It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that Romance fiction is judged the way most things female are judged–with a broad brush covered in rose petals and sparkles. Sugar and spice and everything nice is all well and good, but it’s not all we are, and it’s not all that romance writing is.
Chick-lit, chick-flicks–yes, such things exist in the exact form you’ve instantly conjured with those terms. There is a place for these lighter-than-air stories crafted to give no more than a moment or two of, “Oh, no–poor character. Her latte wasn’t fat free and now she’ll be all bloaty for her date.” They’re a form of fantasy, maybe a little wish fulfillment in a real life of job, kids, spouses, dog-poop on the carpet and/or dating a thousand frogs in the hopes of kissing a prince. Or worse. I know, when we were going through the worst of the worst, I devoured romance fiction of this nature like a kid on a melting fudg’icle.
Then there is the rest of romance, the kind that touches on deep, painful, uplifting, complicated and otherwise intense aspects of life. Or death. There is romance set in war-time, in the aftermath of natural disaster, in the quiet and tragic illness of a loved one. There is also comedic romance, suspenseful romance. As a matter of fact, just add “romance” to any genre, and you’ll find excellent examples of what you can easily find. Anywhere. The “romance” part simply means there is a love story at the core, and that those two people will find a way to one another in the end.
Now, I get it. In this world of self-publishing, there is a whole lot of poorly written stuff out there.And it’s not as if every traditionally published novel is fabulous. I’ve read quite a few stinkers on both sides of that fence. But you know what? Some of that “poorly written” stuff sells really, really well. Why? For the same reason it has since Professor Bhaer admonished Jo March that she wasn’t a real writer until she stopped writing her pirate stories–it speaks to a large number of readers, in language that doesn’t make them feel talked down to, or talked at. It reads the way they speak, the way they relate stories. In short–it’s real.
Some readers want a more elevated form in their reading, just like some viewers prefer a film that has won awards in Cannes to those that win Golden Globes. And don’t get all wonky about me using the word elevated. I’m not saying one is for dumb people while the other is for smart people. One of the smartest people I know loves the Zoolander movies. Even I, grammar fiend, word-dancer that I am, love me some Tosh.0. Elevated simply means it’s done in an artful, more formal way. It’s almost a fantasy, because few people speak the way such novels are written. There are those who look for word acrobatics, for prescriptive grammar over descriptive. And then there are some who have no patience for such things.
And you know what else? There’s a whole lot of stuff in-between that satisfies readers on both ends of the spectrum. That’s the beauty of life–diversity. Romance is diverse. There will always be good writing, and bad writing. Romance has its fair share, but defining an entire genre by that share is snobbery, and it’s unfortunate, because there is a whole lot of good stuff being passed over because it’s romance. The ever-growing genre of women’s fiction is growing as it is because people will pick up and be seen reading women’s fiction when they’d never even consider romance. I hate to tell you this, people, but most of what you read is romance. #sorrynotsorry
This whole thing was sparked by an article shared by a sister-in-romance on Facebook this morning. Here’s the article.
Here, have a cute little crab. Peace out.