WRITING ROMANCE FICTION

Claiming just under 60 percent of the total mass market paperback sales, romance is by far the most popular genre. Perhaps this is because no genre is as varied as romance. Or it simply might be that there’s a part of all of us that wants a happily-ever-after ending.
So what exactly defines a romance novel? Rita Clay Estrada and Rita Gallagher, the co-founders of the Romance Writers of America, say: “Any story where the main theme is love (One True Love) is a romance.” Along with the main theme of love, a romance novel has two important ingredients: sexual awareness and sexual tension.
There are four basic rules for writing the romance novel:

Rule One: From the first time they meet, the hero and the heroine are deeply aware of each other. They don’t have to like each other instantly, but this awareness escalates and culminates in the resolution.

Rule Two: The hero and heroine should be together as much as possible. When they are apart, the absent one should be kept in the reader’s mind through memories, yearnings, etc.

Rule Three: Each time the hero and heroine are together, their feelings should take on another aspect or reach another level. Their emotions will strengthen, shake, threaten—and as the book progresses—solidify the relationship.

Rule Four: The senses of the hero and heroine are sharpened when they are together. Whether fighting or on the verge of making love, sexual tension escalates with each scene.

At one time the term “romance” was used for any imaginative novel, and included genres now known as adventure, historical and science fiction. Romance was also used as a synonym for troubadour tales, dealing with courtly love. These days, the literary use of the term is confined to novels in which the main plot is concerned with a love affair.

The Romantic Novel
First, there is the romantic novel. The romantic novel typically contains a love affair that is treated with realism. This love interest will be presented as one part of the protagonist’s story. The affair may end happily or unhappily, or the romance may appear as an existing, ongoing, relationship. The protagonist may have more than one serious romantic attachment in the course of the novel. The romantic novel is sometimes known as “women’s fiction”. A lighthearted or acerbic version with a heroine in her twenties or early thirties is sometimes called “chick lit”.

The Romance Novel
The romance novel, on the other hand, is a novel in which the love affair is by far the most important part of the plot. The hero and heroine are rarely apart for more than a handful of pages and other characters are kept on the sidelines. The end will be happy, and there will be some kind of positive commitment and resolution. This may be a marriage proposal, a wedding or simply an affirmation that this love is forever.

Most of these romances are known as category romance, and are sold in “lines” which have their own guidelines and expectations. Straightforward modern-day category romances come in different models.
The “long contemporary” will be at least 70,000 words.
The “short contemporary” is usually around 55,000 words.
Then there are “sweet” and “sexy” romances which range from G-rated innocence to M-rated explicitness.

Different lines are slanted so that readers will know by the packaging whether they can expect mystery, detection, or thriller elements with their romance.

The placement of the love affair and the happiness of the ending are set in the contemporary category romance. In addition, heroes and heroines are expected to be well-matched in age, intelligence and ability. Some lines expect the heroine to have a high-powered job. Most still require the heroine to be attractive, even if she isn’t classically beautiful.

Heroes need not be classically handsome, but they are still more likely to be taller and more striking than average, just as they will be more commanding and powerful than the usual run of males.

The editors of many lines frown on manuscripts where either hero or heroine is connected with the arts. They also prefer not to have heroes who seem to be mechanics or farmers when the heroine and reader first meet them only to turn out to be something else later in the story.

The overbearing hero has gone out of fashion, and so has the virginal “schoolroom miss” heroine—except in a few subgenres like the regency.

All of this might feel restricting for the author, but the strict guidelines have come about from surveys and buying trends. Statistics prove that the books with the tall dark handsome heroes sell better, and those with the artist heroines, older heroine and mechanic or farmer hero sell substantially fewer copies.

The different types of romance (subgenres) are as varied as the people who read romances. In my next blog, I will discuss the different romance subgenres.

Thanks for stopping by.

Barbara

CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”

Many of the submissions I receive as an agent are children’s books. I find that inexperienced writers often decide to write a children’s book because they think it is easier than writing for adults. That simply is not true. There is more latitude when writing for adults. Things like change of perspective or point of view, length of text, language and word choice are just some examples. When writing for children, however, there are certain things that will make your manuscript stronger. For example:

1. Keep the first chapter short. By keeping the first chapter short, the writer gives young readers a boost in confidence, a win, a success. Our youngest readers are often intimidated by the length of a book. By keeping the first chapter short, the reader gains immediate gratification and is more likely to tackle subsequent chapters

2. Do solve the main conflict of your story. Open-ended conclusions are fine for adults, but kids—especially young kids—need closure. They need to feel that all is right with the world—their world.

In Mercer Meyer’s classic picture book There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, a young boy is afraid to turn out the lights and go to sleep. He is absolutely positive there is a monster lurking in his closet. He solves the problem by confronting the nightmare—who is afraid of the dark, too—and inviting it under the covers with him. As the two snuggle down to sleep, the boy says, “There might be another nightmare in my closet, but my bed isn’t big enough for three.” That is a satisfying ending.

3. Do have your protagonist solve the main conflict in the story—not a doting auntie or kindly teacher. Give the power to the children—not the adults.

In my young adult novel The Cadence of Gypsies, three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina’s purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus so they can’t cause any more problems (“expressions of creativity”) for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted. That search will fill in all of the missing pieces of Carolina’s past, but it also allows her students to discover something meaningful within themselves, accept their own pasts, and look forward to the future

4. Do have your protagonist change in some way by the end of the book. He or she should learn something significant about his or herself and the world. Valid changes must be gradual and tied logically to your plot and characterizations

5. Do remember to end your story when it ends. After the climax, when the main conflict is solved or the situation accepted, the story is over. Tie loose ends quickly. At the conclusion of Cinderella the glass slipper fits, crowds cheer, the wicked stepmother is foiled, and Cinderella and her prince live happily ever after. THE END. Readers aren’t the least bit interested in reading about where the prince took Cindy on their honeymoon, what they ate for breakfast, or who cleaned the cinders from the palace hearth.

6. Do offer honesty… and hope. Not every day is a sunny one, but your protagonist should always triumph, should always get what he or she deserves—and so should your villain.

The philosopher Aristotle believed that history shows us things as they are, whereas fiction shows us things as they could be or ought to be. Offer children a satisfying ending in which hope plays a paramount role: that they have the power to change their lives to what could be… and should be.

Next time I will discuss the different types of children’s books, current trends, and what needs to be included for the age they are written.

Thanks for stopping by.

Barbara

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY BLOG TOUR

i will be visiting 28 different book blog sites on Thursday, November 21, to discuss my latest novel THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY, a 2013 IPPY Award recipient for Best Regional Fiction. The schedule is listed below, so if you get a chance, please stop by and leave your comments.

I would enjoy hearing from you.

My best,

Barbara

1: Bunny’s Review
2: Farm Girl Books
3: fundinmental
4: Queen of All She Reads
5: The Hedonistic Minimalist
6: My Devotional Thoughts
7: Deal Sharing Aunt
8: Full Moon Dreaming
9: Reviews by Crystal
10: Renee Luke
11: Kit ‘N Kabookle
12: My Odd Little World
13: Wake Up Your Wild Side
14: Wicked Readings by Tawania
15: Margay Leah Justice
16: Tina Donahue Presents
17: Hope Dreams. Life… Love
18: Sharing Links and Wisdom
19: Serenity Reviews
20: Curse of the Bibliophile
21: The Women’s Fiction Review
22: The Write to Read
23: Book ‘Em North Carolina
24: Hello Romance
25: Long and Short Reviews
26. Welcome to My World of Dreams
27: It’s Raining Books
28: Straight from the Library

BARBARA CASEY’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR IS SCHEDULED

Below is the schedule for my “Virtual Book Tour” featuring my latest novel, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY. I will be making 22 stops between May 20 and June 14, so if you are free to stop by and visit, please do.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY has just received the IPPY Award for Best Book in Regional Fiction. The issues and conflicts I address in this story are complex, as are the characters. But in the end, I think you will be glad you read it and be left with a sense of joyful inspiration.

I hope to hear from you in the weeks ahead.

Barbara

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

5/20/2013 MeganJohnsInvites
5/21/2013 Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
5/22/2013 Margay Leah Justice
5/23/2013 It’s Raining Books
5/24/2013 My Devotional Thoughts
5/27/2013 Novel Moments
5/28/2013 Christy McKee Writes for Women in the Sweet Spot of Life
5/29/2013 Tinasbookreviews
5/30/2013 Nickie’s Views and Interviews
5/30/2013 SECOND STOP Fiction Writing and Other Oddities
5/31/2013 Deal Sharing Aunt
6/3/2013 The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object
6/4/2013 Illustrious Illusions
6/5/2013 Book ‘Em North Carolina
6/6/2013 Hope Dreams. Life… Love
6/6/2013 SECOND STOP Stitch Read Cook
6/7/2013 Straight from the Library
6/10/2013 Read Your Writes Book Reviews
6/11/2013 4 the LUV of SANITY
6/12/2013 The Ink Spot
6/13/2013 United By Books
6/14/2013 Welcome to My World of Dreams

BARBARA CASEY TO BE GUEST ON “MIDDAY CONVERSATIONS” RADIO SHOW WITH HOST CYRUS WEBB

I have been invited to be the guest today on the Cyrus Webb Radio Show, “Midday Conversations.” It will be streaming live at www.blogtalkradio.com/middayconversations at 1 pm and podcasted there as well. I will be talking about my latest novel, The Gospel According to Prissy, as well as my other award-winning novels. Please stop by if you have the time.

Barbara

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

I have been invited to be a guest on THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP Wednesday, February 6, 2013 to discuss my latest novel for adults, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY.. Please join me here where I will be answering questions and discussing other things of interest to writers. I would love for you to share your comments and thoughts, as well as ask questions.

Hope to hear from you then.

Barbara