Friday, December 18, 2009

Elmo Says

Today's post is brought to you by the letters R and U.

For years, the romance community has been arguing about the definition of romance, how much sex is permissible and/or necessary, and how to balance internal and external plots within the context of a romance.

I've entered the fray privately, with trusted friends over bottles of red, but if memory serves, this is the first time I've spoken publicly on the matter. My comments won't resolve the issue, but that's okay. This is a subject that lends itself to debate moreso than to resolution.



Leona said...

Nice post as always. It's a good one for me as I'm always debating with myself how to present my book in the query.

For me, the human interaction and byplay is what makes things happen. For example, why did someone kill, what drove them there?

The relationships are there and will develop regardless of what kind of book I'm writing and I can't pull out the plot and have it stand alone as it is the relationships (or lack thereof) that determine the actions.

I'm writing what I'm billing as a thriller, but it has heavy romantic elements. I think Kay Hooper's Bishop series is the closest type of book to what I'm writing, althogh, my main character's abilities have nothing to do with psychic powers.

I like your idea of going out and checking the spines of the books like yours. It will help me when I write the query letter. It's almost finished at 42k, most of which has been edited adnaseum.

This post came at a good time as I will need to start writing the query letter to edit it along with the end of my story.

Dave Shaw said...

Thanks for responding to Anna so promptly, Theresa. I'm the one who suggested she send you the question. I thought it sounded like something you'd like to address.

Since the online writing group where we were discussing it is spec fic oriented, the discussion wasn't as long and heated as it might have been on a romance writers' group. Your post will make a great reference for those of us who don't immerse ourselves in the romance genre. I can't really speak for the folks who do, but I hope they like it, too.

Edittorrent said...

Dave, thanks for sending her my way. This has been a hot-button issue in the romance community for years. I answered the question within that context, but really, the same holds true across genres. Find a book that resembles yours. Notice where it is shelved in the bookstore. There's your genre. :)

Leona, if that human interaction is in furtherance of the formation of a lasting romantic attachment, then it might be romantic suspense.


Jami Gold said...

Thank you, Theresa,

I've been billing my WIP as a 'paranormal with romance and suspense elements'. But I liked your questions in the article's comments. No, I couldn't remove one of the romantic lead characters. The romantic attachment is closely linked to the external plot and makes the plot issues resonate stronger. However (and this is a big however), although there is a happy ending, the H/h don't end up together at the end of the story. There's only a promise that the possibility exists for the future. Because of that reason, I've been reluctant to label it "romance" as I don't want readers to expect one thing and be disappointed with the actual ending.

Jami G.

Anna Kashina said...

Dear Theresa,

Thanks a lot for addressing my comment. I am very grateful to you for choosing it for the Friday post(and to Dave for suggesting that I write to you about this). I certainly learned a lot and got a much better feel for it now.

Thanks again,


Leona said...

I know it's Christmas. However, when you get a chance can you address Jami's dilemna?

If you are writing a book, especially one in say, a trilogy, where they don't end up married with children after the first one, how do you bill it? Is it still a romance if you PLAN on them getting together at the end of said trilogy?

Jami's right that you have to be careful not to make your reader angry over expectations becasue of what genre it is in. However, I think that cuts both ways. What if you say it's a suspense and your reader feels like they were cheated because it's a romance? Or your editor decides you're a lunatic because you can't tell one genre from the next and decides you're not worth the time to train?

I still don't understand a lot about this business, and some of the comments on other blogs (never this one!) have made me feel insecure about showing that lack of knowledge. For example, people expect everyone to know where/how to look up an agent, how not to get cheated by one, and how to jump out of the gate and just KNOW how the query letter is supposed to be, if not how to actually word it, to get said agent.

I get frustrated with the elitist attitude that not only should everyone should know where and how to get the information they need, but they should automatically know what it is they need to know. GRRR

Sorry about that rant. *breathe* Okay, I got that off my chest. Seriously though, it would help to have a good footing on the To Romance, or Not to Romance for the query letter if I knew how important the ending was to the labeling of it.

Jami Gold said...


Have you memorized my dilemma? Or are you in the same boat? :) (trilogy where H/h don't end up together after the first one)

I know that Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series started with the H/h not ending up together after the first one. She didn't consider it a romance for that reason, but she won an RWA award for it anyway. :) So, the market will sometimes tolerate that type of story. I haven't read her book (I really should, just so I know what I'm referring to here!), so I don't know how "promising" things were left between the characters.

And you know that you can always ask people here, or email me privately, if you have any questions. I can't stand elitism where people assume others are stupid just because they haven't learned something yet. Everybody started out knowing nothing at some point, right? :)

Jami G.

Dave Shaw said...

There is far more that I'll never know than that I'll ever know.

(I don't know if that's a quote, but if it isn't, it oughta be. ;-) )

Edittorrent said...

There are different ways to label such a book. If I remember right, Outlander won for SRE, RWA's designation for a book with "strong romantic elements" that doesn't necessarily meet their particular definition of romance.

In a bookstore, it might be shelved with romance, or maybe with genfic. It depends on the specifics of the book.

We have a series under way in which the main couple doesn't end up together until the final book. In fact, at the end of the first book, the hero dies and the heroine goes to an otherwordly place sort of like purgatory. We're still calling it romance, though one reviewer disputed the label.

I'm not sure that answers your question, but "paranormal romantic suspense" might imply that the couple gets together at the end of the first book.