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Just what is "romance" fiction
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2505

PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:34 am    Post subject: Just what is "romance" fiction Reply with quote

The recipe is definite, I know: A h/h, a relationship between them, a conflict of some sort, a resolution, an HEA. But a quick glance at the discussion about TMB on the reviews board suggests there must be something more to it. Some part of the definition must be idiosyncratic to each individual, as the discussion on the Reviews board suggests.

For me, romance fiction has to exclude some actions--such as adultery-- on the part of the hero and heroine. By this, I don't mean that "love" can't survive such a betrayal. But can romance?

For isn't romance fiction about more than a love affair? Isn't the love affair in romance fiction more than the interactions of a hero and heroine, whether those be emotional, sexual, physical? Aren't readers supposed to come away from the reading of romance fiction assured that the ideal has been met? Doesn't it try to delineate a love affair which is more than just run of the mill?

Isn't romance fiction, like the epic and tragedy, supposed to entertain the reader with the idea that love is an exaltation which admits no baseness?
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Gail K.



Joined: 19 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick, I'm not really into categorization or formulas. In the past there have been discussions about "what defines a romance novel?" that I found irrelevant. For me, everything involving a love story -- ultimate HEA or not -- falls under romance fiction. Some would make a very definite break between romance fiction vs. romance novel.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1552

PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Just what is "romance" fiction Reply with quote

dick wrote:

Isn't romance fiction, like the epic and tragedy, supposed to entertain the reader with the idea that love is an exaltation which admits no baseness?


So no misunderstandings, no mistakes, no human failings? That would eliminate a great many books I consider wonderful romances. I prefer to read about real people, myself.
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chiricahuagal



Joined: 07 May 2008
Posts: 210
Location: Houston

PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I pondered it and decided I'm going with the RWA definition on http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre

"Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending. "

I guess everyone is welcome to define it in whatever manner he/she wishes.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chiricahuagal wrote:
I pondered it and decided I'm going with the RWA definition on http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre

"Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending. "
.


This definition works for me! I like to see creativity and variety in the romance genre. Trying to place it into this more specific little box as to what can or cannot, should or should not, occur in a romance novel does no service to it's readers.

While we all might have different opinions as to what is and what is not romantic, we are also all free to choose one book over another.

Linda
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm confused here. Are we talking specifically about the romance genre or fiction with a romance in it? I think the romance genre has a certain box...meeting, conflict, HEA. In fiction, with a romance (I am thinking The Time Traveler's Wife, The Other Boleyn Gir, The Bronze Horseman) there is the meeting/attraction, conflict and maybe or maybe not a happy ending. So, I would say romance fiction is any book that has a lovely romance, be it happy, or unhappy in the ending. I've always stood by that. Bottom line, it means different things to readers and we are not all the same in our thinking.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:00 am    Post subject: Re: Just what is "romance" fiction Reply with quote

dick wrote:
The recipe is definite, I know: A h/h, a relationship between them, a conflict of some sort, a resolution, an HEA. But a quick glance at the discussion about TMB on the reviews board suggests there must be something more to it. Some part of the definition must be idiosyncratic to each individual, as the discussion on the Reviews board suggests.

For me, romance fiction has to exclude some actions--such as adultery-- on the part of the hero and heroine. By this, I don't mean that "love" can't survive such a betrayal. But can romance?


I don't have a direct answer to your question, Dick, but this reminds me of a blog post I read recently which asked the question, "Is marriage a genre?" The author believed so, adding that departures from the form, from adultery to an "open marriage," make a reasonable case for saying that one doesn't really have a marriage; one is just calling it a marriage.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I wasn't clear. When I asked the questions in the last two paragraphs, I was considering the results of authors using the recipe or even following RWA's definition. Pick up any of the top list of authors and I think you will find that the books they have written describe relationships that proceed more intensely than the common run. The emotions are more intense. Reactions to sex are greater--orgasms, for example, are cataclysmic, mere touches burn like fire, there is an ineffable connection. The conflict has far greater impact on the relationship than occurs in books which only include a romance but the central purpose of which is different. The HEA is not merely a happy ending; rather it ensures a halcyon existence and suggests or establishes an ideal marriage. Even the language is heightened.

The genre echoes Virgil and insists that love conquers all and leads inevitably to that kind of marriage. But it's not merely love--it's romantic love, a fated pairing off. Regardless of the conflict, in the end, the h/h enter or prepare to enter a halcyon marriage the likes of which no mortal has ever participated in.

The genre, by its very nature, excludes any suggestion of what is real about relationships or marriages. And, for it to maintain that exalted state, the relationship must exclude certain things or readers question the validity of the HEA.
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Waving to Dick. Wink

Having written more than 30 romances now -- albeit contemporaries, which I know you don't read -- I have to say, from this author's standpoint...yes and no. To say that what *I* write "excludes any suggestion about what is real about marriage and relationships" would be blatantly false.

In fact, if anything, a lot of my work is based on my own marriage and family life. Is it idealized to some extent? Of course. Someone once said "fiction is reality with all the boring stuff cut out"; romance fiction, then, is about the courtship with the boring stuff cut out -- that is, boring to anyone other than the couple involved. I remember plenty of movie dates that were quite lovely; I doubt anyone else would be even remotely interested in hearing/reading about them. So the author puts her characters in situations where emotions are naturally heightened, giving them challenges that, IRL, might actually indicate the couple shouldn't get together until things settle down a bit and they can get to know each other under more normal circumstances.

However, there is plenty in real life -- including courtship and marriage -- dramatic enough to be fiction-worthy, IMO. While of course my couples get their HEAs, I by no means make those happy endings the equivalent of a free pass from any strife or sadness or challenges for the rest of their lives. My couples don't end up in a marriage better than anything a mere mortal could imagine...but they do end up in one as blessed as one can expect in this realm of experience. For me, for them, and for my readers, that's apparently enough. Very Happy

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com[/i]
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1552

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:


The genre, by its very nature, excludes any suggestion of what is real about relationships or marriages. And, for it to maintain that exalted state, the relationship must exclude certain things or readers question the validity of the HEA.


I don't think I could possibly disagree more. Although I do read romances that fit that pattern, they're throwaway reads, brain candy. The books I truly enjoy and feel passionately about are very much about what is real in relationships and marriage.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to K. Templeton: Waving back with a salute to a worthy adversary. I still hold--which probably doesn't surprise--that real life and romance fiction are more at loggerheads than congenial. Yes, elements of real life intrude into romance fiction, but when they do, they are peripheral "filler" of a kind--setting the scene, completing the action, etc--than intrinsic to the romance part of the fiction. In fact, I dare say that romance can't exist without "considerable" heightening of the elements of it. Even when the romance is a part of a real life, as anniversaries, parents' nights out, even dining without the children, etc., there is a conscious effort on the part of the participants to make the parts of it rise above their usual activities, just as romance authors do. The moment children cry out or get sick, the furnace doesn't run, or similar things intrude, real life, mundanity (is that a word?) erases romance --but only in real life. In romance "fiction" those things too--the crying children, the failing furnace--are often used to "heighten" the romantic relationship in some way. The mother's actions in rushing to her child are somehow made "greater" than in real life, affecting the hero's attitude toward her, while his remarkable adeptness at getting the furnace to run again does the same for her.

I'm not, by the way, saying any of this is a negative. I couldn't have arrived at this position without having read a great deal of it, after all--and enjoying it while doing so.
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a fly-by -- but I actually agree with you, Dick Shocked that not only is the real-life stuff enhanced/heightened/whatever in romance fiction, but it's manipulated for the sole reason of showing why these two people are worthy of finding love with each other. No argument there.

BUT (you knew this was coming, right?) -- I think that can be said of ALL genre fiction, if not fiction generally, that even the more realistic elements of characterization or plot are manipulated to achieve that particular genre's ends. Assuming that most fiction is written to evoke a certain response, whether you're talking horror or romance or mystery or even a dreary lit fic offering, then the author crafts scenes/characterizations to hopefully achieve the desired result. For instance, given a different twist, and depending on reader expectations for that genre, the mother embracing her child can evoke variously warm fuzzies (romance) or anxiety (horror) or raise questions (mystery) in both reader AND other characters.

So while I don't disagree at all with your assertion that certain elements of romance writing are heightened as a requirement of the genre, I can't agree that the technique is unique to romance. Wink

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to K. Templeton: I think, however, that all the elements of romance fiction are heightened--from diction to plot to characterization to real life echoes. Other genre fictions may heighten some of those things; romance fiction heightens all of them, probably because the fantasy element of romance fiction is so much greater than the other genres'.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
to K. Templeton: I think, however, that all the elements of romance fiction are heightened--from diction to plot to characterization to real life echoes. Other genre fictions may heighten some of those things; romance fiction heightens all of them, probably because the fantasy element of romance fiction is so much greater than the other genres'.


Greater even than in fantasy itself? Truly? Rolling Eyes

You know, I'm never quite sure if you're pulling our legs sometimes, Dick. Your arguments just don't hold up. I might buy it if you'd give a little but "so much greater" just gives it away. Or makes it suspicious.

What, for example, is your basis of comparison with these other genres? I guess what I'm getting at is that you toss out that romance fiction is "so much greater" in the fantasy element but yet you don't prove it.
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Schola



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I see where Dick is coming from. It has been a while since I last gorged myself on Fantasy (unless you count my reread of Prince Caspian last month), but it appears to me that the mark of Fantasy is something very different than just fantastic elements.

I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' response to the Norse myth of Baldur: ". . . uplifted into huge regions of northern sky and desired with almost sickening intensity something--cold, spacious, severe, pale and remote--never to be described."

Then there is Eleanor Cameron's response to fairytales: ". . . the almost unutterable poignancy I felt--sadness mixed with longing--yet a sense of exaltation, of having touched something very fine and powerful and strength-giving."

You'll notice that Fantasy doesn't always have an HEA. I think it's because the purpose of Fantasy is to remind that HEAs don't really exist in real life. On the other hand, the point of Romance is the HEA; a Romance isn't good unless it convinces readers that the HEA truly is rock solid. So everything in the story has to be fantastic enough (so to speak) to convince the reader that something which almost never happens in real life does happen in the story.
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