Sunday, 9 August 2015

Blog Post: Are You Getting the Most Out Of the Romance Genre?


I’ve been thinking for a while now that I should do a series of blog posts asking what it is that draws people to their favourite fiction and sub-genres, whether it be as an author writing your chosen genre, a book reviewer critiquing that work or a reader being transported into a different world.

As a reader, I guess the reason for me wanting to do this really stems from a number of books I’ve recently read (not particularly in Romance) that have left me somewhat dissatisfied and flat - but then again, what I find dissatisfying someone else may very well find satisfying!

It’s no secret that my favourite genres and their subs are Romance, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Crime/Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Historical and some Chick-Lit, with my taste in characteristics varying between them all but there are times in all these genres where I could just hurl the book (or my Samsung Tablet) across the room because I feel like I’ve been cheated owing to the fact that there is some aspect that the author has either not addressed or has saturated the story with.

Which leads me to the point that reading is one of the most subjective pastimes, with everybody taking away something different after that last page is turned – in other words, what I take away from a novel isn’t necessarily going to be the same message that you take away and so on and so forth – just have a look at the various books and reviews that we all write and read, they’re so diverse.

In this first post in the series I’m going to start with Romance, including all its sub-genres, except for Romantic Suspense which I will chat about in another post.

I read a lot of Romance novels (and have been doing so since I was about 15 years old) but I think it’s quite obvious from my blog that my days of reading superficial romances are over – you know, the “formulaic” ones where boy meets girl, an issue arises, they split and then make up for a happily ever after without any real character development, emotion or substance.

Not that I have anything against those early romances (you know the ones) - I practically “teethed” on them as a teenager and used to read about 4 a day - but perhaps my reading tastes have matured as I’ve gotten older?

These days those tastes extend more towards romance with heart and by that I mean those that explore a genuine social, moral, environmental or emotional issue, one that I can literally sink my teeth into with my personal philosophy being that there are too many great books out there to keep reading one bad one.

I realise that most Romance has to be “formulaic” to some extent in that it requires a beginning (where the characters are introduced to each other), a middle (presenting us with an issue) and an ending (always leading to a happily ever after), with some sizzle and even plenty of heat in between, which are the building blocks for penning these stories and the reason why most of us pick them up – to be swept away by the romance of the story - but for me, there needs to be another hook, either in the form of secondary characters whose interactions and dialogue with both protagonists add value to the story, or viewpoint.

Most of you who visit my blog will know by now that characters, depth, emotion, substance and tension are fundamental elements in my reading because they help me to connect with my chosen protagonist and their journey. So, too, are secondary characters, believable emotional conflict that moves the story forward, steady pacing, an external plot that doesn’t require my suspension of disbelief, that all-important “show don’t tell” rule and great dialogue, especially if the story is being told from only one character’s point of view.

For instance, secondary characters who interact with the hero and heroine as well as meaningful dialogue are important, specifically if the story is being told from only one character’s point of view because, by adding these in, the author is able to fully flesh-out the other character whose point of view is not being shared.

In terms of viewpoint, especially in a romance where the story is almost always told from the heroine’s point of view, I also think it’s an added bonus to have the male’s perspective given to us and always feel that in doing this it enables me to appreciate his thoughts and motivations far more.

After all, both people involved in a romance are important!

Regarding Historical Romance, detailed settings, authentic language and fashion are always significant in absorbing a reader and transporting them to another time and place with a historically accurate background. In this respect, the research aspect is essential in assisting the reader to evoke sights, smells, tastes and atmosphere, thus making it historically rich and giving it substance. Without this, there is only the romance holding it together and the reader feels as though they’ve been let down.

I understand that there are limits on word counts and only so much that an author can put into their story without it being edited out to suit the genre’s requirements so, at the end of the day, am I just being picky and does it all come down to reader preference?

I could go on for hours but for the sake of brevity (yes, those dreaded word counts – they even apply to reviewers), I’ll end by saying that in no way do I mean for any of these posts to become hotly debated topics but rather an insight and a conversation starter for what I, as a reader foremost, and you as my followers and fellow readers, would like to see in the Romance genre.

It would also be fantastic to receive feedback from Romance authors regarding their feelings and how they approach their preferred storylines, structuring and techniques.

On that note and, hoping that I have made at least some sense in what I am trying to communicate, I leave you with these questions –

Are you getting the most out of the Romance Genre?

What elements/characteristics draws you to it and why?

Until next time, Happy Reading!

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