I’m giving up on Romance

posted in: On writing | 9
(c) StockUnlimited Image ID : 1510419
(c) StockUnlimited Image ID : 1510419

I’m giving up on Romance. Not romance as in boy meets girl and love blossoms (or boy meets boy, girl meets girl – I don’t give a rats what happens in other peoples’ bedrooms) I mean Romance as in genre. It’s pure and simple escapist fantasy. Which is probably one of the reasons I never read much of it.

To each his/her own of course. If Romance is your thing, that’s fine. I know it’s the biggest selling genre out there, I know it’s not rubbish, I know it’s not easy to write. This is not a ‘take-down’ of the Romance genre, it’s a statement of why it doesn’t work for me as a writer. And really, that’s all about the tropes. By the way, if you think you’ll find that offensive, thanks for coming, but you’d better leave now.

I cannot believe that a multi-billionaire who has no doubt left a trail of girlfriends behind is suddenly going to fall so head-over -heels in love with the new PA or secretary or whatever, that he never even looks at another woman. <cough> Trump. Same with sheikhs (maybe even more so). But I can certainly believe that people in rocky marriages, far from home, might find themselves falling in love with someone else. Call it adultery if you will. It’s normal, common behaviour.

I do believe in ‘love at first sight’ – I know of too many instances where it has happened.  Sure, it usually starts as lust at first sight, but if it evolves into the real thing, so what?

Which brings us to the ‘happy for now’ or ‘happy ever after’ upbeat endings. This is a requirement of Romance. That’s fine, if everybody agrees it’s not about realism. The fact is an awful lot of marriages end in divorce. Fairy tales fall apart. Just look at the cover headlines on the women’s magazines while you’re waiting to go through the checkout.

Now as it happens, my books always have an upbeat ending because the world is bad enough without me adding to the misery even in a tiny way. That’s why I don’t read (or watch) horror. Despite my love of SF, I have not and will not watch the Alien movies. I have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. Same deal. I read to escape.

Having said that, I don’t have a problem with adultery, or mistresses, or even casual sex within the context of a novel. In The Iron Admiral books, Allysha commits adultery. So does her ne’er do well husband. In Morgan’s Choice, Ravindra goes through women like changes of underwear. It’s not a big deal, but I make it plain that’s how it goes – even after he has a relationship with Morgan. But that’s just sex, you see, and within his society, quite normal. He had been married off to a suitable woman at a young age, which is exactly what happened on our little planet in the past, and in fact what still happens right now. Imagine being a princess, married off as an infant to some royal prince, to cement the relationship between the two kings? I can understand a woman running away to escape being married off in just such a way, and that’s the plot of A Matter of Trust. But I expect the story would have been unacceptable to Romance if Amira was married, and trying to escape a loveless or abusive relationship.

So I suppose what I’m saying is that, because I don’t really understand the Romance trope, I write about romance the way I see it in the world – messy, up and down, evolving. Ergo, I don’t write Romance.

I guess I’d better remove all my books from the ‘science fiction romance’ category, and stick with space opera. I won’t win, though, because all the SF die-hards will moan about the soppy bits.

Just as well I don’t do this writing thing to try to earn a living.

And a photo, because I’m hoping you’ve come to expect them. This is the dawning of a new day. Singularly appropriate if you ask me.

(c) Greta van der Rol
(c) Greta van der Rol

9 Responses

  1. Bill Kirton

    This is particularly interesting for me at the moment. Like you, i respect the genre and have no wish to denigrate it but it’s never attracted me as reader or writer. However, the characters in what was supposed to be a historical crime novel (The Figurehead), started developing a relationship in spite of me and some readers wanted to know what happened to them after the end of the novel. I’ve just finished writing the sequel, and their romance and where it leads is central to it. It’s caused me all sorts of problems when narrative requirements have conflicted with what the woman in the couple wanted. I’ve never before been so aware of the tyranny of a character over the author and, correspondingly, of the author’s responsibility not to betray the character. Crime seems so simple in comparison.

    • MonaKarel

      Tyranny of characters…oh, yeah. I’ve had them blow me a raspberry and go off on their merry way. Artist friends, especially sculptors, can not understand about independent characters. I will frame a story with the intention of adding more ‘curb appeal’ as in the obligatory beautiful people falling into lust. And find them compelling rather than beautiful, plus wanting to wait to actually know each other before dancing that horizontal tango.
      I learned in my own life how much more meaningful intimacy is than ‘just sex,’ and it’s worth it to me to write that way.

    • Greta

      So true, Bill. And I go where the characters lead me. Trying to force them into the Romance straitjacket never works for me. In a way, I wish I could. I’d probably sell a *lot* more books. I think that’s probably what Mona’s saying, too.

  2. MonaKarel

    You are right. Too much of what is called Romance is not very smart. That’s not a new thing. When I first became aware of Romance (1985??) there were a lot of TSTL heroines, not to mention the virginal fluff brains who…well, you know. A few authors wrote stronger women but even they had to insert the manly man alpha male.
    Actually my first Romance books were Mary Stewart, Helen MacInnes, and Andre Norton. I guess by today’s standards they weren’t so romantic? For the most part they had at least hopeful endings…and the writing is superb.
    This need to pigeonhole every book is certainly not in our favor. Greta, you write Romance in the classic definition as well as the modern. Writing about things as better than they are, with a happy at least for now ending. Watching your tough admirals squirm and fall in love with heroines who are delightfully unaware…keeper/reread shelf.

    • Greta

      Thanks so much. I’m glad it’s not just me. I’m so tired of the ‘Romance’ established ‘that’s how it has to be’ brigade.

  3. Julia Barrett

    I was a late-comer to romance. Didn’t read it until 2007. I read some darn good books. Gave up a couple years ago. Most of what is out there now IS rubbish. I’m back to lit fic, sci fi, fantasy and nonfic.

    • Greta

      I’m reclassifying most of mine to space opera, and SF action/adventure. If people want to find them, they will. If not… meh

      • Nya Rawlyns

        I think that’s an excellent move. The romance genre is so rigid, so fraught with entitlement that authors are being forced to spoon feed overwrought sensibilities, and it’s creating a monster in the process. The spillover into other genres (gay fiction, SF, suspense, etc) creates a nightmare for authors who refuse to kowtow to fantastical and unrealistic expectations about situations, behaviors and outcomes.
        I’ll find you, wherever you go, whichever shelf you decide to sit on.

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