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Monday, July 8, 2013

Romance vs. romance

It's a nebula, not a Romance cover. But I love this picture.
It's weird how life gives you coincidences. I just started graduate school and the only class I'm taking (started last week!) is discussing academic writing, i.e. the thesis and dissertation, in context as a genre. Many of the differences between genres can be reduced to a difference in style - what is accepted within the audience for that genre. The whole situation that triggered this post could have been avoided if both parties had been clear on what genre they were writing and editing.

I don't write Romance with a capital R. I'm not sure I could. I was involved in a situation a couple of months that really brought home the differences between Romance and other genres. It's a matter of style.

Long story short, I had a story accepted for an anthology. I thought the anthology was for the whole spectrum of writing, from other genres with a strong romantic element all the way to Romance. My story was definitely on the romantic element end of the spectrum but it wasn't written as a Romance. It wasn't intended to be.

The editor wanted to rewrite my entire story. She didn't want me to add sex-plumbing scenes or anything erotic. She wanted me to change the focus of the story from the action to the inner monologue and emotions. She wanted me to change my word choices and sentence structure. My writing wasn't bad. The story had a few plot problems that needed addressed. But those weren't mentioned. I had neglected to make the characters' inner voice and emotions the main thrust of the story. I had written it as a science fiction adventure story, not as a Romance.

Lessons I learned from this include some stylistic differences when writing Romance:

1. The attraction between characters should be the central focus of your story. Everything else that happens is supporting or conflicting with that emotional connection.

2. Inner voice monologuing is appropriate and expected.

3. Emotions are more important than action or description.

I also learned I don't enjoy writing Romance. For me, a good story has a solid plot and lots of external action. It was a tough decision to pull my story from the anthology, but ultimately I have to do what is best for me and my writing. I wish the editors and authors in the anthology all the best of luck with the endeavor. We just didn't see eye-to-eye about my story.

Most of the people involved in the project are from the Romance side of publishing. I'm coming to the group from the opposite side. I write science fiction and silly horror. Romance is a sub-plot at best in my work. I was hoping to find common ground with them and I have in some areas. But in others? They're a foreign species.

Different genres have different writing styles. If you're going to cross genre boundaries, you'd better know the accepted styles. If you deviate too much, it can lead to issues with your work not being accepted by either publishers or readers. I'm beginning to wonder how to reconcile science fiction and Romance. Or even if it's possible. The two styles are mutually exclusive in many areas. Fantasy Romance works. The two genres are closer stylistically and romance is expected, at least to some degree, in fantasy stories. Same with Romantic Suspense and Romantic Thrillers.

I may have to sample more SFR books. I've read plenty of SF, from hard SF to space opera, and plenty of Romances, historical to contemporary to suspense. But the few SFR books I've read so far tend to leave me unsatisfied. The SF doesn't ring true, and the Romance feels contrived. Must be time for more research...

Do you have a favorite science fiction romance book or story that you've read? Did it satisfy both the science fiction reader AND the romance reader in you? Why or why not? I'm curious how other people feel about this.