Thursday, December 30, 2010

Romantic Fantasy or Fantasy Romance?

Anyone who walks into a bookstore or joins a book club will eventually run into some paranormal romance. Or even a romantic paranormal. And you have to wonder: what's the difference? What is one compared to the other?
I think the line often gets blurred for those of us who write these stories, especially when querying an agent and trying to explain what your story is about. If the agent does like your book you then have to worry about packaging/marketing. How can your fantastic love story between a troll and an elf, complicated by a human love child from a previous relationship, be defined when it has a love story, magical land, powers, an awesome plot with action and drama and character growth? How can anyone really say if it's a paranormal romance or romantic paranormal? Personally I think it's good to have some kind of designation otherwise I'd be wandering around the bookstore bumping into walls because I'm scrutinizing the back of books and wondering what constitutes as romance vs a romantic element. So the titles aren't bad.
I can only account for myself when writing about these two different (yet to be contrary--very similiar) types of books. The tidbits I've heard from other writers and readers leads me to believe I'm not the only one trying to figure out if a novel is more romance or more fantasy by just reading the back cover. I guess we can say it's up to the readers, but to get the readers (who love these two genres) to read this book you first have to get them to buy it. Be interested in it. Read the synopsis. So then we go back to marketing.
Oh how we complicate our lives by complicating our characters' lives.
What is the difference, though? I can't let this go. It's too important to me. I've read too many fantasy novels that were marketed as romances that should have been called fantasy with a romantic element. And you know what? I felt let down. I was looking for a good romance I could sink into, something set in a cool magical place. But all I got was a tepid (in my opinion) romance set in a cool magical place. If I'd read the unnamed book with different expectations I would have liked it much better. But because I bought it thinking it romance took center stage I was disappointed. As a writer/editor/publisher you never want to do this. Am I saying I hate fantasy romance? Not at all. But I want to know right off if the romance is ancillary to the story or the fantasy is ancillary to the romance.
Reading these books taught me a valuable lesson. I know how to query with romance in mind and it's importance in the overall novel. I know how to write the blurb on the back and give an elevator pitch to reflect the romantic theme of the book. It's not easy writing a romance in any genre, but especially fantasy. You have to be on the top of your romantic game because most fantasy stories are set up so great that you want to live in that world. I'm not an expert on how much world building there should be vs romance, but I do know as a reader I want my romance to make me turn the page, not the cool powers of this awesome distant land. Because at the end of the day I want to read about people. It's simple as that.
So I'm more of a paranormal romance kinda girl. I think. Or is it romantic paranormal? All I know is I want a paranormal magical world with a rockin' romance. A strong heroine and hero who's her equal with a happy ending. With powers. And a cool bad guy who can blow crap up with his mind. But I want the romance. I want to know the characters, see how they meet, interact, fall in love, and fight for that love. I want to see how their relationship matures. That's what romance is about to me. I want a little fantasy in my romance. Not romance in my fantasy. But that's just me.

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