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Saturday, February 23, 2008

On defining Romance

There was an excellent post on Romancing the Blog about the perceived problems with Romance as a genre title. Actually I do not have a problem with it. It is highly sucessful genre and one of the classic genres of the novel. Why mess with success? I love Romance. I love writing it and reading it.
Anyway I gave my definition of a Romance as a story where the growth of the emotional relationship between the two central protagonists forms the spine/core. I should have added AND there is an emotionally satisfying resolution at the end. But I didn't and that was a mistake on my part. Basically I know that the Romance genre operates on the archplot/classic design. Therefore it has a closed ending and must release all emotional tension built in the story by resolving the major plot. (It was one of the quarrels I had with Raintree Inferno -- it does not end until the third book and so major threads are left hanging.)
Another poster Virginia pointed out that there was another attempt at defining Romance:
This definition leaves a lot more “fudge room” (speaking about my definition) than the one Pamela Regis used in A Natural History of the Romance Novel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). She defines the genre by eight necessary elements, one of which is that the book end with betrothal (or, at a stretch, the marriage) of the two protagonists. The chapter on “The Definition Expanded” requires eight “essential” elements:
Society Defined
The Meeting
The Barrier
The Attraction
The Declaration
Point of Ritual Death
The Recognition
The Betrothal.

Um... Pamela Regis has definitely been supping at the Christopher Vogler/Joseph Campbell table. She has basically taken the Hero's journey and given them slightly different labels. The hero's journey is
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3 Refusal of the Call
4 Meeting with the Mentor
5 Crossing the first threshold
6 Tests Allies Enemies
7 Approach to the Innermost cave
8 Ordeal
9 Reward
10 the Road Back
11 resurrection
12 Return with the Exlir
(p 14 Christopher Vogler The Writer's Journey)

I leave you to compare and contrast the differences.

Vogler's basic theory is that ALL good stories can be made to fit the Journey. It is a diadatic approach. You can make an arguement for it, but I think Regis's labels are far too narrow and miss the essence of the Romance's novel.
It is possible to start a romance novel with the two main protagonists already married/ or to have them married quite early on. The marriage of Convienance is a very popular theme. The Secret Baby theme or the non final divorce theme have also prove popular over the years.
Sold and Seduced for example starts with a forced marriage. It does not end in a betrothal. They are already married. It ends with a meeting of true minds and is hopefully emotionally satisfying. It is a Happily Ever After after all.
Basically, one has to wonder how many Romance novels Ms Regis read before she started doing her thesis.
I stand by my definition.

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