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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why NOT Non-Romance?

This question is for both readers AND writers.

We all know the eternal popularity of romance focused novels, whether the commercial romance books such as those put out by Harlequin or the many other genres and styles of writing of whom a primary element is the romance.

Please DON'T extol me with the many reasons why you love romance. I get it. And I am very pleased that so many enjoy reading about this age old relationship that goes back to the dawn of time. I am also very pleased that you have so many books to choose from. There's nothing like having access to all the books you could possibly want to read. It's awesome!

What I do want to know is why writers don't write more NON-romance books and why more readers don't read them? Perhaps I should take a moment and give some definitions:

In the publishing world and among readers, they may differentiate between "romance novel", "love story" and however many other definitions there may be.

I define romance as:
1. Any book for which the major or minor theme is about the love relationship between a man and a woman, whether it be a book where the man and the woman are waiting to "get together" in the end or it is a story of a married couple finding love again after going through some trials of life.
2. To put it more simply--a romance novel to me is any novel for whom I pick up and read the back cover blurb and it mentions romance in any way, shape or form.

I would sincerely like to know why it is that more people don't write non-romance novels and why most readers won't read non-romance novels. Our lives are comprised of so many different kinds of relationships. We are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, mentors, acquaintances, employers, employees, etc etc.

Is it because:
1. Writers don't think it's economically sound to write non-romance fiction?
2. Other types of relationships are boring comparatively speaking and don't have the same depth of value that the romantic relationship has?
3. Is writing/reading about non-romance relationships not considered an "escape" read?
4. Is it too hard to come up with story ideas that are non-romance focused?

RE: #1: From my standpoint, there is a LOT of validity to this. As a reader seeking but not finding many non-romance historicals in CBA fiction (I don't know if this is a problem in the general market or not), I think there is extreme pressure to write books with romance threads. From a business standpoint it makes sense--that's where virtually all the readers are. And writers obviously want to make money.

RE: #2: I have no idea what writers and readers think about this. Or even if it even comes up in their minds. I get the impression, due to lack of non-romance titles, that other relationship types seem more boring to the average reader.

#2 is possibly the stickiest reason to address--I can see some argument coming---writers are perfectly capable of weaving stories that are romance but that also address other relationship issues. I absolutely agree. My all time favorite book is Zane Grey's Forlorn River, and there is no question that Zane Grey was known as a writer of the romantic western. But the reason Forlorn River is so awesome is because of the FRIENDSHIP found in its pages, NOT the romance. But the point is--he did BOTH. And yes, even today it is successfully done (i.e. Nancy Turner's These Is My Words, which I have read 3 times, has a beautiful romance in it, but there was a lot more going on in the arena of relationships). But I think the numbers are much smaller, at least to me.

RE: #3: Again, I don't know what the writer/reader is thinking. I can only assume that non-romance books are not quite the escape fiction that romance is (there are exceptions in genres that traditionally don't seem to focus on the romance angle as much, say thrillers).

RE: #4: I wonder if there isn't a good deal of validity to this for a couple reasons:

1. Of all the relationships, certainly romance can be applied in the broadest scope and is hampered least by time, location, and other factors. Certainly more than say, employer/employee, or perhaps even fathers and sons, etc.

2. Since, across the ages, romance, the very nature of our continuing the species, is so hard-wired into our brains, it is difficult for people to NOT think about it and most people wouldn't want to. Even I find myself wondering if some story needs a tiny element of romance, but then I question myself---is it because, like Pavlov's dog, I've been trained to think "everybody wants romance" or is it because the story truly needs it?

So what is my point in writing this post? My point is, I desire to read a form of fiction that is extremely difficult to find--non-romance historical. I talk to other people who wish there was more of a non-romance offering (not necessarily just historical), but this inevitably small segment of the market just doesn't get any traction.

So by blogging about it, I'm hopeful of identifying others who might wish for some non-romance historical fiction and perhaps we can brainstorm together how to connect writers and readers of this fiction.


Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

Good questions, Brenda. I think the answer is probably found in the cliche - follow the money. Women buy the most books. Maybe publishers reach out to the female gender by adding romance to historicals that otherwise would appeal more to men.

I think there is a need for more books about friendship without the romantic angle.

BK said...

And traditionally, I've been far more drawn to books that would "appeal to men" but it seems that the majority of men (there's that mysterious blanket majority again) tend toward Science Fiction or Fantasy etc. I don't tend to hear too many men comment on reading historical.

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Cathee said...

I hate cheesy romance stories, for one thing, do they exist? And if they do? Why aren't I in one? lol They ar overrated.
I think it's great you're wanting to take your stories in a different direction. We both know, you can be happy and fulfilled without a man in your life, and it's great you're setting that trend in your stories. You go girl!