Tuesday, May 15, 2012
What Do Readers Desire? Are Genre Rules Breakable?
Romance novels are written under specific guidelines. They are designed with several expectations for a specific audience. Readers expect a romance to adhere to the genre, but I wonder when breaking the mold is okay.
I write for myself because I want to be happy with what I write (maybe that's my first mistake). But I know I must please an audience, namely, people like my mom. She'll read a romance novel a week. She wants a story that's easy to get in to, isn't too complicated plotwise, is full of steamy scenes and promises a good story. She doesn't care much for details or writerly-ness or getting caught up in the heads of the characters. She likes the bad guys to be bad, the good guys to be sexy and the women to end up with them.
To reach Mom and other readers like her, romance writers are expected to adhere to certain expectations:
The boy and girl must meet ASAP.
They can't be married/attached to someone else. Read: no infidelity.
They must spend most of the book together.
Heavy themes, like suicide, are better left out.
The women must be overwhelmingly strong.
And, a Happily Ever After ending is imperative.
I didn't necessarily write such a book my first time out. I wrote something more akin to Historical Fan Fiction with a Strong Romantic Element, if there is such a genre. I wrote a book with fewer fairy-tale qualities than "ever after." Swashbuckling, yes. Pumpkin carriages, not so much. I want men to read my book. Definitely. The sex is not gratuitous but a crucial part of the storyline. I'm told my rule-breaking will make selling my story more difficult. Will it?
I'm wondering from you readers: when is it okay to veer from the norm? Writers, do you break the rules and cross your fingers that your direction will appeal to an audience?