Photo: Gabor Kiss
Did you know that romance novels are one of the most widely read genres? Did you know that the best Mills and Boon authors can churn out a novel a month and earn a respectable income? Do you know that Pride and Prejudice has made it as #2 on the list of quintessential British novels?
If your answer to these questions is “no” then it’s time to start exploring Romance as a creative writing genre. It might not always be high literary art, but it’s popular and widely read, and what is a story without a reader?
Romances were originally stories or novels in the courts in the middle ages, with the romances of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table typifying the genre. Over time the genre changed to the classic style we think of as historic romance, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre”. Of course, these novels were contemporary in their time, and the classic form has lived on into the twentieth century: an intelligent woman and a man with hidden depths or secrets resolve their differing backgrounds until there is a declaration of love.
Over the last decade or so this genre has broadened out to include a number of different sub-genres including gay romance/erotica, billionaire, country and western and “historic” romance. The availability of e-books has increased sales over that of printed words, and has allowed the diversification and flourishing of the sub-genres, particularly the more erotic styles of romance, due to the economics of publication and the ability to read in portable, anonymous format.
For this month’s challenge the conflict in your story has already been set up: “My parents said no”. Think about your place in the story, and to whom your parents said “No”. Who are the main protagonists? Your parents? You? Your siblings? What are their beliefs that are being challenged, and how did they resolve this conflict? The use of conflict helps to raise the sexual tension and sets the background for how the protagonists explore each other’s character and nature as the story progresses towards its conclusion. Typically this has a “happy ever after” ending, but there is no requirement for this. So while romance fiction today is often stereotypical and predictable, there is no reason why you cannot delight and surprise with novelty and originality.
This challenge is open to you to write in any style in any sub-genre. Some really good tips are outlined in the Mills and Book author guidelines. We suggest a minimum length of 800 words, with a maximum of 10,000 words, to allow sufficient character development. Please submit your document by 30th April to firstname.lastname@example.org in Word or Pages format.
In the meantime here are a few suggested books to read:
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin: The quintessential romance with intelligent protagonists, the woman coming from a disadvantaged background while the man has many secrets and is very reserved. The social setting is an insightful observation of middle class England of the day.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë: The wild and isolated background of this story is a metaphor for untamed passion. This book is probably one of the first to document marriage gone bad through domestic violence.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles: On realising what is wrong and what is right.
Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak: The two women in Dr Zhivago’s life sets up a conflict that is echoed by the conflict of war.
Outlander – Diana Gabaldin: This series has captivated readers with its time-travelling theme, proving that love is timeless. Readers wait for the next book much like the Harry Potter series.
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy: The Russians do tragedy so well. This classic story of a woman who loses everything in the pursuit of love is more dramatic due to the rules of society and the laws of the time.
The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks: The timelessness of love has many challenges to overcome, including how circumstances and time change the beloved.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden: Untangling sex and love against the background society of Japan as is changes from the old ways to the new.
Mississippi Jack – Louise A Meyer: A sexually ambiguous Jacky Faber has rollicking adventures as a pirate master which leaves her forever unfulfilled by her fiancé and lovers.