Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just what is romance?

Ok I should first preface this with the admission that I am not a Romance author. I say Romance with a big “R” to indicate a book or author whose books are placed in the romance section of a bookstore and handled by editors and agents within that genre.

I am however a author who writes romance. By the little “r” I’m referring to the fact that romance is the heart of my stories. It may not be the plot driving mechanism that it is in Romance books- but without romance my books would be less dimensional, have less feeling and heart.

Whenever I come up with my heroine (or hero) I almost always immediately think up their significant other. Again- even though my plots (so far) could exist quite well with no romance- I find my brain automatically switches onto “Ok, here’s my lead- now where is her partner- where’s the guy who’s going to join her for this adventure? “

I, however, don’t really put much in terms of sex in my books (yes, I know- I have a few folks who hate me for that ;)). It’s not that I’m a prude; I read Romance books and enjoy them. I just don’t feel it fits with my writing at this point. Or with my current projects. And there really aren’t undying declarations of love either.

So is it possible to have romance without Romance or Sex?


Probably the easiest example would be a tv show. Doctor Who (new incarnation) had a massive low level love story between the Doctor and his first companion, Rose. This was played out slowly and there were no overt sexual or Romantic elements for the most part. But there is no denying there was romance. An example of this was in a video made by an extremely talented friend of mine Ryalin.

There is no doubt from the clips that these two characters loved each other (which you can get even if you have never seen the tv show ;)).

Yet there is no sex, no deep passionate embraces. However the emotion is there.
So this all comes back to what is romance? Can I in good conscience say that I am not a Romance writer, yet I write stories with romance?

Here’s what the dictionary has to say:

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 b : a class of such literature
2 : something (as an extravagant story or account) that lacks basis in fact
3 : an emotional attraction or aura belonging to an especially heroic era, adventure, or activity

Hmmm- it does mention “a love story” but there seems to be so much more. It appears that by the above definition most all fiction that has some emotional pull is in fact a romance.

I would state that romance is the emotional connection between two people, a pull towards each other. And that it's pretty much in most everything.


  1. I think many books are romantic without being a "romance". Adding love and relationships to a book help to make it rich even if their "love story" isn't the central focus of the plot.

    Bag of Bones was a great Stephen King novel which could never be shelved in "Romance", but the entire theme of the book was love and loss and it felt very romantic. Such a beautiful love story played out alongside the ghost...

    Anyway, short answer, Yes you can write romance into books that won't be shelved in Romance. :)

    In my opinion! LOL


  2. Wow, Maria. Your description fits exactly how I write. In an abstract sense no to tale is complete without a relationship, even Hemingway's famous short story: "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

    But i think you (and I) mean a pairing of souls, people (in whatever shape) who share a common bond of love for one another. Yeah, OK, so the romance doesn't drive the plot, but it certainly adds interest and can really complicate things.

    So we can classify our work as "Romantic Elements," but without the romantic relationship the story would be flatter.

    I write SF and fantasy (The sword and sorcery kind) but every story winds up with one or more romances, even when I don't plan it. Would you believe a Roman Tribune who falls for a NY Anchorwomen? Go figure!

    I've had complaints from critters that I've got to much romance because "This is not a romance novel."

    Well, yeah, it is if I say it is.

  3. wonderful analysis of the Big R v. the r you prefer to write .. and thanks for including the video .. somehow I missed it previously

  4. Thanks for the comments all :) Excellent points!

  5. Hi, Marie,

    I'm brand new here, just wandered over after your post at Linnea Sinclair's listserve. I'm not a writer, just a voracious reader.

    I wanted to comment that, although I've read many, many Romances, I generally enjoy romance with a small r more than with a big R, because the romances are more subtle. Unfortunately, many Romance novels hit you over the head with the immediate chemistry, physical attraction, and/or enormous conflict between the hero and heroine. I really like something that's a bit more like real life (at least for me), where relationships build gradually, there's more going on in the story than just the relationship, and the characters reveal themselves through their reactions to those situations. A couple of my favorite examples of this are two Lois McMaster Bujold books, Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt.

    So I encourage you to keep it up! There are those of us who like subtlety with our romance.