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Realistic expectations
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2498

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:14 am    Post subject: Realistic expectations Reply with quote

Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?
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ChrisReader



Joined: 05 Sep 2009
Posts: 739

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick said
Quote:
Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?


That's like saying any book with a happy ending must be completely unrealistic. Perhaps you don't mean it to sound like this but all of your posts sound to my ears like "Romance is a completely fantastic genre with no hope of ever being realistic so why apply any kind of standards to it? Why expect there to be any kind of historical research or logical thinking because it's fiction."

Do you apply that standard to every type of fiction? Or is romance so "out there" or "silly" to begin with that only those authors get a pass? I'm sorry if I seem a bit testy but your arguments to me really denigrate the genre.

No matter what genre I read be it mystery, historical fiction or non fiction I expect the author to respect my intelligence and the intelligence of their other readers.

This includes:

1.) No sloppy lazy research on any field- be that historical setting, chemistry (if a mystery for example) or dog training. If you are writing about it put in the effort.

2.) Don't make people foolish or illogical unless you are purposely creating foolish illogical characters. Don't make them do things that go against basic common sense unless you give a reason. I don't care what time period you live in I have the same standards for all characters. Don't do idiotic things (endanger your life and well being or others life and/or well being) for foolish/selfish reasons or because you simply don't think.

Giving romance a "pass" on any standards is really just an insult to the genre and authors who create excellent novels IMHO.
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KayWebbHarrison



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1241
Location: SE VA. USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isn't that exactly the challenge of the romance writer? To create a story that will convince readers that the central couple's journey to their HEA is possible, to fabricate characters and situations that will capture the readers' interest and suspend their disbelief, so that they enjoy the ride? IMO, the best of the genre's writers don't have to or have learned not to "fudge." New writers or inferior ones need to resort to whatever works-fudging included. Personally, I have never been a big fan of "realism;" it is one literary movement that appeals very little to me. I am more of an aficionada of "magical realism."

Kay
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why are only bad, painful things considered to be "realistic"? I'm happily married, have been with my husband 25 years. Most of my friends are in stable loving long-term relationships as well. I don't consider HEAs as fudging, unless the author has set a challenge for themselves and weren't able to meet it.

The romance that comes to mind is The Portrait by Megan Chance -- not because the author set the challenge and didn't meet it, but because she did. She convinced me that a person with manic-depression in a time when there was no treatments could have a HEA.

I don't enjoy romance where everything is too perfect and wonderful all the time. That's certainly not realism, or even fun to read about, because it makes me suspicious instead of happy. And you could say that the entire concept of HEA is inherently unrealistic, because we don't get ever after and no one is happy all the time. But I don't think it's necessary to spell that out every time. We all know that people have troubles and people die. The point of the HEA is that we believe this couple will stay together and be happy, despite the troubles life will no doubt throw their way.
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's like saying real life doesn't come with HEA's Very Happy

Personally, I don't feel authors should fudge an HEA. Do some authors do it? Yes, but I don't tend to like their books. My own opinion is that good authors convince me of the strength of the relationship and that in turns convinces me of the HEA. And when I say HEA in that case I don't mean nothing ever goes wrong for the couple again. I mean the two marry and stay in love all their lives. That does happen pretty often in real life so it shouldn't be such a stretch to write it into fiction.

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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2498

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@ChrisReader: I do think romance fiction is essentially fantasy, although it doesn't follow that I therefore think standards are unnecessary. It does have standards--a relationship with problems but nonetheless an HEA. I don't think that those standards have to include accurate history nor probability. All the other requirements of readable fiction--believable plots, consistent characterization, adequate grammar, etc. are givens.

I don't think seeing something for what it is--looking at it with a cold eye as Yeats would say--denigrates. If these statements denigrate romance, then the denigration arises from the form itself.
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ChrisReader



Joined: 05 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick said
Quote:
@ChrisReader: I do think romance fiction is essentially fantasy, although it doesn't follow that I therefore think standards are unnecessary. It does have standards--a relationship with problems but nonetheless an HEA.


I wouldn't call that a standard- that's the generally accepted guidelines of what makes a romance novel a romance novel. It's like saying a mystery novel where there is a mystery that is solved has standards.

dick said
Quote:
I don't think that those standards have to include accurate history nor probability. All the other requirements of readable fiction--believable plots, consistent characterization, adequate grammar, etc. are givens.


Don't accurate history and probabilty make up a believable plot? How can you have something that is "believable" if it doesn't have a some basis in reality?

dick said
Quote:
I don't think seeing something for what it is--looking at it with a cold eye as Yeats would say--denigrates. If these statements denigrate romance, then the denigration arises from the form itself.


I disagree with your statement that you are "seeing something for what it is." I do believe that authors can reflect realistic human experiences and end with a happy ever after without having to "fudge."

I've read plenty of non-fiction books that can fit this model (let alone real life examples that I know of) and don't see how any book centered around romance has to be termed "fantasy."
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick, since when are you so literal to argue that HEA means that the couple are euphorically happy every second of their subsequent lives? Surely, the happily-ever-after ending is an exaggeration in its comparison to a fairy tale--which everybody knows, realistically. When I was 6, I believed that Cinderella and the Prince were happy every single minute of their subsequent lives, but everyone knows that life has its ups and downs, and that's not what romance readers envision (I'm pretty sure) for the couple. You CAN'T be so literal minded to believe the literal meaning of HEA for romances. Or have I misinterpreted you? All the HEA means to me is that the couple stay in love (yes, yes, probably its nature changes) and are happy in the rest of their lives.

I wonder if you are as critical of other genres, or is it just romance? For example, do you criticize mysteries on the grounds that not all (or even most, in some places) murders and crimes are solved, with justice meted out to the villain? Do you harumph that a lone dowager, Miss Marple, could not solve crime after crime? Do you criticize JAWS, saying that the killing of the shark at the end is unlikely and therefore a flaw in the movie? After all, there are thousands of white sharks and how did they know that they got the RIGHT one, or even that a shark would swallow an oxygen canister. Do you dislike every movie or book where the good prevails against impossible odds?

Why does this "requirement" of romance seem to irritate you? Are you seriously arguing that one of romance's main strengths, beloved by most of its readers, is a weakness? There are romances out there that end unhappily--I think Nickolas Sparks writes them, IINM.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisReader wrote:
dick said
Quote:
Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?


That's like saying any book with a happy ending must be completely unrealistic. Perhaps you don't mean it to sound like this but all of your posts sound to my ears like "Romance is a completely fantastic genre with no hope of ever being realistic so why apply any kind of standards to it? Why expect there to be any kind of historical research or logical thinking because it's fiction."

Do you apply that standard to every type of fiction? Or is romance so "out there" or "silly" to begin with that only those authors get a pass? I'm sorry if I seem a bit testy but your arguments to me really denigrate the genre.

.



Yes, but there is some truth to what dick says. I am a relatively new reader to the genre. Sure, it's going on 10 years now, but many have been reading the genre for most of their lives. I remember when I first started reading romance I started noticing that that happy ending was in every book I read. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I had never experienced that in my reading before. In the books I read, people had good and bad things happen to them, and not all books ended happily. The romance genre really does stand alone in that. No other genre gives us a consistently happy ending. So, realistically...to me, most of it is just too perfect, but I still read it and enjoy romance novels. It seems we are always defending our choices, even to people who obviously love the genre. Dick has been on this board as long as I have and if he didn't enjoy, and appreciate the genre, he would have been gone long ago.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick, I think you're creating a real problem when you say you need "believable plots" but not "probability." There has to be probability for the plot to be believable. That does not mean the story has to be set in a historically accurate setting.

When Eloisa James writes a Cinderella story that is set in a fairytale world, I have no problem. Within the world she created, the story was believable. Were she to claim that story was taking place in Berlin in 1945, I would have boggled, because it had ceased to be believable.

That is one of the problems for authors of historicals: how much historical accuracy can be sacrificed without simply making a hash of the whole thing.
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chris booklover



Joined: 12 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick:

I sense in many of your posts a certain frustration with the romance genre, and especially with its HEA requirement. Several people have replied to you in this and other threads - noting, among other things, that the genre's conventions are not nearly as constricting as you suggest.

I'm not sure that we will ever resolve this difference of opinion, but I would like to ask whether you have any alternatives to propose. Do you have any changes to suggest that would improve the overall quality of romance novels published? For instance, if we abandoned the HEA requirement (as Nicholas Sparks does) would these books better "reflect realistic human experiences?"
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1110

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?


Yes. This. While some focused on the "HEA" word, I personally focused more on the words "realistic human experiences." Fiction is fiction regardless of the genre or what kind of ending it has. I realize that the first part of dick's sentence is a qualifier and that this is indeed a romance board, but romance is not in fact history, biography or any thing of the kind. I don't enjoy sloppiness in anyone's writing or research either, but then again this is fiction and no one is making me read any particular (careless or uniformed) author or the genre either.

dick wrote:
I do think romance fiction is essentially fantasy, although it doesn't follow that I therefore think standards are unnecessary. It does have standards--a relationship with problems but nonetheless an HEA. I don't think that those standards have to include accurate history nor probability. All the other requirements of readable fiction--believable plots, consistent characterization, adequate grammar, etc. are givens.

I don't think seeing something for what it is--looking at it with a cold eye as Yeats would say--denigrates. If these statements denigrate romance, then the denigration arises from the form itself.


Yes, this too: "All the other requirements of readable fiction...." Again, fiction and romance are nouns. Historical is a modifier to denote that the setting is in the past. There are no adverbs saying "true" historical or "faulty" historical. The noun carries all the weight of the label.

Xina wrote:
Yes, but there is some truth to what dick says. [snip]... It seems we are always defending our choices, even to people who obviously love the genre. Dick has been on this board as long as I have and if he didn't enjoy, and appreciate the genre, he would have been gone long ago.


Yes. From my short time on this board, I haven't seen dick as someone who disparages romance at all. Like Xina, I don't think he'd take the time to be here if he didn't want to be. Although this is a board for people freely expressing their opinions, I for one value his comments as more dispassionate and to the point. This is just my own personal feeling, but I appreciate dick's unemotional thoughts and analysis, especially in contrast to all of the more recent, often heated debates about adding new adjectives to the label romance.

Now I'm not putting down anyone who chooses to be more passionate in their postings--their choice. I'm just saying that I appreciate the balance dick often provides, especially since I read history for history and romance as fiction.
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KayWebbHarrison



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1241
Location: SE VA. USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?

This is Dick's original post. Notice that there are question marks at the end of each sentence. He is not stating facts or offering opinions. He is trying to spark just the kind of discussion that has followed--and that, I hope, will continue.

Kay
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Chris Booklover: I have no wish to change the genre. I have no wish to change the standard of the HEA. My contention is that, the HEA forces authors to adjust everything in the story so that the HEA may occur, within the context of the story being told, with some degree of believability. In my thinking, that's unrealistic and full of fantasy. And it restricts the genre as no other genre is restricted.

I've stated rather often that those authors who can write within those restrictions are to be admired for the ability, just as poets who manage to make the sonnet work.

I'm not frustrated with the genre. If I evince frustration it's with the defenses (and attacks) on the genre which attempt to make it something it isn't--as with the requirement that a historical be accurate in every item of history. And it's equally frustrating when realism of action and reaction are held up as requirements for the genre. I think, as the OP suggested, that many readers expect too much of the authors and the genre.

I've read a considerable number of romances. I've enjoyed reading them. But I don't expect them to be more than they are or can be.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KayWebbHarrison wrote:
Knowing that a romance has to have an HEA, how realistic can readers expect the genre to be? How do authors reflect realistic human experiences, and, regardless what those experiences are, end with a happy ever after unless they fudge?

This is Dick's original post. Notice that there are question marks at the end of each sentence. He is not stating facts or offering opinions. He is trying to spark just the kind of discussion that has followed--and that, I hope, will continue. Kay


Question marks do indeed often denote questions BUT they're also used in other ways for effect only. Example: "Whatta I gotta do to get your attention, keep coughing?" I would expect attention from whomever I said that to and not an actual answer to that "question."

@Dick: Would you mind terribly providing some clarification, even if it's a repeat?

I'm new here so if this longtime group has understandings I'm missing, I'll just lurk. Let me know.
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