Friday, May 18, 2012

Romance VS Romantic



So, I think I’ll get a little controversial today and address something that has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks.

I’ve been making some big changes in my professional life and assessing how to approach the next step in my plan to conquer the publishing world. (Or at least slice off a sweet little tidbit to enjoy…)

My journey here on the Revenge has taught me to importance of romance to a story. Whether it be a personal romance or the overriding theme of romance. I’ve dallied with the first and enjoyed it, but recently came to the conclusion that at heart, I’m more in love with the second aspect.

I can survive a book without a passionate romance between characters…as long as there is a romantic story being told.

For example… The Indiana Jones movies were romantic. Without being romances. Yeah, we had the H/H dynamic, but the real story was more about saving the world, saving the children…on and on…

Some of the most impressive books I have ever read were incredibly romantic…without a romance involved.

Some of the best stories I’ve written involved characters learning to love themselves, not necessarily loving anyone else. Yes, I generally have a H/H and they end up with a HEA. And I understand that is what defines a romance…

But!

As I venture into the greater publishing world sans agent and consider venturing into self-publishing and who I still want to pitch to and what I want my pitch to consist of… I don’t think I fit the definition of a romance writer.

But I do write books with romantic themes. I dove into the dictionary in an attempt to address my feelings regarding the aesthetic of romance. Merriam Webster says

1): A medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural 2): a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous or mysterious 3): a love story especially in the form of a novel.

Nothing in there about HEA save the 3rd definition. I know the RWA has a preference when it comes to what defines romance. I know the everyday man/woman has an idea of what romance involves. (Squishy stuff…)

I believe my thoughts on this matter harken back to all those literature classes I took in college, and even further back when I was reading Robin Hood stories, Treasure Island, even Sherlock Holmes. They were romantic themes…even without the romance. (Let’s face it, the movies made much more out of Maid Marion than the original stories did!)

So, I open the floor to a discussion regarding how a writer such as myself presents herself to potential readers/editors/agents… I’m tempted to return to my original, long ago idea of how to talk about what I write. I write romantic adventure. Sometimes set in alternate universes, sometimes in outer space, sometimes in contemporary…

Will this open doors to me? Or close them? Anyone have a better way to define what I'm talking about? Anyone see the difference? ;-)

13 comments:

Marnee Bailey said...

I think what you're explaining is the whole "Romantic Elements" aspect. If the love story isn't the main conflict, then I think you would market it as X with Romantic Elements. Fantasy with Romantic Elements. Science Fiction with Romantic Elements. Women's Fiction with Romantic Elements.

Like how RWA has the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category for the RITA/GH. If you look through the gals who are up for that, there's a whole slew of "types" of books, Para, UF, historical, Rom Com. One has ghosts in it, I think.

I think you could find a niche for yourself there, maybe?

TerriOsburn said...

Marn is write, if you want to relate your work to the Romance community, you'd say X with Romantic Elements, but that doesn't help you define the X. You have such varying degrees of X, I'm not sure how you can pin it down.

Romantic Adventure does seem to fit all of your stories. There's always an adventure. There is a romantic thread woven with that adventure. How readers will define it is another question. One I doubt anyone can answer since the answers would be too many too count!

Janga said...

It's only been recently that "romance" has referred to a work of fiction with a central love story and an optimistic ending. And I'm not so sure the defintion is that narrow even now outside the contexts of genre fiction. Medieval romance commonly dealt with the adventures of figures such as the Greek and Roman gods and heroes or Arthur, Charlemagne, and Roland and their knights. Saving fair maidens was secondary to the quest, confronting supernatural challenges, and winning wars. Nineteenth-century romanticism was all about imagination, spontaneity, and the individual. I think what you are writing, Maureen, still falls within the larger meaning of "romance."

That said, I think (as a reader and member of the community, not as an expert) that the advantage of a presence within the community of romance fiction readers is that a majority of those readers are eclectic readers who read outside the genre. So whether you are writing popular romance, science fiction, mystery, fantasty, general fiction,or some blend of genres, you can reach readers within the romance community.

Maureen said...

Marn - Yeah, I was thinking along those lines... Oddly enough, I'm super sensitive to not wanting to mislead and I think getting caught up in the 'romantic elements' concerns me...because I don't want to mislead!

This is me, wanting to be totally upfront...;-) I think maybe I'll need to just say what is there and not approach what I think isn't there...

Maureen said...

Which leads me to Terri and my simply stating I write romantic adventure. Not romance adventures...it's the nuances of the word I'm dickering with... ;-)

Maureen said...

Janga - I knew you'd pick up on the subtle differences. The idea of the literature vs. the modern (relatively modern) definition of romance = HEA and squishy stuff.

Which I generally do include...just not the main thread weaving through.

I do love that romance readers are a vast bunch when it comes to genre! I fit here, it's just my bit of integrity wanting to make absolutely certain to be upfront with how I view myself. (Not that anyone will care...I find readers create their own idea of what they see...)

quantum said...

Maureen, I don't think you should worry about trying to 'type-cast' yourself in any available pre-formatted slot. The main problem is to get yourself widely known and to pick up a readership that likes your voice and books.

'Romantic X' does it for me. Romantic fantasy, romantic suspence, romantic adventure in space and time......

If there is a romantic element and the plot is exciting and a page turner, then thats enough to make me interested.

You seem to be doing pretty well so far ..... how are the sales going?

P. Kirby said...

I do love that romance readers are a vast bunch when it comes to genre! I fit here, it's just my bit of integrity wanting to make absolutely certain to be upfront with how I view myself. (Not that anyone will care...I find readers create their own idea of what they see...)

Well, yeah, based on what we've discussed earlier in email, I think some of your concerns are a function of your perceptions, not readers. The thing is, most of the authors that I idolize--most in the SF/F/H genres--don't just write SF or just F. Typically, they dabble in a variety of sub-genres in speculative fiction. Probably because to write in the same narrow genre is to them (and me) is akin to creative death.

Ergo, the admonishments by some so-called experts to stick to a genre is frankly...STUPID, with a big pointy dunce cap.

Now, granted, you probably don't want to write erotic M/M romance AND children's books under the same pen name. But in general, if a reader likes your voice and approach to fiction, they will follow you whether you are writing steampunk or UF, or space operas--with romantic elements.

Do writers have missteps? Do they sometimes write something that totally disappoints their audience? Sure. That's the nature of art. But that's no reason to pigeonhole yourself into a narrow category because you think it's more marketable. IMO, and all that.

"Romantic adventure" seems like a good way to market yourself. Go with it. :)

My long-winded self has an art show this weekend, so I'm outta here for the day. Happy weekend, all!

Maureen said...

Thanks, Quantum! Sales figures are a tricky thing to nail down. Very slow increases...

The giveaway on Amazon did incredible...gave away over 5000 books...now if only those will continue on and read the rest...

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Chance - I think Romantic Adventure says exactly what you want it to AND - they're the words that rang most true to you from the beginning.

Trust yourself. :)

MsHellion said...

I think Janet Evanovitch writes romantic adventure, emphasis on the adventure. She gets labeled "mystery" but her mysteries are rather...laughable, so I think romantic adventure sounds more likely. And although there are romantic interests for the main character, there isn't the neat and tidy HEA going on.

So yes, I think you have a market--it's just a matter of how you present it. Probably depends on who you're pitching too. If you're pitching at RWA conferences, finding the editors/agents you need might be more difficult. :)

Maureen said...

Yeah, Sabrina, I think that was my calling from the beginning. ;-)

JE, yeah, they call it mystery, sorta. And I totally get how to take care with who I pitch to. I think if I have success, it will come from my personal ability to sell myself...

Maureen said...

Pat, I so agree with the diatribe about stickin with one genre... I don't know any author that is really doing that nowadays. Maybe, once upon a time that was the norm...

Good luck with the artshow...!