Thursday, 21 February 2019

Genre Expectations

It seems like every few months, an author wanders into Romancelandia and declare an intention to do something innovative within the genre by creating a book where the primary characters do not fall in love and have a happily ever after.

The progression of reactions is fairly predictable after that.

A number of authors will (with varying degrees of politeness) explain that an HEA (or at least an HFN - Happily For Now) is the only required rule for genre romance.  They explain that the definition of romance is for the readers, so that reader know what they are buying.  (And trust me, nothing is louder or angrier than a reader who has had their expectations violated.)

This heart was ripped out by a disappointed reader.  Be afraid.
Outsiders to the genre often bring up Nicolas Sparks, or Romeo and Juliet or Titanic, calling them great romances that do not end happily.  Romancelandia patiently (or not so patiently) explains that those stories are not romances by the genre definition, specifically because they don't end happily.

There's also usually some further chatter where outside authors claim that knowing that a happy ending is coming makes stories trite and formulaic, removing the tension.  This usually results in Romancelandia going "Really?" and then pointing out the thousands of awesome stories that disprove this point.

Lots of different genres have expectations.  Mystery readers expect there to be a crime and to have that crime solved in a satisfying way.  Horror readers expect the majority of the characters to have a short shelf life.  Canlit readers expect there to be cold winds sweeping across the prairie as a metaphor for various stages of life.

Romance readers expect a happy ending and a love story.  I find it interesting that authors don't storm into other genres and mock the readership for their expectations (and then expect those readers to buy their books).  But it's no secret that plenty of people sneer at romance, despite the genre's popularity and profitability.  Whether it's inherent misogyny or elitism or some other reason behind it isn't that important.

The simple fact is that romance readers don't require permission from anyone else to enjoy what they enjoy.  And romance authors don't need to apologize for creating amazing stories that inspire hope and which bring readers that enjoyment.  If other people can't understand that, it's a sign of a fault within them, not of the genre.  

For a long time, I spent a lot of time explaining these things over and over.  But while I'm still happy to provide recommendations to those looking to learn about the genre, I'm done with people who try to use shame as a weapon.

I am a romance reader.  I am a romance author.  And I am darn proud of both of those things.  Romance is an amazing genre and if someone wants to sneer at it, then they've done me the courtesy of letting me know in advance that I don't need to bother with their opinion.

That's my own happily ever after.

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