Don’t you hate a girl whose whole life seems to revolve around her man? Who has nothing else to contribute to any conversation besides what he’s said to her, done for her, or bought for her?
You and me both, and that’s the issue I have with many romances. We get about a page of career talk. A few paragraphs about the aggravating sister and mother whose values clash with those of our protagonist. Maybe we talk about the weather.
Then he shows up. Lightning strikes. The earth moves. Time stops and the very sun dims because it is no match for his dazzling smile and diamond watch. And our lucky protagonist ends up stuck with him somehow, fighting her attraction for some reason, and secretly hoping that someday he’ll love her back.
What does she do in the meantime? Oh, the usual. A lot of lunches with girlfriends where she can talk about him. A few shifts at work where she can drag down productivity and think about him. Ooh, maybe she’ll get fired! More time to spend with him, right? And with all this free time, she can get dressed up and go to a party with him. If all goes well, she’ll be confronted by his bitchy ex, which will dampen her feelings for him, giving us a reason to flip past a silly argument to the makeup sex.
I sound like the worst romance writer ever, don’t I? I don’t even sound like I like romance. I even sound like one of those pretentious individuals who think genre books are beneath them. And I swear I’m not!
I love romance. For the sex, for the fashion, for the fights filled with passion. It is nice to read about those first love experiences. Who doesn’t want to quiver at someone’s touch, to have mind-blowing orgasms and Veuve Cliquot afterward?
The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced that I’m not actually writing a romance. There’s sex, yes. There’s a few conflicts to keep them unsure of one another, and there’s a happily ever after.
There’s also a story arc all about hiring an architect. The backstory is not a few lines about a crazy father or no-good ex. I explore Rey’s issues in detail. I write what I want to read, and I want to read about racial and gender discrimination in the workplace, the usefulness of MFA programs, the difficulty of caring for a sick family member, and the ways we create a narrative for ourselves, picking up identity pieces and discarding what doesn’t fit. I want to talk cognitive dissonance.
This gives me a whole new set of worries, not that I was sick of the old ones or anything. What if I’m just writing a bloated romance? What if romance readers find it too long and women’s fiction fans find it too short? What if, Christ preserve us, I am just a pretentious romance writer? A wannabe novelist swinging too hard and striking out? And what about ask this preliminary research I’ve been doing about marketing a romance? Somebody pour me some Veuve.
I know what I need to do. First, I need to read more. I’ve been downloading romances for the commute, but it’s time to sit down for some focused reading and find out what works and what doesn’t.
That’s where you come in, dear reader. Do you think I’m stressing over nothing? How important is genre distinction? What books should I read if I’m transitioning more to women’s fiction? Please leave a book title in the comments that you think I should read. and whatever else you want to say, of course 🙂