Today I am handing over to author Helena Fairfax as she talks about why romance novels are predictable …
Why Romance Novels Are All So Predictable
by Helena Fairfax
Some time ago I took a box of leaflets from the Romantic Novelists’ Association into my local independent bookshop. The leaflets listed all the nominees for that year’s Romantic Novelists’ Awards – some of the UK’s best romance writers – and I asked the manager if he’d like a handful of them to display in the shop. He curled his lip (in the manner of a cliché-ed hero) and said, “We don’t stock that type of book here.” (!)
These days I’m used to people’s reactions when I say I write romance, but that isn’t to say I understand it. That bookseller had some of the greatest romance novels of all time on his shelves – authors such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë – as well as modern romances such as Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding, and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.
What do all these books have in common? Boy meets girl, boy and girl have some difficulties to overcome, their problems are resolved, there is a happy ending. Just think how wildly different those romances are I’ve just mentioned. Does the similarity in the structure of the plot really make them all trite and predictable?
Besides writing romance, I also read and love all sorts of other genres, including crime. Here is a crime plot (and you can have this one for free!):
A body has been found. A detective hunts for the killer. The detective is a maverick – happy to go it alone but with one good friend he/she can rely on. He/she has a drink problem (or drugs in Sherlock Holmes’ case), is surrounded by idiots he has to work with, and has dysfunctional relationships with his family. Lots of problems occur in the hunt for the killer, and the detective gets into many tricky situations, but in the end he/she solves the crime.
That structure fits tons of crime novels I’ve read, and yet I still really enjoy reading them. Of course the reader knows the detective will solve the crime. They also know that in a romance the story will end happily and the hero and the heroine will get together. The question is, HOW? In romance novels there is always some form of conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart – Mr Darcy’s pride and Lizzie Bennett’s prejudice keep them from getting together, for example. The writer keeps the reader wondering how the conflict between the protagonists can possibly be resolved. This gives the novel its page-turning quality and prevents it being predictable – we don’t know HOW the happy ending will be achieved – in the same way we don’t know HOW Sherlock Holmes is going to solve the crime. No one ever accused Conan Doyle of being predictable, even though his stories always end the same way, and that’s because the journey is such a fascinating read. It’s the same with good romance novels.
Love stories are some of the oldest stories in the world. There are millions of romance novels, and so there are bound to be a massive number of them that are badly written – just like there are tons of badly written crime novels and thrillers, sci-fi and so-called literary works. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t great writers who write in these genres. What I’d really love to see is more talented writers taking on the challenge of writing a great romance, and fewer people denigrating the skill involved in writing an entertaining and moving love story – the type of story that has produced some of the greatest works in fiction.
Do you find it hard to admit to liking romance novels? Do you think it’s true that they are predictable? Have you ever read a crime novel where the detective didn’t solve the murder?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Emma. It’s been fab doing an #authortakeover!
Thank you, Helena, for this fantastic piece! It’s so true how the plot lines for most of the books I read follow the same pattern, but I still read them and LOVE them!
If you’re an author an would like to feature in my #AuthorTakeover email me at EmmaMitchellFPR@gmail.com using the #AuthorTakeover in the subject
Helena’s latest release, Felicity at the Cross Hotel, is a romance and (spoiler alert!) it has a happy ending …
Here is the blurb:
A quaint hotel in the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.
With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?
Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now which is just as well, since these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. Helena walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings. Subscribers to Helena’s newsletter receive news of free stuff, competitions with prizes, gossip, and links to cool websites she’s been looking at when she should have been writing.
Amazon universal buy link for Felicity at the Cross Hotel: http://mybook.to/FelicityCH
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