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ThetProf
08-09-2010, 03:40 AM
I was reading the "Tell me there's more to romance writing than formulas and Harlequin" thread and someone mentioned that the only "formula" was it had to have a HEA and a story about the relationship at the heart of the book. Are there other unwritten rules? (If there are written ones somewhere how do I get a copy?:)) I'm new to the game and though I've read a lot of romances, I of course tend to read authors I like so there's a lot out there I don't read. For instance, I don't read contemporary or paranormal (Twilight series I do confess to). But from my reading I have ideas about what is allowed and not allowed, just not sure how unconventional you can be in the changing market. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.

veinglory
08-09-2010, 03:50 AM
The 'rules' are to write what the publisher thinks their readers want to buy. IMHO that's all there is to it.

Stacia Kane
08-09-2010, 04:13 AM
I do think there's a LOT of leeway, yes. But I do also believe that there are some things that some romance readers simply aren't going to accept, or things that more readers will than won't, thus giving you a better chance at success. Frex, the heroine doesn't have to be a virgin but she shouldn't be a slut. She doesn't have to be a healer who loves puppies but she shouldn't be selfish or self-centered and she should like children. She shouldn't think nasty thoughts about other people unless they're horribly nasty first. There are quite a few of these if you check some of the romance blogs etc.

Again, that isn't to say that all romances MUST adhere to those unwritten rules. But you do have a greater chance of success if you adhere to them, IMO. There are some things romance readers simply will not accept; their biases or desire to read a certain type of story is simply too strong, and they have every right to only want to read certain types of stories or characters.

AngelaA
08-09-2010, 04:18 AM
I think the "rules" are also different depending on what genre you're aiming for. I have different expectations from paranormal than other genres.

My advice is to read what you want to write and then do your thing. Don't stray from HEA and decide on a heat level that is appropriate for the genre and confortable for you.

sunandshadow
08-09-2010, 04:24 AM
I'll take a stab at some unwritten rules, if you take them with a grain of salt, they're not truly universal.

1. The heroine can't kill anyone. I don't understand the purpose for this rule myself, but I see it in action a lot. Even if the heroine is in the perfect position to kill the main bad guy, she can't. She either has to wait for the hero to do it, or she can knock a bad guy unconscious and run away, or occasionally a convenient accident will take care of the villain so neither the hero or the heroine have to get their hands dirty. This seems to be related to the rule that there is no such thing as a fem dom romance, the hero cannot be a submissive or a follower.

2. The first male character introduced will be assumed to be the hero unless you make it 110% obvious that he isn't.

3. Despite the historical commonness of cousin marriage, you can't make your hero and heroine cousins. If the male cousin of the heroine is pursuing her, he's probably a villain or will end up paired off with a female secondary character. (see tvtropes Pair The Spares) On the other hand if you want to write an incest-themed romance they probably won't cousins either because in that case they're not closely related enough for maximum drama.

4. Generally the violence in a romance novel should not exceed an R or NC-17 rating even if it is a steamy romance where the sex scenes would rate an M. Especially, do not start the book with a graphic rape or gruesome murder. The theme of romance is naturally an optimistic, even bucolic one, and the plot of romance is not typically high-tension/high-stakes, with the possible exception of the climax. Starting with violence and/or horror doesn't create the correct 'contract with the reader' for a romantic story with a HEA.

5. You can't use the same main character for multiple books. You can write a series, but you have to switch main characters to someone single. It is bad form to either not give the main character an HEA in the first book, or to disrupt that happiness to create a new conflict in the second book.


Was that useful?

Jam
08-09-2010, 04:27 AM
Prof, here's my two cents, for what it's worth. (Do you accept canadian coins?)

Harl and some of the others give you guidelines. Look on their websites.

Everyone always says: read what you like and try to write something that would appeal to the audience of the books you enjoy. You really do have to know the genre to write it and do well.

The relationship should take up a lot, if not much, of the plot or it isn't a romance. Usually the first man you meet is the hero. The h/h meet right away, usually in the first chapter.

Snarky, assertive heroines who are not/do not intend to be primarily wives and mothers are popular. Even in historicals in situations where women like this IRL would be mown down instantly. We modern wimmens want someone we can relate to.

You don't see shy, sly, chaste, polite or any other of that ilk type heroines much. They're harder to write than a snarky one and make people like them. Just a couple lines of sass sets the tone for a snarky one, whereas you have to keep plugging away at a more modest one to make an impression.

(The tidal wave of snarky girls reminds me of the 50's movies - i wondered why everyone spoke alike in that era. The population at large tried to mimic the demeanor of the movie idols in quite an unrealistic way.)

Oh, also, if you want a non-anglo/foreign hero/heroine and you're not writing for african american lines, make him/her a half blood - half english/caucasian american/half whatever else. I suspect a couple of mine still stuck in a drawer went "poop" nowhere because i didn't know that.

ThetProf
08-09-2010, 05:34 AM
sunandshadow - regarding rule #1 Heroine can't kill anyone. Jo Beverly's Devilish has the heroine killing two men, both times to save the hero's butt. Is this one of the rules that can be broken occasionally? One of my heroines thinks she killed someone, but finds out later she didn't (and she's really p*****off that she didn't). BTW--I write historicals, so do these rules apply to those as well?

Jam - Many of the women in historicals start off chaste, though some don't. And most are destined to be wives and mothers. Is it okay to have a story arc in which the heroine starts off low key (some spunky attitude but not too much) and grows to be more assertive? (BTW--I save my canadian coins against a trip to Canada.:))

Stacia Kane
08-09-2010, 05:52 AM
sunandshadow - regarding rule #1 Heroine can't kill anyone. Jo Beverly's Devilish has the heroine killing two men, both times to save the hero's butt. Is this one of the rules that can be broken occasionally? One of my heroines thinks she killed someone, but finds out later she didn't (and she's really p*****off that she didn't). BTW--I write historicals, so do these rules apply to those as well?

As I said above, and as SunandShadow said in her post, these rules aren't fully and completely universal. There are exceptions to every rule; every rule can be broken occasionally. It's just that you have a better chance at success if you follow them.




Jam - Many of the women in historicals start off chaste, though some don't. And most are destined to be wives and mothers. Is it okay to have a story arc in which the heroine starts off low key (some spunky attitude but not too much) and grows to be more assertive? (BTW--I save my canadian coins against a trip to Canada.:))

It's "okay" to write any kind of story, as long as you write it well. We're sharing some of the little "unwritten rules" with you because you asked and because we're familiar with the genre, but that's not to say there is a definite formula or set of rules you MUST follow.

You've read a lot of books in the genre you want to write. You can try reading them again with a more critical/analytical eye, or reading more widely/trying different subgenres, to become more familiar with what's not done and/or what's overdone, what's acceptable and what isn't.

The more you read and really pay attention and absorb, the more you learn, and the more you'll pick up on all the tropes and unwritten rules and exceptions. :)

sunandshadow
08-09-2010, 09:15 AM
sunandshadow - regarding rule #1 Heroine can't kill anyone. Jo Beverly's Devilish has the heroine killing two men, both times to save the hero's butt. Is this one of the rules that can be broken occasionally? One of my heroines thinks she killed someone, but finds out later she didn't (and she's really p*****off that she didn't). BTW--I write historicals, so do these rules apply to those as well?
All rules can be broken occasionally, that's one of the reasons they are unwritten, because if anyone wrote them down it would start an argument, lol. Historicals make up about half of what I read (fsf the other half) so yes everything I wrote applies to historicals.

Collectonian
08-09-2010, 11:06 AM
It really depends on what genre/area you are focusing on, and publisher. If, for example, you are aiming for the category romances, there are a lot of written and unwritten rules, while there are far less for the "single-title" stuff. Romantic suspense stuff, such as works by Tami Hoag, Catherine Coulter, Kay Hooper, Sandra Brown, the latter works of Linda Howard, etc are "edgier", with more violence that often feature deranged serial and mass murderers in such quantity that it would be frightening if it were even remotely close to that number in real life. :-P They do generally follow the "rule" of hero/heroine meeting early, and what not, but beyond that, the heroines are often tougher (but not always), and they can be very high tension. They usually have a happy ending, (though they more frequently have bittersweet ones), and at times the couple that seemed to have a HEA is broken up in another novel in a related series. There are a few who also have series around one character, but with each novel having romances between two others who come to the forefront for that book, while keeping the central series characters visible as well.

Some of my favorite novels, the ones I've read again and again, often break many of the seemingly "unwritten" rules, though, as they are more unique and fresh, rather than the same story with minor variations. If you want to read through a few that I found to be "rule breakers", take a peak at:

* Heart of the Night by Barbara Delinsky - really has three couples stories: the most central one between Savanna and Jarod, a second with Savanna's bored alchoholic sister Susan and Sam the cop, and kidnap and rape victim Susan trying to repair the relationship with her husband Will. It is one of Delinksy's late 80s works, but holds up well.
* Pretty much anything by Suzanne Forster's whose heroines are often only a step above the bad guys, the sex is very gritty and blunt, and both MCs are generally flawed folks who have no qualms about pushing and bending the law; in particular Blush and Shameless, which have some shared characters.
* When I Fall In Love by Iris Dart - the female MC Lily works as a comedy writer for a television series, so lots of interesting elements there; but she is also with someone she loves at the start of the series. After her son is shot by her housekeeper's abusive ex, and left a paraplegic, the female has to help her son recover while also increasingly finding herself town between her fiancee and her abrasive and at times seemingly mean-natured new boss, Charlie, who has cerebral palsy.

AngelaA
08-09-2010, 03:12 PM
I'll take a stab at some unwritten rules, if you take them with a grain of salt, they're not truly universal.

1. The heroine can't kill anyone. I don't understand the purpose for this rule myself, but I see it in action a lot. Even if the heroine is in the perfect position to kill the main bad guy, she can't. She either has to wait for the hero to do it, or she can knock a bad guy unconscious and run away, or occasionally a convenient accident will take care of the villain so neither the hero or the heroine have to get their hands dirty. This seems to be related to the rule that there is no such thing as a fem dom romance, the hero cannot be a submissive or a follower.

4. Generally the violence in a romance novel should not exceed an R or NC-17 rating even if it is a steamy romance where the sex scenes would rate an M. Especially, do not start the book with a graphic rape or gruesome murder. The theme of romance is naturally an optimistic, even bucolic one, and the plot of romance is not typically high-tension/high-stakes, with the possible exception of the climax. Starting with violence and/or horror doesn't create the correct 'contract with the reader' for a romantic story with a HEA.

5. You can't use the same main character for multiple books. You can write a series, but you have to switch main characters to someone single. It is bad form to either not give the main character an HEA in the first book, or to disrupt that happiness to create a new conflict in the second book.


Was that useful?

I beg to differ...

#1 - See Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark Series...
#2 - Same as above as well as Lara Adrian
#3 - Kelley Armstrong's Stolen...book 2 in her otherworld series...although not considered romance now it was packaged as romance when she first started.

This is what I mean but the rules being different for every genre...what may work for one doesn't necessarily hold true for others.

Flicka
08-09-2010, 03:20 PM
Since POVs were recently discussed in another thread, I would like to add that it's pretty much a rule to have both the hero's and the heroine's POV and rarely any more (except possibly the villain's). There are exceptions to this, of course, but it's pretty much the standard. The ratio between them varies and I know some Harlequin lines states what they want in regards to that. But then Harlequin has pretty strict guidelines on plenty of things.

There's a huge discussion on what behavior is acceptable for a hero or a heroine in the online community with everybody having their standards. Look around a few romance blogs and you'll end up right in the smack of it. A safe bet would be to say you'll never satisfy everyone. :)

Also, it's generally hard(er) to sell stories set outside the US or the UK even if you do have British/American characters.

Personally, I think 'the rules' are broken all the time, but it's good to know when you do it so you know it's worth the hassle. Pick your battles, so to speak.

greta2242
08-09-2010, 05:46 PM
Since POVs were recently discussed in another thread, I would like to add that it's pretty much a rule to have both the hero's and the heroine's POV and rarely any more (except possibly the villain's). There are exceptions to this, of course, but it's pretty much the standard. The ratio between them varies and I know some Harlequin lines states what they want in regards to that. But then Harlequin has pretty strict guidelines on plenty of things.

There's a huge discussion on what behavior is acceptable for a hero or a heroine in the online community with everybody having their standards. Look around a few romance blogs and you'll end up right in the smack of it. A safe bet would be to say you'll never satisfy everyone. :)

Also, it's generally hard(er) to sell stories set outside the US or the UK even if you do have British/American characters.

Personally, I think 'the rules' are broken all the time, but it's good to know when you do it so you know it's worth the hassle. Pick your battles, so to speak.

In contemporary world I've read tons of books set in Italy, Greece or some Sheik in the mid East. Post 9/11 the sheiks still show up on the shelves in great number. Historicals are a different story. I always say Brits rule romance followed with the tie of Greeks, Italians and Sheiks. American men of course are up there with the British men, but I was talking foreigners.

Susan Gable
08-09-2010, 05:52 PM
Since POVs were recently discussed in another thread, I would like to add that it's pretty much a rule to have both the hero's and the heroine's POV and rarely any more (except possibly the villain's). There are exceptions to this, of course, but it's pretty much the standard.

All of my books have had at least 3 POVS. Hero, heroine, and one other significant character.

I don't think I'm an exception. Maybe I am. :Shrug:

Susan G.

job
08-09-2010, 08:04 PM
Tossing this in, more or less in random order.
And I'm talking about standard mass market Romance genre.

-- unsympathetic heroine?

In Romance, the reader has to like the heroine.
That means snarky is okay. Malicious is not. Materialistic is okay. Greedy is not. Unsure and shy is okay. Cowardly is not. Jealous is okay. Cruel is not.

It's all in the shading.


-- Can the heroine kill?

Yes, if she has a good reason. Killing in defense of somebody else is particularly good reason. While it's not Romance, see Eve Dallas for a precise lesson on when and how killing is done. UF, (also not Romance,) does killer heroines a lot.


-- Can the heroine screw around?

Before the book begins, yes. Afterwards, no.


-- Can you kick the damn puppy? Speaking metaphorically.

Terrible things can happen in Romancelandia.

They are terrible things of two sorts.
There's the suspense/thriller/mystery/action kind of terrible thing where the heroine wades into the crash scene.
Romantic Suspense has a large audience. The book will be clearly marked as what it is.

But 'kicking the puppy' is something else. That's not the crash scene with anonymous dead, it's the heroine's little sister hit by a car. It's her child dying on-stage from leukemia.

That is rare. Possible, but rare.


-- Can you kick the puppy literally?

As to real puppies - -
Can you kill them and cut them up for stew meat and cook them for dinner?

You're going to lose readers right that minute the puppy squeals and dies. Books are going to snap closed.

Readers -- lots of them -- will not buy a book where a child is harmed. Where an animal is hurt. Where serious bad things happen. They check reviews to make sure nothing really bad happens.



-- Rape?

Rape of the, 'he raped me and now I love him' trope, is an automatic, 'put it back on the shelves' for most readers. I wouldn't call it forbidden, but you definitely limit both the editors who will find this acceptable and the reading audience.

The same titillation, without the act itself, will be more marketable.

Rape or being molested as a child, when it is a horrible, past trauma, is not uncommon.


-- Child haters?

The heroine not wanting children and not fond of children is okay.
Truly disliking them will probably come across as unsympathetic. I'd call it not utterly forbidden, but another thing that limits the readership.


-- Sexxing.

I will not begin to list the sexual acts people do not perform in Romance books, but they are many and varied. Also forbidden are most of the words used to describe these acts.

Simple intercourse occurs with great frequency and in some detail. There are some references to oral sex. So, not forbidden.
OTOH, masterbation is so rare I can only think of three or four instances in mainstream m/f Romance. I have no idea why this is off-limits.


-- Not wanting to get married

. . . and not ending up planning to get married.

Not forbidden. It's part of the HFN movement.


-- Serial books with the same protagonists.

Because Romance genre is 'courtship' stories, books that deal with the later development of a relationship tend to ease right over to the edge of Romance genre and out the side into General Fiction or Historial Fiction or some other fool thing.

That said, this serialization has been done again and again. It may get you moved to another shelf in the bookstore if you keep it up.


-- Multiple POVs

In shorter lengths, craft is going to keep you to two or at most three POVs, not some Romance rule. It's technically difficult to develop more than 2, or at most 3, POVs in 60K words.

Longer lengths you can play with more POVs. I think I've used five.


-- Exotic settings?

Exotic works for Contemporary and Historical, Category and Single Title. Nothing is forbidden.

BUT there are expected and familiar settings. If you venture outside the familiar, it'll be more difficult to sell.


-- the first male?

S&S makes an excellent point. The males introduced in the story have to be eliminated as heroes . . . unless they are the hero. They have to be too old, too young, too evil, of the wrong social class, related and so on.

It's sort of a Romance convention. Yes.


-- the providing male

The hero of a Romance is almost always desireable in terms of money, earning potential, power, and status.

In an era where many women out-earn their husbands, I don't see Romances where there's a presumption the woman will be providing economically for the man.
Maybe because I mostly read Historials.

I suspect this is not forbidden, but just seen as removing some of the glam from the HEA

LorelieBrown
08-10-2010, 12:11 AM
OTOH, masterbation is so rare I can only think of three or four instances in mainstream m/f Romance. I have no idea why this is off-limits.

IMHO, masturbation is off-limits-ish because describing it in detail would likely not serve either the plot or the characterization. A character is unlikely to come to some big revelation about themselves or their fellow characters while wanking. LOL Masturbation *is* recently being obliquely referred to more and more - just last week I read Victoria Dahl's A LITTLE BIT WILD. When the heroine expresses doubt that the hero is really into her, he says something about "taking himself in hand every night" because she drives himself so nuts.

Otherwise I'd agree with everything else you said, JOB. ;)

Flicka
08-10-2010, 12:48 AM
JOB makes some excellent points.


All of my books have had at least 3 POVS. Hero, heroine, and one other significant character.

I don't think I'm an exception. Maybe I am. :Shrug:

Susan G.

Hmm... No, you're not. I would say 3 POVs are common too. And I've read several 3+ too. Up to 7-8 even. I dunno what I was thinking when I phrased that. Apologies for my dim head.

But I have been told (over and over) that it's a genre convention w 2 POVs. I think the rationale was that it should be primarily the H/h:s story. And no, I, personally, don't see why multiple POVs should necessarily be a problem in that regard (and you can lose focus in any POV). I've just had it repeated to me as a Rule (but one that people regularly break).

But then, if it's OK to break it, it's not really a rule, right? ;)

Susan Gable
08-10-2010, 01:26 AM
IMHO, masturbation is off-limits-ish because describing it in detail would likely not serve either the plot or the characterization. A character is unlikely to come to some big revelation about themselves or their fellow characters while wanking. LOL Masturbation *is* recently being obliquely referred to more and more - just last week I read Victoria Dahl's A LITTLE BIT WILD. When the heroine expresses doubt that the hero is really into her, he says something about "taking himself in hand every night" because she drives himself so nuts.

Otherwise I'd agree with everything else you said, JOB. ;)

First two paragraphs of my current book:




Men were unreliable creatures at best. Toxic at worst.

A fewóvery fewócould be delightful and amusing in discrete, small doses. But a woman with an education and career, a well-stocked toolbox and easy-to-follow home repair book, along with a steady supply of batteries for her B.O.B.óbattery operated boyfriendódidn't actually need one.

:D

Susan G.

Deb Kinnard
08-10-2010, 04:22 AM
You don't see shy, sly, chaste, polite or any other of that ilk type heroines much. They're harder to write than a snarky one and make people like them. Just a couple lines of sass sets the tone for a snarky one, whereas you have to keep plugging away at a more modest one to make an impression.

In the Christian romance genre, shy, chaste and polite are fine. Bear in mind that there are a lot of other rules and guidelines adhered to by each of the larger C-fic publishers, that I won't go into here. The Christian romance reader does want spunky in terms of heroines, but she can't have a foul mouth or much baggage in her past. A "past" must be just that -- she can't get interested in more than one guy during the course of the book, etc.

Some lines even insist that the last scene be the wedding. Erk. I think I did this maybe once, and that was because the plot demanded it. But a RULE to that effect?

LorelieBrown
08-10-2010, 04:34 AM
My, my, Susan, you *are* pushing HQN series boundaries. LOL. But still, you also prove my point - it's described in passing, rather than in detail.

sunandshadow
08-10-2010, 04:43 AM
In erotic romance I've seen some good masturbation scenes where the hero is fantasizing about the heroine. It's a testament to the strength of his passion for her if he'd rather imagine her than go out and try to have actual sex with some other woman. The reverse, not so much; the hero is typically the pursuer if either character is; heroines mainly lose control in response to the physical proximity of the hero, but they have to be able to more or less control themselves when he's not in arm's reach because otherwise the heroine can't play her part in the plot structure of resisting an attraction which is visceral but probably not wise. But there does seem to be a general lack of masturbation scenes in romances which aren't erotic romance.

One thing that boggles me in terms of sex is why there's so much bdsm content in romances, even ones that are merely steamy instead of erotic. You couldn't go through one bookstore shelf in the romance section without stumbling over a heroine getting spanked or blindfolded or tied up or bodily carried away, and chastised for not being well behaved. My guess is that this is the remodeled face of the bodiceripper; there seem to just be a lot of women who find it sexy to be dominated, even though the concept doesn't interest me. And of course this is connected to the standard of the alpha male, and the vast number of romances where the hero forces or blackmails the heroine into marriage, sex, or some other commitment, plus historicals and futuristics where the hero outright purchases or is given ownership of the heroine.

Susan Gable
08-10-2010, 05:37 AM
My, my, Susan, you *are* pushing HQN series boundaries. LOL. But still, you also prove my point - it's described in passing, rather than in detail.


True. I mean, I didn't actually SHOW her on a "date" with B.O.B. <G>

I've got another unwritten rule that I'm breaking with the book that's on my editor's desk right now. (Of course, that could change if said editor freaks out over my execution of the concept she did say yes to. <G>)

Unwritten rule: Thy heroine shalt not be married. If she is married, then hero should be her estranged husband.

Why, yes, I DO like coloring outside the lines. <G> I assured my editor that I think I gave the heroine strong backstory/motivation and that I would portray her in a way that makes her sympathetic to the reader to the point that the reader will root for this heroine and hero.

Like I said, I don't know if the execution, in my ed's H.O., lived up to the promises I made yet. <G>

My editor asked for conflict. I gave her conflict in spades. <G>

I am already a wreck over this book. LOL.

Susan G.

para
08-10-2010, 11:30 PM
JOB makes some excellent points.



Hmm... No, you're not. I would say 3 POVs are common too. And I've read several 3+ too. Up to 7-8 even. I dunno what I was thinking when I phrased that. Apologies for my dim head.

But I have been told (over and over) that it's a genre convention w 2 POVs. I think the rationale was that it should be primarily the H/h:s story. And no, I, personally, don't see why multiple POVs should necessarily be a problem in that regard (and you can lose focus in any POV). I've just had it repeated to me as a Rule (but one that people regularly break).

But then, if it's OK to break it, it's not really a rule, right? ;)

I think it depends on what you're writing - shorter romance/novellas/category or single title. I remember reading an epubbed book with what must have been five or six povs you hardly saw the h/h - together and interacting and falling in love. There was all this unnecessary stuff going on. Which would have been find if it was 100K but this was 55K.

Satori1977
08-11-2010, 05:39 AM
I'll take a stab at some unwritten rules, if you take them with a grain of salt, they're not truly universal.

1. The heroine can't kill anyone. I don't understand the purpose for this rule myself, but I see it in action a lot. Even if the heroine is in the perfect position to kill the main bad guy, she can't. She either has to wait for the hero to do it, or she can knock a bad guy unconscious and run away, or occasionally a convenient accident will take care of the villain so neither the hero or the heroine have to get their hands dirty. This seems to be related to the rule that there is no such thing as a fem dom romance, the hero cannot be a submissive or a follower.

2. The first male character introduced will be assumed to be the hero unless you make it 110% obvious that he isn't.

3. Despite the historical commonness of cousin marriage, you can't make your hero and heroine cousins. If the male cousin of the heroine is pursuing her, he's probably a villain or will end up paired off with a female secondary character. (see tvtropes Pair The Spares) On the other hand if you want to write an incest-themed romance they probably won't cousins either because in that case they're not closely related enough for maximum drama.

4. Generally the violence in a romance novel should not exceed an R or NC-17 rating even if it is a steamy romance where the sex scenes would rate an M. Especially, do not start the book with a graphic rape or gruesome murder. The theme of romance is naturally an optimistic, even bucolic one, and the plot of romance is not typically high-tension/high-stakes, with the possible exception of the climax. Starting with violence and/or horror doesn't create the correct 'contract with the reader' for a romantic story with a HEA.

5. You can't use the same main character for multiple books. You can write a series, but you have to switch main characters to someone single. It is bad form to either not give the main character an HEA in the first book, or to disrupt that happiness to create a new conflict in the second book.


Was that useful?


I think this works for historicals and a lot of contemporary....neither of which I read a lot of. But it does fit in the ones I have read.

However, I read a lot of Paranormal, sci-fi, and dark fantasy romances, and all of these are actually pretty common. Depends on what you write.

The lines are becoming quite blurred when it comes to romance novels. Many of the old rules are now being broken. Find your niche, and write what you feel comfortable with (heat level and otherwise). Make the story interesting and the characters not only believable, but likable. After that, anything goes....oh, just don't forget that HEA or HFN ending.

Duchessmary
08-11-2010, 06:32 AM
Well I don't know. Scarlett did kill that damned Yankee deserter...

Jam
08-11-2010, 10:57 AM
Deb said ((The Christian romance reader does want spunky in terms of heroines,))

This is what i mean, Deb, we're all writing the same snarky, brave, determined, direct, kickass type of girl who has some avocation outside of wife/mother.

I'd like to write about some of the women who WOULD have existed and thrived in male dominated REAL history - the sly, manipulative, clever, but demure ones don't appear in our books because we don't relate to them. Give me a games playing harem girl or the alpha wife in a Chinese home...Machievelli would shudder.

Unlike the rest of the world of fiction, a romance heroine HAS to be someone the average reader likes and can imagine as herself (ie, bella = generic american any girl)

Mr Flibble
08-11-2010, 01:19 PM
I'll take a stab at some unwritten rules, if you take them with a grain of salt, they're not truly universal.

1. The heroine can't kill anyone.

Oops. Done that. Um, twice.

{She has to wait for the hero to do it? Oh puhlease. If I saw that, I'd throw the book for her being TSTL. Heroine taking care of business does not emasculate the hero. If you do it right}




4. Generally the violence in a romance novel should not exceed an R or NC-17 rating even if it is a steamy romance where the sex scenes would rate an M. Especially, do not start the book with a graphic rape or gruesome murder. The theme of romance is naturally an optimistic, even bucolic one, and the plot of romance is not typically high-tension/high-stakes, with the possible exception of the climax. Starting with violence and/or horror doesn't create the correct 'contract with the reader' for a romantic story with a HEA. Oops. Goes with number one really, because she kills the guy in the first chapter while he's trying to...you get the picture


The 'correct contract' is 'the contract you wish to create'. And that means one thing. Show the reader early what sort of book it is. If the book will be violent, show that early, because otherwise, if it suddenly goes from fluffy bunny land to gruesome torture half way through, you're going to piss people off. If you're upfront about it, anyone turned off by it will turn to a book that is more their taste.

Now I suspect you're talking more about contemp romance. If so, and those really are the rules, that's probably why I don't really read it :D




5. You can't use the same main character for multiple books. You can write a series, but you have to switch main characters to someone single. It is bad form to either not give the main character an HEA in the first book, or to disrupt that happiness to create a new conflict in the second book.

Semi oops (I had a new romance and disrupted happiness/conflict in the old one too for the second book).

Cathy C
08-11-2010, 08:19 PM
job's list of unwritten issues is a good one. I'd add a few others:

Laughing AT people. The hero and heroine can laugh with or about the other person (especially the other romantic lead), they can be annoyed at them and fume, but they can't be disrespectful. This goes to the 'cruelty/malicious' issue.

Romantic Tendencies. The hero or heroine can start out busy, or forgetful or thoughtless (at times) but can't be HEARTLESS. You must provide at least one romantic bone in their bodies to build on. This is different from cruel. Just like you shouldn't have a psychopath as the romantic lead (Dexter notwithstanding, because that's not a romance show), you also shouldn't have a true sociopath---who truly doesn't "get" the concept of romance. That's just too hard for the reader to get next to, because anything you do will feel forced. The people must have the capacity to FEEL romance.

job
08-12-2010, 08:38 PM
he says something about "taking himself in hand every night" because she drives himself so nuts.

Oh giggle.

I do think, though, that there's a particular American sensitivity to the subject.

I don't always understand American mores.

job
08-12-2010, 08:40 PM
First two paragraphs of my current book:
. . . a steady supply of batteries for her B.O.B.—battery operated boyfriend—didn't actually need one.
.

I love this . . .


Unwritten rule: Thy heroine shalt not be married. If she is married, then hero should be her estranged husband.

Now there's an important 'rule' I should have listed. 'She shall not commit adultery.'

job
08-12-2010, 08:49 PM
I recently read a book where it happens and it works really well. The book is ONE DANCE WITH A DUKE by Tessa Dare.

ODWAD has a prominent place on my endlessly expanding TBR shelf. I am even more eager to get to it now.


I'm currently reading your 1st book and am very entertained. I'm a French teacher so the French heroine and setting made me cheer.

Oh my. Thank you so much.
I have the most recent book -- Forbidden Rose -- up for grabs today, [Thursday,] at the WordWenches site.
Just saying . . .

Satori1977
08-12-2010, 08:59 PM
Oh giggle.

I do think, though, that there's a particular American sensitivity to the subject.

I don't always understand American mores.

Me either, and I am American! LOL

greta2242
08-13-2010, 05:24 AM
It might be the genre that we write.
If a man and a woman can satisfy themselves, why does one need a partner? And if one doesn't need a partner, what's the point of looking for one? And if one doesn't need a partner in one's life, then one doesn't need that thing called love? And if one doesn't need that thing called love, what's the point of romance?!?

Maybe I over think it or maybe I understand just a little too well, but I tend to think less of romantic heros or heroines if they are satisfying themselves. The questions above go in my head. I want to read and write romantic encounters where individuals fall in love at the end.

And yes there are definitely exceptions to every rule in this thread.

Satori1977
08-13-2010, 06:29 PM
It might be the genre that we write.
If a man and a woman can satisfy themselves, why does one need a partner? And if one doesn't need a partner, what's the point of looking for one? And if one doesn't need a partner in one's life, then one doesn't need that thing called love? And if one doesn't need that thing called love, what's the point of romance?!?

Maybe I over think it or maybe I understand just a little too well, but I tend to think less of romantic heros or heroines if they are satisfying themselves. The questions above go in my head. I want to read and write romantic encounters where individuals fall in love at the end.

And yes there are definitely exceptions to every rule in this thread.

But masterbation is not the same thing as love or companionship. The point is that men and women can satisfy themselves very easily (sometimes better than a partner, especially if it is a new partner, because you should know your own body very well). Doesn't mean you don't want a relationship, someone to spend your life with. A person to talk with, laugh with, grow old with. One has nothing to do with the other. Many people in healthy, happy relationships satisfy themselves from time to time for a variety of reasons.

greta2242
08-13-2010, 08:49 PM
But masterbation is not the same thing as love or companionship. The point is that men and women can satisfy themselves very easily (sometimes better than a partner, especially if it is a new partner, because you should know your own body very well). Doesn't mean you don't want a relationship, someone to spend your life with. A person to talk with, laugh with, grow old with. One has nothing to do with the other. Many people in healthy, happy relationships satisfy themselves from time to time for a variety of reasons.

This is why Erotica is also romance. And I agree that sex and love are not the same thing. But I know when I read characters having sex on page 1, I'm always doubting the sincerity of the love. I prefer the romantic build up. I don't mind sex in the middle of the book at all. But when I read a book or write, I much prefer the anticipation. If in the meantime the hero/heroine are talking about masturbating, as I reader I would just assume the character is horny. Horny does not equal love.

Soccer Mom
08-14-2010, 12:47 AM
I think it's silly if a novel pretends masturbation does not occur. I read one recently where the hero walked around with a massive, painful woody because he wouldn't sleep with the heroine (his wife, BTW) for the most convoluted reasons, but he was going to her room every night and bringing her to pleasure (yes, it was a Regency) Then afterward, he lays in his bed groaning and drinking brandy. I kept thinking "You still have hands, moron!"

veinglory
08-14-2010, 01:09 AM
This is why Erotica is also romance.

Erotica that is also romance, is also romance. Plenty of erotica is not also romance and vice versa.

scarletpeaches
08-14-2010, 01:20 AM
Maybe I over think it or maybe I understand just a little too well, but I tend to think less of romantic heros or heroines if they are satisfying themselves. The questions above go in my head. I want to read and write romantic encounters where individuals fall in love at the end.I hope I'm reading you wrong, but are you suggesting someone who masturbates cannot still be in love with another person?

That's definitely not understanding 'too well', if my impression of your post is correct.

All of my characters masturbate. I do. My girlfriends do. Sexual pleasure doesn't always have a direct connection to romantic love, but neither does being a wanker prevent one from also being a lover.

Mr Flibble
08-14-2010, 02:04 AM
I did read a (very hot btw) erotic romance that was a LOT of masturbation, because,well, you'd have to read it. Healer's Touch (http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/healers-touch) by Kirsten Saell. Totally worked for me, because he was really hot for the girl but...and she was hot for him but...and then, because of Plot Issues, because he feels he can't touch her, she taunts him by...

You get the idea. Damn that book gave me a hot flush. Or six. I'm fanning myself just remembering it.

CheekyWench
08-14-2010, 02:07 AM
It might be the genre that we write.
If a man and a woman can satisfy themselves, why does one need a partner? And if one doesn't need a partner, what's the point of looking for one? And if one doesn't need a partner in one's life, then one doesn't need that thing called love? And if one doesn't need that thing called love, what's the point of romance?!?

Maybe I over think it or maybe I understand just a little too well, but I tend to think less of romantic heros or heroines if they are satisfying themselves. The questions above go in my head. I want to read and write romantic encounters where individuals fall in love at the end.

And yes there are definitely exceptions to every rule in this thread.

do huh?

I guess mine historical/time travel (cough cheap plug, coming out this month, cough, end cheap plug) has TWO masturbation scenes... one for her and one for him. They're both thinking about the other person, who they are deeply in love with.
So.. there.
:Wha:

I suppose I'm the exception.

sunandshadow
08-14-2010, 03:40 AM
This is why Erotica is also romance. And I agree that sex and love are not the same thing. But I know when I read characters having sex on page 1, I'm always doubting the sincerity of the love. I prefer the romantic build up. I don't mind sex in the middle of the book at all. But when I read a book or write, I much prefer the anticipation. If in the meantime the hero/heroine are talking about masturbating, as I reader I would just assume the character is horny. Horny does not equal love.
The characters who are having sex on page one aren't generally supposed to be in love then, usually they fall in love over the course of the story (assuming it's an erotic romance we're talking about). Personally this seems satisfying and realistic to me because it's how my own relationships would progress, I can't see really falling for someone I haven't slept with yet. Even if you have a crush-at-first-sight on someone, it won't mature into real love unless you get to know them really well by building up an intimate relationship. Intimate doesn't have to mean sex, but certainly having sex with someone does give you a window onto their inner thoughts.

Bubastes
08-14-2010, 03:50 AM
I recently read an erotic romance (Talk Dirty to Me (http://ebooks.carinapress.com/0AFFF867-9C9B-4A2D-A092-538005EA7771/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=646AF194-2741-463D-847D-89836762A30A)) where the hero and heroine masturbate during phone sex. They don't actually get together until the very end. Masturbation was essential to the plot -- the story wouldn't have worked otherwise.

greta2242
08-14-2010, 03:56 AM
The characters who are having sex on page one aren't generally supposed to be in love then, usually they fall in love over the course of the story (assuming it's an erotic romance we're talking about). Personally this seems satisfying and realistic to me because it's how my own relationships would progress, I can't see really falling for someone I haven't slept with yet. Even if you have a crush-at-first-sight on someone, it won't mature into real love unless you get to know them really well by building up an intimate relationship. Intimate doesn't have to mean sex, but certainly having sex with someone does give you a window onto their inner thoughts.

Yet friends of mine who are NOT Christian right just last week married. They were both in their 30s and I know she's definitely not a virgin. But they did not have sex before marriage, and I'm going to assume that they are this week as it's the honeymoon period. You, the singular person. are not everyone on the planet. And not everyone who decides not to have sex before marriage are simply in crush states. If that's how YOUR mind works, it doesn't blanket the planet.

When I write yes my characters have lots and LOTS of issues. I suffer from lots and LOTS of issues. Either way writing romance is the sunny side of relationships and not the nitty gritty. What you do on your own time is your business.

greta2242
08-14-2010, 04:01 AM
I hope I'm reading you wrong, but are you suggesting someone who masturbates cannot still be in love with another person?

That's definitely not understanding 'too well', if my impression of your post is correct.

All of my characters masturbate. I do. My girlfriends do. Sexual pleasure doesn't always have a direct connection to romantic love, but neither does being a wanker prevent one from also being a lover.

If one is to quote and attack, quote the whole post. There was a whole thought process that went before that part that you decide to quote...who said that people cannot love without masturbate? Masturbation has it's place, but it's not exactly romantic at it's core UNLESS it's written extremely well.

scarletpeaches
08-14-2010, 04:06 AM
If one is to quote and attack, quote the whole post.Oh, that was no attack. That was a request for clarification, which didn't, if you'll pardon the pun, come.
There was a whole thought process that went before that part that you decide to quote...who said that people cannot love without masturbate? Masturbation has it's place, but it's not exactly romantic at it's core UNLESS it's written extremely well.In your opinion.

Plus, I did not say people cannot love unless they masturbate. I asked if you were saying people who masturbate cannot love.

san_remo_ave
08-14-2010, 05:23 AM
Yet friends of mine who are NOT Christian right just last week married. They were both in their 30s and I know she's definitely not a virgin. But they did not have sex before marriage, and I'm going to assume that they are this week as it's the honeymoon period. You, the singular person. are not everyone on the planet. And not everyone who decides not to have sex before marriage are simply in crush states. If that's how YOUR mind works, it doesn't blanket the planet.

When I write yes my characters have lots and LOTS of issues. I suffer from lots and LOTS of issues. Either way writing romance is the sunny side of relationships and not the nitty gritty. What you do on your own time is your business.

Oh, wow. Um, I don't think anyone was judging your frame of reference on the subject of masturbation, Greta. IMO, it was just someone else sharing their opinion. You're each entitled to your opinion. Respectfully.


If one is to quote and attack, quote the whole post. There was a whole thought process that went before that part that you decide to quote...who said that people cannot love without masturbate? Masturbation has it's place, but it's not exactly romantic at it's core UNLESS it's written extremely well.

To try to get this back on topic: I don't believe that masturbation is an 'unwritten rule' to avoid in romance. Some folks may not prefer it, as discussed above, but it very much does exist and is published.

Billingsgate
08-14-2010, 05:23 AM
The characters who are having sex on page one aren't generally supposed to be in love then, usually they fall in love over the course of the story (assuming it's an erotic romance we're talking about). Personally this seems satisfying and realistic to me because it's how my own relationships would progress, I can't see really falling for someone I haven't slept with yet. Even if you have a crush-at-first-sight on someone, it won't mature into real love unless you get to know them really well by building up an intimate relationship. Intimate doesn't have to mean sex, but certainly having sex with someone does give you a window onto their inner thoughts.
I'll offer a man's POV here. I've been lurking around this thread because it's one of the best threads I've ever seen on AW.

However, I have to say that I find the above attitude is what I don't like about most contemporary romances. Who says sex is necessary for a deep, satisfying pre-marital relationship? Sex doesn't give one any more "window into their inner thoughts" than any other sort of shared activity. In fact, I think sex obscures people's real feelings, simply because it's an easy way to SIMULATE intimacy.

Interestingly (and surprisingly) of the people I know who have been married 20+ years and still consider their marriages to be very passionate, around half did not have sex before marriage (including my wife and me; we went out for two years, no sleeping together). This topic came up at a party once, so that's the extent of my scientific inquiry, but the results are interesting nevertheless. None of the people I refer to are fundamentalist Christians (I'm an Agnostic Jew). Perhaps the fact that such relationships cultivated the love and romance WITHOUT relying in any way on sex can account for the passion and longevity in the relationships.

Yet the irony in the romance genre --one of the "unwritten rules", it seems--is that if you have a hero and heroine who don't sleep together, it's consigned to the "Christian" romance back shelf. Very disappointing. I've read a number of contemporary romance novels, some quite elegantly written. I'd say three-fourths of them would have been more emotionally moving without the obligatory sex.

san_remo_ave
08-14-2010, 05:45 AM
I'll offer a man's POV here. I've been lurking around this thread because it's one of the best threads I've ever seen on AW.

However, I have to say that I find the above attitude is what I don't like about most contemporary romances. Who says sex is necessary for a deep, satisfying pre-marital relationship? Sex doesn't give one any more "window into their inner thoughts" than any other sort of shared activity. In fact, I think sex obscures people's real feelings, simply because it's an easy way to SIMULATE intimacy.

I absolutely agree with your point that sex isn't "necessary for a deep, satisfying pre-marital relationship".

The essential point I read in sunandshadow's post was (bolding mine):


Even if you have a crush-at-first-sight on someone, it won't mature into real love unless you get to know them really well by building up an intimate relationship. Intimate doesn't have to mean sex, but certainly having sex with someone does give you a window onto their inner thoughts.And I do agree with sunandshadow that INTIMACY is critical between two people to love, however that is built. For some people, they establish intimacy more easily by emotionally opening up to each other, but for others physical intimacy is the first to establish. Neither is wrong, it's just different for different folks.


Yet the irony in the romance genre --one of the "unwritten rules", it seems--is that if you have a hero and heroine who don't sleep together, it's consigned to the "Christian" romance back shelf. Very disappointing. I've read a number of contemporary romance novels, some quite elegantly written. I'd say three-fourths of them would have been more emotionally moving without the obligatory sex.

Sex does sell, which is why it is so prevalent in the genre. However, there is still sweet romance out there. Barbara Metzger rights fabulous sweet Regency. I've never thought that sweet had to equal Christian category.

Cathy C
08-14-2010, 06:44 AM
Just a word from your friendly neighborhood moderator [puts on flaming pink, feathered Moderator hat that Mac insisted we all buy]: The discussion on this thread is very interesting and has taken a turn I didn't expect. It's a good turn and there are interesting insights. But let's keep the discussion civil. We're a VERY polite room here in romance and, unlike some other forums on the board, don't tolerate name calling or flames.

greta2242, this:


You, the singular person. are not everyone on the planet. And not everyone who decides not to have sex before marriage are simply in crush states. If that's how YOUR mind works, it doesn't blanket the planet.


is treading very close to the line of uncivil. You're new, so call this a gentle reminder. Let's all remember that we have opinions and our personal opinions can be very firm and unmoving. But so long as we respect the opinions of others (whether or not we AGREE with that opinion) we'll be good.

[takes off Mod hat, because it's itching]. Back to your regularly scheduled discussion. :)

ellisnation
08-14-2010, 06:21 PM
Sex or no sex? Depends on what the reader wants out of the story.

Clean stories tend to focus more on the romantic/emotional side of things. Not-so-clean romances have a strong focus on sexual tension, then the sex, then go deeper into the feelings stuff. So the reader has a choice to make: Emotional tension or sexual tension?

This is not to say there isn't emotional tension in sexier stories, though. Of course there should be since the aim is for a solid HEA. But let's face it, until h and h hop into the sack, this is where our focus is--BRING ON THE SEX ALREADY!!!

Onto the masturbation thing...I think the reason against this idea has to do with sexual tension for the reader. Please excuse my racy example...Let's pretend for a moment you're watching an x-rated flick (not that any of us do that) and the guy takes care of himself before the chick arrives on the scene. By the time she gets there, unless she's carrying a bowl of popcorn and a dvd, the moment has passed and her presence is useless. At least, this is how it would seem to the viewer. On the other hand, if Jenna Jameson (please tell me I'm not the only one who's familiar with this name) walked into the room, even a totally satisfied man would probably be able to...you know...rise to the occasion ;)

In other words, masturbation scenes could relieve sexual tension for the reader, so tread carefully with this one.

job
08-14-2010, 06:37 PM
What puzzles me somewhat is the way certain sexual acts are accepted in mainstream Romance and others are not.
(Not talking about Erotica or Romantica here.)

For every couple hundred books that go into detail in re tab A and slot B, there may be one mention of masturbation. The odds in real life, *cough*, are skewed differently.

I liked the insight that sexual intercourse or mutual physical arousal are 'about' the relationship. About the creation of a bond. About communication.
That's why sexxing shows up at length in Romance while essentially solitary activities, be they ever so sexual, do not. Folks do not have blinding revelations about each other when they're in bed in opposite corners of the house. In the same bed -- more likely.

Also . . . sexual relationships are the fantasy, aren't they? Folks do not turn to their lover, close their eyes, and imagine battery-operated appliances.

But sometimes I wonder why we don't get a mention of masturbation when it seems called for by the action of the book, especially when there's open and detailed depiction of sexxing.

So I feel like there's taboo at work here. Because of its rarity in mainstream Romance, I'd argue we can add masturbation as a 'forbidden topic'.

scarletpeaches
08-14-2010, 06:44 PM
Also . . . sexual relationships are the fantasy, aren't they?Maybe so, but they're not (or shouldn't be IMO) completely unrealistic.
Folks do not turn to their lover, close their eyes, and imagine battery-operated appliances.No, but they often turn to their lover, close their eyes and masturbate, either themselves or each other, with hands.

Anyway, I don't see how masturbation can kill off sexual tension. Hell, sometimes it makes it worse.

And wanking doesn't mean the person or character then ceases to want their would-be lover as much.

You don't have sex once and never want it again, do you? Why then, should the five-knuckle shuffle kill off your sex drive for a particular person?

ellisnation
08-14-2010, 06:48 PM
You don't have sex once and never want it again, do you? Why then, should the five-knuckle shuffle kill off your sex drive for a particular person?

It shouldn't. I just think the general opinion is that it could kill it for the reader. As with all things writing, when done well enough, it could be spectacular.

job
08-14-2010, 06:59 PM
It shouldn't. I just think the general opinion is that it could kill it for the reader. As with all things writing, when done well enough, it could be spectacular.

Looking at the sex act in terms of plotting --

It's neat and tidy to build up sexual tension, add some relationship stuff that marches forward as the sexual act proceeds, and leave everybody satisfied in bed at the end of a scene.
This is a classic sequence.
(Details of hand, mouth, tab A and slot B and the actual level of heat are not important from a plotting standpoint. )

This is classic because it WORKS and it's satisfying for the reader.

When you depart from this classic sequence, it becomes a different sort of scene and you accomplish different things with it.

If our young woman arrives with popcorn and sixpack to find her boyfriend temporarily uninterested, you may not have one of the great lovescenes of all time. The comic possibilities, however, are limitless.

san_remo_ave
08-14-2010, 09:45 PM
Hm. This topic really has me thinking.

Since masturbation is the stimulation of genitals (oneself or another's) with the exception of coitus, I would agree that self-masturbation is not that prevalent (I see either references or scenes of it once in every, say, ten romances I read), thought why I'm not really sure other than as a social more. Even though, as many have noted, it's quite prevalent, it's certainly still a 'behind closed doors' topic in mainstream romance (exclusive of erotica, I think).

However, masturbating each other? I see that a lot. Much of the historical romance that I have read, the first physical scene (or shortly thereafter) has the hero working 5-digit magic on the heroine straight to the big 'o', then they stop. Sometimes it's an interrupted interlude, but more often than not the hero gets the heroine off then waits. It's deliberate. It's also a way to elevate high sexual tension without deflowering the heroine, because once they finish the act it's expected that marriage will at least enter the conversation in a historical. It's also used to 'awaken' or 'prove' (often to both) that the heroine has feelings (or the hawts) for the hero.

*wanders away, pondering more*

sunandshadow
08-15-2010, 12:56 AM
I'll offer a man's POV here. I've been lurking around this thread because it's one of the best threads I've ever seen on AW.

However, I have to say that I find the above attitude is what I don't like about most contemporary romances. Who says sex is necessary for a deep, satisfying pre-marital relationship? Sex doesn't give one any more "window into their inner thoughts" than any other sort of shared activity. In fact, I think sex obscures people's real feelings, simply because it's an easy way to SIMULATE intimacy.

Interestingly (and surprisingly) of the people I know who have been married 20+ years and still consider their marriages to be very passionate, around half did not have sex before marriage (including my wife and me; we went out for two years, no sleeping together). This topic came up at a party once, so that's the extent of my scientific inquiry, but the results are interesting nevertheless. None of the people I refer to are fundamentalist Christians (I'm an Agnostic Jew). Perhaps the fact that such relationships cultivated the love and romance WITHOUT relying in any way on sex can account for the passion and longevity in the relationships.

Yet the irony in the romance genre --one of the "unwritten rules", it seems--is that if you have a hero and heroine who don't sleep together, it's consigned to the "Christian" romance back shelf. Very disappointing. I've read a number of contemporary romance novels, some quite elegantly written. I'd say three-fourths of them would have been more emotionally moving without the obligatory sex.
Personally I don't seek out sexless romances because I feel that I get forcefed a lot of unnaturally chaste romances in my tv and movie-watching, not to mention that I play online games many of which impose uncomfortable pg-13 restrictions not just on the game's official content but also on the players' personal interactions. And, let me emphasize again that this is just me personally, but to me a romance feels incomplete if it does not involve sex, and preferably also conceiving children. Such an 'incomplete' romance can be a great story, but vice versa, a great 'incomplete' romance still feels 'incomplete' to me. I write erotic/steamy romance, and that's what I consider the ideal form of romance simply because it's my personal favorite.

I do feel that sex does give a window onto someone's inner thoughts, or at least has the potential to do so - much like alcohol, arousal and pleasure lower inhibitions and distract people to the point where they may be unable to maintain a facade. I think if sex obscures peoples' real feelings they're "doin' it wrong". But yes it is possible for sex to be a negative force within a relationship and something people use as a distraction from true intimacy. I'd say once of my own philosophical goals as a writer of sexual romance is to show how sex and love ought to work together, and how readers should be aware that they don't always go together, and that a good sexual relationship is an important part of a good romantic relationship that people have to work at and think about to find out what works best for them as a couple.

brainstorm77
08-15-2010, 01:35 AM
Are there any rules these days? With all the new opportunities with the myriad of presses catering to every spectrum, I would think you could write just about any type of romance. And if it's well written, find a home for it.

Mr Flibble
08-15-2010, 02:42 AM
Originally Posted by Billingsgate http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5237719#post5237719)
Yet the irony in the romance genre --one of the "unwritten rules", it seems--is that if you have a hero and heroine who don't sleep together, it's consigned to the "Christian" romance back shelf

It'd better not be, or I'm Pagan who's written a Christian novel....that would be most embarrassing. It's classed as Sweet, which is just romance without boinking and different to Christian or Inspirational (which clearly demonstrate faith in Jesus etc). Or at least it better had be, or I'll never be able to look Odin in the face again! :D

ThetProf
08-15-2010, 04:17 AM
A while ago Susan said that the heroine one of her current books was married but not to the hero, creating at least part of the conflict of the novel I assme. I have an outline for an historical where through a plot twist the hero and heroine, after pledging undying love, end up married to other people (they end up together of course in a wonderful HEA) but while they are married to others should they remain celibate? In reality, most likely, they would not, having no idea they will ever be together in the end and wanting/needing to make the best of a bad situation. But would readers freak out and throw such a book through a window or at least drop kick it across the room? I can think of a few examples of historical romances where once the h/h are identified as a couple the men have sex with other women but I haven't run across one where the heroine does.

Collectonian
08-15-2010, 10:43 AM
I think, as with all plot elements, that if it is done well, a hero or heroine can be married to someone else while being in love with (and even having sex with) their true partner. I've read a few contemporary romances where the heroine was married or otherwise in another relationship, but began falling for and sleeping with the hero before the previous relationship was fully ended. For the heroine, at least, it always seems to be an issue of forced or abusive relationship that makes it "okay". I think the main thing is having a plausible reason for their going outside their existing relationships to be with other, that also makes both sympathetic. It can't be just an issue of "I want you" :-)

Susan Gable
08-15-2010, 05:36 PM
I think the main thing is having a plausible reason for their going outside their existing relationships to be with other, that also makes both sympathetic. It can't be just an issue of "I want you" :-)

There ya go. I told my editor I felt strongly I could make my heroine sympathetic enough that the readers will root for her when she finally gets together with the hero.

There's irony in the story with regards to what the heroine wants, and what she does. But...isn't life just filled with irony and less-than-perfect decisions?

I hope readers will give her a chance. But...I'm also thinking I might need to order an asbestoes, flame-proof suit. LOL.

Of course, the first reader is my editor. And if it doesn't fly with her, this is all a moot point. ;)

Susan G.

Satori1977
08-15-2010, 05:42 PM
Are there any rules these days? With all the new opportunities with the myriad of presses catering to every spectrum, I would think you could write just about any type of romance. And if it's well written, find a home for it.

It seems like certain types of romances have more (or different) rules than others. But overall, there are not many rules. You can write sweet, steamy, or battery-operated, and still find a home for it. :D

brainstorm77
08-17-2010, 12:41 AM
Agreed. Regarding sweet romance, there is still a market for it and it doesn't have to be christian. Just look at Betty Neels who has been reprinted through HQ, she always sells out rather fast. Her romances are downright prudish! Yet, I love em :)

Soccer Mom
08-17-2010, 12:59 AM
Goodreads has a thriving community called "Clean Romance" which just means romances without a lot of sex, violence, or swearing. The standard is more PG than G. But they specifically do not mean inspirational romance. A low heat level does not equal religious content.

Kweei
08-17-2010, 01:26 AM
Goodreads has a thriving community called "Clean Romance" which just means romances without a lot of sex, violence, or swearing. The standard is more PG than G. But they specifically do not mean inspirational romance. A low heat level does not equal religious content.

Really? Wow. I am going to have to check that out.

I read both, but I have more interest in romances that sway towards sweet. Thanks for this!

Satori1977
08-17-2010, 01:29 AM
Really? Wow. I am going to have to check that out.

I read both, but I have more interest in romances that sway towards sweet. Thanks for this!

If you like sweet romances, you should check out Catherine Anderson. I mostly like very steamy romances, but I adore her books. Definitely on the sweet side, though there is some sex. Just not that explicit. And a lot of her characters are Christian, but I wouldn't call it Christian romance.

Soccer Mom
08-17-2010, 02:07 AM
Really? Wow. I am going to have to check that out.

I read both, but I have more interest in romances that sway towards sweet. Thanks for this!

Sometimes I like sweet and sometimes I like steamy, but I like knowing what I'm going to get and being able to choose my flavor. ;) And I write sweet historicals.

JanDarby
08-17-2010, 02:15 AM
Avalon publishes sweet romances and markets them to libraries primarily. Sweet, but not in the inspirational category.

brainstorm77
08-17-2010, 02:18 AM
Sometimes I like sweet and sometimes I like steamy, but I like knowing what I'm going to get and being able to choose my flavor. ;) And I write sweet historicals.

I'm the same, I like variety.

brainstorm77
08-17-2010, 02:20 AM
Avalon publishes sweet romances and markets them to libraries primarily. Sweet, but not in the inspirational category.


I may be wrong, but I kinda got the idea that even sex behind closed doors is a no no with them from reading their guildelines.

Mr Flibble
08-17-2010, 02:37 AM
You know what, I've been thinking and I reckon there is one rule.

Write characters that are lovable.


Sometimes I like sweet and sometimes I like steamy, but I like knowing what I'm going to get and being able to choose my flavor. ;)

It's always nice to have a heads up.