Romance Novels--What Are They?

Several writers have asked me exactly what constitutes a romance novel/story. So here it is, straight from RWA (Romance Writers of America).

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story -- In a romance, the main plot concerns two people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. The conflict in the book centers on the love story. The climax in the book resolves the love story. A writer is welcome to as many subplots as she likes as long as the relationship conflict is the main story.
An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending -- Romance novels end in a way that makes the reader feel good. They work on the premise of an innate emotional justice with the notion that the world rewards the good and punishes the evil. In a romance, the lovers risk and struggle for each other and their relationship to attain an emotional justice and unconditional love. After meeting the central love story and optimistic-ending criteria, a romance novel can be set anywhere and involve any number of plot elements. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction. (See subgenres below)
Romance Novel Formats:
There are two formats for romance fiction:
Series or “Category” romances are shorter and released in order and by month, with a series number on each title. Harlequin/Silhouette is the most common publisher of these books.
Single-title romances--longer romances released individually and not as part of a numbered series - published by any number of New York City publishers.
Romance Novels--Subgenres
All romances have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending. Beyond that, however, romance novels can be set in any time or place, entertain any number of plot elements, or convey moods from light and humorous to dark and suspenseful. The genre of romance contains various sub-genres, depending on their setting and plot elements. Those sub-genres include:
Contemporary romance -- romances set after the World Wars
Historical romance -- romances set before the World Wars
Inspirational romance -- romances containing spiritual themes
Paranormal romance -- romances containing "other-worldly" elements such as magic, mystic characters or fantasy and science fiction elements
Regency romance -- romances set in England in the early 1800s
Romantic suspense -- romances containing mystery and intrigue
Time-travel romance -- (Included in Paranormal sub-genre) romances set in two different time-periods, with characters "time-traveling" between both.

I hope this helps those who are working on, or aspiring to write romance!

1 comment:

Julie Kellerman said...

Also while I'm still here, I'd like to comment on this post too, kaye. It is exactly what we need to keep in mind all the time as we create out stories. The relationship between the Hero and Heroine has to come first, before we start throwing in all those great subplots. I love my subplots, and sometimes I create that first before I get my h/H together. How about you, or anyone else? Julie