Last month we did not have our usual Writers’ Guide 101 class, and given my extra busy schedule, I was almost tempted to overlook the class of this April. But I told myself a definite no. For one thing we are behind on a lot of things I wanted us to discuss and learn here. By now, we should have been moving over to POVs (Point of Views) in writing. But we are behind.
Not to waste our time today, and bore us any more than usual *wink*, today’s lesson is on THE ROMANCE GENRE and its SUB-GENRES.
The Romance Genre is a widely known and the most popular fiction genre in the history of Fiction genres. And no, that wasn’t an exaggeration; it is the reality. No genre sells as much and as far as the Romance Genre. Despite the many slurs cast on it by “superior-genre” readers, and sometimes writers, the Romance Genre continues to thrive and continues to sell.
Let me say this quickly before we go on, Stephen King, yes the legendary Stephen King, started off his writing career as a closet Romance Writer under the Penname: Regina Stephens. I got this nice piece of information from an article written in 2006 on a blog called WRITERIOUS.
Surprise much? Don’t be, many writers/authors you know now as other genre writers/authors have delved, and some are still, into the Romance Genre. Many under unknown Pennames.
Back to our lesson though.
The Romance Genre is a fiction genre with two very basic elements:
- A central love story
- An emotionally satisfying and optimistic end
These are the two basic elements of the Romance genre, and you cannot do without them.
A Romance story is a story based on love. On the love between a man and a woman—in most cases. With the changes in the world today, there are now other variations of a love story. But that is the basic element of a Romance story—Love. And another basic element is that it must end “happily-ever-after”… there is no contesting that fact. If your read a love story that ended as a tragedy or on a melancholic note, then it is likely a Women’s Fiction genre or another Fiction genre altogether.
The Romance genre must end on a happy note. That is the rule.
I know, it is something almost delusional to believe that life experiences must end on a happy note. It is why sadists serious-minded folks have such a problem with the Romance genre. Still whatever anyone’s problem or complaint, the Romance Genre has been a source of joy and respite from real-life problems for many for centuries now. And I daresay it will continue to be so.
I would like to point out that Romance is not erotica and it is not porn. A Romance story does not require sex to be a Romance story. And it does not require the absence of sex to be regarded as a Romance fiction. Sex in Romance stories is relative. Just so we know.
Now, that is a little definition of the Romance Genre. Let us now look at the different Sub-genres that make up this wholesome genre. Before I begin a listing of the subgenres and a little definition of each, I’d like to reiterate that all Romance genres have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending—ALL.
But beyond these two very vital elements of the Romance genre, some Romance stories carry their own tone and style, and some are set on a different era and time and some others have varying degree of sensuality—sweet or hot romance. It is on the basis of these tones and styles and set-eras and sensuality degree that the subgenres of the Romance genre are based on.
So let us begin.
SUBGENRES OF THE ROMANCE GENRE
- CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: This is surely, and in my opinion, one of the most popular Romance subgenres. You find a thousand and more writers, and really great writers, on this subgenre. The Contemporary Romance subgenre is a romance story set in modern times after the World War-II to Present day.
I would like to use my works as samples of this “illustrious” subgenre—Un-Break My Heart, Never Let You Go, Operation Stop The Wedding! Those are three examples of Contemporary Romance.
Now under the Contemporary Romance subgenres, you that other sub-subgenres such as: The Humorous Contemporary Romance which is where my Operation Stop The Wedding! actually falls under. As the name says it is a Romance that is highly based on humour—witty, humorous dialogue and events—and also set on contemporary times.
We also have the Action/Adventure Contemporary Romance; the Baby-Love Contemporary Romance and so on and so on.
- EROTICA ROMANCE: This subgenre is about Romance stories where strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an essential part of the love story.
Again, this is not porn and it is not the pure erotica genre.
In Erotica Romance the description of a sex scene, even a mere romance (kissing) scene, is definitely much more detailed and very much explicit. Erotica Romance can be found in other subgenres of the Romance genre like Historical, Paranormal, Horror and so on.
- HISTORICAL ROMANCE: This is a Romance story plotted in an era before the 1950s, that is, set before the end of the Second World War.
Notable Writers of this subgenre are: Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Anne Stuart, Mary Jo Putney and so on.
One Nigerian writer/author of this subgenre I know, though I have not had the privilege of reading a complete work of hers, is Kiru Taye. She also applies the erotica style/tone into her Historical and well, Contemporary, Romance stories.
- INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE: This subgenre is a faith-based love story. Religious or spiritual beliefs are an integral part of this type of Romance story. Under this Subgenre the CHRISTIAN ROMANCE has come to stand out and sometimes, or many times now, lists itself under “Christian Romance” not Inspirational Romance.
My most favourite writer of this subgenre is Francine Rivers. And my story Take Me As I Am falls into this subgenre—Inspirational Romance.
Note that there are other kinds of Inspirational Romance. It is not just about Christian-faith based romance. There is the Amish Inspirational Romance, Muslim-faith based Romance and so on.
- PARANORMAL ROMANCE: This genre is also known as FANTASY ROMANCE and for some people, FUTURISTIC Romance. Romance stories under this subgenre are either set in fantasy worlds or have paranormal events or science fiction playing an integral role in them.
My favourite writer, Nora Roberts, writes a whole lot of Paranormal Romance like the Key Trilogy, the Three Sisters Island Trilogy and many others. I, myself, have a couple of titles/storylines under the Paranormal subgenre I plan on writing… in time.
- REGENCY ROMANCE: Now for some people, this subgenre falls under or is in line with the Historical Romance subgenre, as it is based in an era that is long past. But it is quite different in the sense that though it is Pre-World War II era set, it is also completely set or plotted around a Royal Family. Which is mostly why you have Britons writing this genre.
I feel like this is not a very popular subgenre in this part of the world. But one writer I will never, ever, forget who specialised in this subgenre is Barbara Cartland.
- ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: Though many still regard Romantic Suspense as just a subgenre of the Romance genre, it is fast becoming a genre of its own. Just like the Women’s Fiction genre. It is a genre that merges the elements of the Mystery and Crime/Detective or Thriller fiction genre with the elements of the Romance genre to bring out gut-kicker stories.
Romantic Suspense writers explore plots involving smugglers, drug dealers, serial killers, thieves and a bunch of others to create their stories.
Almost all Romantic Suspense stories have Contemporary era plots, but there are exceptions though.
Writers/Authors of this amazing subgenre are Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Catherine Coulter and yours faithfully is gearing to release her first Romantic Suspense novel in July *wink*.
- YOUND ADULT ROMANCE: This subgenre is a romance story with young adults in their late teens and early twenties playing the integral roles.
- TIME-TRAVEL ROMANCE: As the name indicates, it is Romance with an integral plot on time-travel, whether to the Future or back into the past.
I have only read one novel on this subgenre and unfortunately, I can’t remember the title.
- CHICK-LIT: I left this as the last because I quite frankly do not comprehend this Romance subgenre. I don’t.
But its simple definition would be a romance/love story geared towards single working women in their twenties and their thirties. A very good example, and the only one I know, is the Bridget Jones’ Diary. And given that example, I am forced to see this subgenre as stories based on a woman’s (in her 20s or 30s) struggle to deal with a career and find love at the same time.
Now I just discovered via the www.writersdigest.com site that there is a subgenre called:
- ROMANTIC COMEDY: This subgenre is focused on humour, ranging from (and as they put it) screwball antics to witty interplay.
This new discovery has made me to think that my Operation Stop The Wedding! might very well be a Romantic Comedy… *interesting*.
Writers Digest also have other Subgenres like Sensual Romance, Spicy Romance and Sweet Romance. What is funny is that I nicknamed my “Bachelorette Trilogy” Spicy, sweet and “sheer” (in place of sensual) Romance without knowing that such subgenres actually kind of existed.
In Sensual Romance, there is strong sensual tension between the heroine and hero, and sizzling sex scenes are included. In Spicy Romance, the story revolves around a married couple trying to resolve their problem. In my “story-2” of the “Bachelorette Trilogy” it simply resolves round a divorcée and the hero. And in Sweet Romance, the story is centred on a virgin heroine and contains little or no sex.
And that is all about the ROMANCE GENRE. At least, that is all I know and have read about the Romance Genre. It is not only an interesting Fiction genre but also a very successful and highly-sold genre. It has been in existence for so, so long and it will continue to be in existence. Whether we admit it or not, people love romance and people enjoy a great “happily-ever-after” ending.
Until our next class then, keep reading, and if you’re a writer, keeping putting pen to paper.