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How romantic is romantic enough?

24. September 2008

It’s a debate that comes up a lot amongst romance writers of all sub-genres. How much romance does there have to be for it to be considered romance?

This is especially important for contests sponsored by RWA and the like. An entry might be really, really good, funny, entertaining, suspenseful, wahtever. But is it romance? And what makes a romance?

When RWAm had this discussion recently, a lot of feathers were ruffled, and the end result satisfied no one, it seemed. But these distinctions are necessary in an organisation that bills itself as genre-specific.
It’s a hard balance to strike between being as inclusive as possible while still staying true to the heart of the genre as it were.

A “pure” (some might say old-fashioned) romance is one girl, one guy, their relationship is the main focus of the story, and there will be a HEA, happy ever after of some form, often by guy and girl making a lasting commitment to each other and/or producing some sort of offspring.

But self-professed romance writers come in all shapes and story sizes, from guy-on-guy and girl-on-girl action to not ending up with the love interest of the book at all to menages and beyond. Where do they fall?
Where do subgenres like teen fiction, family sagas and the controversially-named chick lit fall?
In a romantic suspense, is the action more important or the love scenes? how much page time does each get?

There is no simple answer here, but a lot of interesting discussion.

Last year, the RITA (aka the Oscar of romance fiction) for best contemporary novel went controversially to a young adult novel about a teen musician. There was romance in there, but it wasn’t at the forefront of the story.

This year, the R*BY (Australian romantic book of the year) went to a mainstream novel by an author who doesn’t define romance in quite the same way a lot of other people do.

Is this a problem? Maybe.
Is there an easy solution? Clearly not. These rules and awards don’t come about arbitrarily. There are committees, sub-committees, contest coordinators and a swarm of judges, all with their own vision of what makes a romance a romance.

What is romance to you? What makes a book romantic?
I know lots of blogs have talked about this, so link me back. i want to know more about what’s out there and what’s been said.

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