not married, should be a sub genre – but hey, that’s this old woman wondering where the excitement in romance has gone!! My, what a straitjacket romance and romantic writing has been tied into.

Well the first two of my series could just about be shoe-horned into this definition , just about because I hope they are more than romantic love. 
My books need something else, they I suppose belong to a sub genre - dreadful expression! So it seems I must turn my attention to Science Fiction which many of my readers say is what I have written.  This turns out to be more sub genre divided than romance.


  1. Alberta, I got confused when reading the definitions of historical romance last year. I worried whether I had written the 'old' style romance. Now I believe I have written romance 'Glynis' style.

    All I have to worry about now is if someone, somewhere enjoys what I have written.

  2. Oh Alberta! I couldn't agree more with you on this issue. I have had the same issues with Claiming The Prize. There is a romance in the story, but the story is also about a man on a quest to become the world light-heavyweight MMA champion. And most of the conflict centers on that quest. There is some within the romance, but not the melodramatic conflicts many romances showcase. It's tough to find the right 'label' for these.
    I've decided to list it as Action/Romance...letting romance be secondary on the 'billing', even though it involves a great deal of the story. Sigh.
    I wish you the best instincts to choose your genre! ~ Nadja

  3. Is there no such thing as a dystopian romance? Almost an oxymoron, I know, but it would seem to fit the Sefuty Chronicles.

    This all sounds like such a pain; I hope you get settled on your genre soon. Gareth.

  4. I really feel for you, Alberta - I love those old sweeping epic romances too! On the other hand, mine definitely seems to fall into the new catgeory of historical romance. Well, except that I don't do all the stuff that buygs me about current romances, especially the nonsense where boy and girl meet, hate each other yet somehow are forced into having passionate sex (rolls eyes) and come to love each other by the end of the book. Blechh!

  5. I have to say that these a posts a little tongue in cheek - I do want to know but I won't stop creating my own way!! like Glynis I shall have my alberta romance however the sci fi and all its genres proved interesting -keep an eye and Gareth, dystopian romance does sound odd but its out there.
    Love your description of romance Deniz esp the eye rolling!!!
    really what we are writing are life stories I guess Nadja - not isolating one part but creating whole worlds - ah humans do love to divide and divide maybe evolution has decreed we can not manage a 'whole' only snippets of a whole - well now there a thought for future posts!!!