I’m not going to take the necessary time to go over all the ways romance gets a bad rap. If you read or write the genre, you know that it’s up against a high level of misconception and condescension for myriad reasons. But despite all those things people tend to say about romance, reading it has made me a fundamentally better author, both in and out of the genre. These books are often escapist and fantastical, yes, but I have taken many important writing skills and themes away from them. Here are just a few.
Stories are character driven:
It doesn’t matter if you read a pirate romance, a viking romance or a vampire romance. It doesn’t matter if you never stray from the regency duke. Each and every book will be different, because the characters in the stories are different. Yes, romance all ends fundamentally the same way. We want that HEA, it’s what we signed up for. But the reason we keep reading and reading and reading the genre is because the heroes and heroines are what drives the story. We follow for the characters and the way they learn and grow. After that, everything else sort of falls into place.
Books can be light and educational:
I put down a book by Eloisa James and immediately pick up Twelfth Night, inspired by her references and expertise on all things Shakespeare. Another historical romance novel featuring Ada Lovelace brought me to the delightful and dangerous poetry of Lord Byron and onward and upward. Yes, romance is considered a carefree genre, and it often fits the theme. But just because it’s not thick or heavy or academic doesn’t mean that it’s not intelligent. In fact, sometimes finding an easy and fun way to integrate ‘educational’ elements is a really fun challenge.
Research is a necessary evil:
If I believe that a writer did their research and then decided to do ignore a piece of history or an anachronistic detail, I won’t make too much of a fuss. But if it feels like the details are wrong because the author just didn’t bother, that will make me reconsider whether or not to read the book. Research is hard and it’s not always the most fun part of the writing process. But the more I read about eras past and contemporary worlds I know nothing about, the more I understand that I owe it to my readers to take the time and do it right.
Trust your readers:
Perhaps this errs more on the side of YA romance, but it does happen across genres and romance is by no means exempt. My audience is smart. The reader knows what’s up and deserves to get some credit for that. Not everything needs to be spelled out. Readers want to be challenged, not spoken down to.
Writing is supposed to be fun!
This might be the most difficult one for me to remember. After all, writing is my job and sometimes the work is hard, really hard. For instance, I’ve been hacking away at edits on my full=length manuscript to pitch to an editor and agent this week and it’s been a lot of up ‘til midnights and up at sixes. Yeah, again, it’s a job. But when I sit down and read a romance novel or short story, I remember why I do it, why I’m happy to skip dinners out with friends and live with my parents a little bit longer to make this whole thing work. Romance writing is a joy, it’s an exciting, wonderful adventure, and I consider myself lucky to experience it.
So yes, romance is escapist and light–the perfect distraction from work or chores or errands, the perfect book for your summer hammock time or day at the beach. But those things don’t detract from its value as a teacher, in fact, they make it a much stronger tool and guide for many other forms of writing.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go learn something… ♥