• U.S. members: The Federal Government is offering each household in the United States four (4) free at-home Covid-19 test kits. https://www.covidtests.gov/

Need Help Establishing Genre

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

B.G. Dobbins

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
217
Reaction score
14
Location
North Carolina, USA
I have a seed of an idea that feels a bit coming-of-age, but I also want to focus more on the romance element of the story eventually. The overall idea is that a young man sees a prostitute who has a daughter. She's basically dragging this child along with her everywhere and exposing her to less than ideal living conditions. The young man maybe sort of kidnaps this child and takes care of her. They live nomadically for a while, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the man has to leave the girl with a family he trusts so that she can have a safe and stable home environment. Years later when the girl is a woman, the two of them are reunited, and they begin to develop romantic feelings for one another.

Should it simply be a coming-of-age? It will most likely be told from the girl's pov. There's definitely no romance early in the story (cringe), but it becomes that later. I feel like if it was multiple books and one contained the early journey and struggles of the pair, then that would without a doubt be a coming-of-age. But then if a sequel contained later years, it would be primarily a romance. However, that could be jarring and confusing to have a sequel in a different genre, so it might be better to condense it into one story, in which case it would be weird to categorize it as anything romantic when the primary characters aren't even at an acceptable age at the start of the story. I just talked myself into a circle. I maybe even answered my own question. What the hell, what do you guys think?
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,170
Reaction score
4,050
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
I have a seed of an idea that feels a bit coming-of-age, but I also want to focus more on the romance element of the story eventually. The overall idea is that a young man sees a prostitute who has a daughter. She's basically dragging this child along with her everywhere and exposing her to less than ideal living conditions. The young man maybe sort of kidnaps this child and takes care of her.

Since you asked what we think, here is my response to this plot development : what?

The man doesn't ask the woman's consent or the child's consent, but believes he knows best, therefore he forces the child to live with him? Does the mother have any clue what has happened to her daughter, or is she left to wonder whether her child is dead or alive?

They live nomadically for a while, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the man has to leave the girl with a family he trusts so that she can have a safe and stable home environment.

I'm sorry, but I hate this man. He's playing god with other people's lives.

Just as a matter of curiosity, is there anything legal about any of this? He kinda-sorta kidnaps a child, then leaves that child with a family. Are the family now her legal guardians? If not, how do they plan to hide this from schools or doctors (assuming the child is sent to school or receives medical care)? If something happens to the family - hey, if "unforeseen circumstances" could separate this man from the child, this could happen to the family too - have they made provisions for the child?

Years later when the girl is a woman, the two of them are reunited, and they begin to develop romantic feelings for one another.

I had a visceral reaction to this. It was not a pleasant visceral reaction. I will say no more.

Should it simply be a coming-of-age? It will most likely be told from the girl's pov. There's definitely no romance early in the story (cringe), but it becomes that later.

As a reader of both romance and women's fiction, I didn't find any of this in the least romantic. If I read a romance where the heroine fell for a man who did all this to her, I would never read anything by that author again.

I want this man to be held accountable for the crime he committed. And I want the heroine to be far, far away from him.
 

cornflake

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
16,174
Reaction score
3,733
I have a seed of an idea that feels a bit coming-of-age, but I also want to focus more on the romance element of the story eventually. The overall idea is that a young man sees a prostitute who has a daughter. She's basically dragging this child along with her everywhere and exposing her to less than ideal living conditions. The young man maybe sort of kidnaps this child and takes care of her. They live nomadically for a while, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the man has to leave the girl with a family he trusts so that she can have a safe and stable home environment. Years later when the girl is a woman, the two of them are reunited, and they begin to develop romantic feelings for one another.

Should it simply be a coming-of-age? It will most likely be told from the girl's pov. There's definitely no romance early in the story (cringe), but it becomes that later. I feel like if it was multiple books and one contained the early journey and struggles of the pair, then that would without a doubt be a coming-of-age. But then if a sequel contained later years, it would be primarily a romance. However, that could be jarring and confusing to have a sequel in a different genre, so it might be better to condense it into one story, in which case it would be weird to categorize it as anything romantic when the primary characters aren't even at an acceptable age at the start of the story. I just talked myself into a circle. I maybe even answered my own question. What the hell, what do you guys think?

Thriller? Horror? I don't get the end really -- what happens there?
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,662
Reaction score
5,979
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
Reminds me a little bit of Oldboy. Fascinating film. Not a romance (wiki calls it "neo-noir").

OTOH, I do have to wonder how much of this is changing standards. Because The Thorn Birds. Equally squicky, in retrospect, but I did love the book when I read it. (Also not a capital-R Romance.)
 

B.G. Dobbins

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
217
Reaction score
14
Location
North Carolina, USA
The setting isn't actually the real world, so society is a bit different. I did leave out a lot of details from my explanation, because those weren't my main concern. Of course, there's going to be plenty of development to justify the everything that happens with the characters. A girl is in a terrible situation that no one will save her from, not even the law. The man does steal her away to protect her. He cares for her, but something happens and puts them in danger, so he takes her to a family he's close to and trusts where she'll be safe and leaves so that he doesn't draw trouble in their direction. That's a small part of the story.

And then they meet again many years later, but they're basically strangers at this point. Romantic feelings develop between them.

I'm aware that the age gap along with the fact that he assumed the role of a guardian for a period of time will squick many people out no matter what. I expect that. However, due to the nature of society within the story, he's justified in taking action to save the girl, because no one else would. From there they do the best they can. I can go into more detail about my idea if there's real concern about something that simply won't come across well, but I was more trying to work out the genre.

It was pretty obvious once I talked myself through it that it was a standard Coming-Of-Age with a romantic subplot.

Thank you for your input! I've never watched Oldboy, but based on what I read, yikes! That's unfortunate.
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,170
Reaction score
4,050
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
The Thorn Birds always struck me as more of a tragedy than a romance. It helps that Ralph is one of the few people who is kind and considerate towards child!Meggie from the start, but I find it difficult to reread the book and find their relationship as romantic as I did when I was fifteen. It seems more dysfunctional now, how she all but imprints on him and then ignores every decent, kind man who would be a good husband to her. And he doesn't sacrifice nearly as much for her as she does for him.
 

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
9,062
Reaction score
1,866
Location
west coast, canada
How old is the girl, and do you mind messing with your story?
Because right now, I agree with all the reasons for Marian Perera finding it squicky.
But, how about if you turn the young man into a boy? Maybe a couple of years older than her, a street kid who fears for her future, so, not thinking about the consequences, he kidnaps her?
(I assume that in your fantasy world there are no CPS?) Then, proceed as you had intended.
What would be skeevy in a grown man, could be more acceptable in a kid, not trusting adults, foolishly trying to do the 'right thing'.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,662
Reaction score
5,979
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
The setting isn't actually the real world, so society is a bit different.

Spec fic will let you get away with a lot more (Daenerys Targaryan, IIRC, was 14 in A Game of Thrones, and slated to marry her brother before he sold her to the Dothraki), but you probably still want to be aware of how easily your plot as outlined might end up feeling unpleasant to readers. I think it's possible to make it work, but your readership is possibly going to be carrying some cultural biases that you're going to have to overcome.

And I personally wouldn't even attempt to sell it as a romance. May/December is common enough in both Romance and SFF, but May/December and oh yes the man was once an actual parent to the woman is not, I think, going to feel like a romance-novel-type arc to most readers.

The Thorn Birds always struck me as more of a tragedy than a romance. It helps that Ralph is one of the few people who is kind and considerate towards child!Meggie from the start, but I find it difficult to reread the book and find their relationship as romantic as I did when I was fifteen. It seems more dysfunctional now, how she all but imprints on him and then ignores every decent, kind man who would be a good husband to her. And he doesn't sacrifice nearly as much for her as she does for him.

Oh, agreed, it's a huge soap opera. :) And yes, much more a tragedy. It's a dated example, but IMHO it makes a good illustration for the difference between a Romance novel and a story with romance in it.
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,170
Reaction score
4,050
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
Daenerys Targaryan, IIRC, was 14 in A Game of Thrones, and slated to marry her brother before he sold her to the Dothraki

That was probably one reason Martin bent over backwards to show that the first time Dany and Drogo had sex, she was a participant rather than a passive target. It also helped that her only alternative was Viserys - he came across so nasty that Drogo seemed better for the contrast.

And I personally wouldn't even attempt to sell it as a romance. May/December is common enough in both Romance and SFF, but May/December and oh yes the man was once an actual parent to the woman is not, I think, going to feel like a romance-novel-type arc to most readers.

I just remembered a review of one of Christine Feehan's books where the vampire hero who's thousands of years old saved the heroine's life when she was a fetus, and has been watching over her ever since. The reviewer said, "Though the writing is crisp and the action is entertaining, the circumstances of this unlikely union lend the book a creepy paternalistic vibe that never quite goes away."

So even in paranormal romance, some readers might have this reaction. I think what sticks in my craw regarding the OP is the fact that it's bad when the girl's mother puts her in danger, such that the mother can't be trusted with the girl afterwards, but apparently less bad for the man to kidnap the girl, lead a nomadic existence with her, and then be in enough danger that he needed to leave her with strangers (ETA : even if he knows for sure that this family will always love and protect her, they are strangers to her). It feels hypocritical.

That said, this is my response after reading a brief summary of the story, without much supporting detail. So it's possible that in a manuscript, with far more room to develop the characters and setting, this plot development might be pulled off. It would also help if this was not sold as a romance.
 
Last edited:

cornflake

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
16,174
Reaction score
3,733
The setting isn't actually the real world, so society is a bit different. I did leave out a lot of details from my explanation, because those weren't my main concern. Of course, there's going to be plenty of development to justify the everything that happens with the characters. A girl is in a terrible situation that no one will save her from, not even the law. The man does steal her away to protect her. He cares for her, but something happens and puts them in danger, so he takes her to a family he's close to and trusts where she'll be safe and leaves so that he doesn't draw trouble in their direction. That's a small part of the story.

And then they meet again many years later, but they're basically strangers at this point. Romantic feelings develop between them.

I'm aware that the age gap along with the fact that he assumed the role of a guardian for a period of time will squick many people out no matter what. I expect that. However, due to the nature of society within the story, he's justified in taking action to save the girl, because no one else would. From there they do the best they can. I can go into more detail about my idea if there's real concern about something that simply won't come across well, but I was more trying to work out the genre.

It was pretty obvious once I talked myself through it that it was a standard Coming-Of-Age with a romantic subplot.

Thank you for your input! I've never watched Oldboy, but based on what I read, yikes! That's unfortunate.

The whole kidnapping/paternalistic overlord bothers me way more than the age gap. The whole 'no one will save her, so he has to kidnap her,' doesn't help anything, imo.
 

Hbooks

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 18, 2011
Messages
558
Reaction score
72
I enjoy May-December romances, but only when both parties are of age and meet once the younger party is well and clearly an adult.

What would kill it for me is the paternal angle. Very squicky. Could you change the Hero to be a child only a few years older than the heroine? Maybe he's enough older that he helps her escape her situation with her mother's blessing (unless you're making her mother evil, taking her from her mother doesn't set up Hero as a good guy in my book) and leaves her with a family who can take care of her. Then years later he comes back and romance blooms. Them both being children, but him being a few years older, I wouldn't have a problem with. Old enough to be an adult or enough of an age gap to where they couldn't be peers, I would find the scenario you described squicky.
 

StoryofWoe

Sick and pale with grief.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 4, 2014
Messages
1,045
Reaction score
89
Location
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene.
With all due respect to my fellow AWers, the OP didn't ask for suggestions on how she could rewrite her story to appeal to romance readers. A May/December pairing where the characters meet when the MC is very young is obviously squicky to some, but I think it's fair to assume she isn't writing for those people. Books like The Thorn Birds and the more recent All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Brynn Greenwood have their readership. What should be noted is that neither of these books are genre romances.

It's often said that the only "rules" in Romance-with-a-capital R are a) the focus of the novel must be the central relationship, and b) the novel must end in a HEA or HFN. Clearly, there are other, more nuanced guidelines inherent within the genre as it currently exists, as the OP is finding out. Even so, I have no doubt we could find at least a few polarizing self-published romances on Amazon that buck these taste-based trends. What makes one person say Yuck! might be another person's Yum! Take Tiffany Reisz's The Saint for example. H and h meet when the MC is 15 and the MMC is 29. That book won a coveted RITA award.

From the OP's description, it sounds like the book would be a better fit for coming-of-age, general or speculative (and possibly literary) fiction with romantic elements. Especially if a fair amount of time is spent with the MC during the years between meeting the male love interest and his return. Whether it should be contained in one book or split into two will depend on the shape and focus of the story. Series appear to be far more common in commercial fic than general or lit fic. If I were setting out to write general or women's fiction today, I'd aim for one complete book.

All this is fun to think about, OP, but it's cart-before-the-horse kind of thinking. Write the book, then worry about how you're going to sell it. Good luck. :)
 

B.G. Dobbins

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
217
Reaction score
14
Location
North Carolina, USA
Thank you all for taking the time to comment and give feedback. I believe my main hang up was initially, I could see it being multiple books since the timeline is so vast. I knew I was working with a coming-of-age in the first part of the storyline, and I knew I wanted the romantic element later, but I realized multiple books for this particular story the way I'd imagined it at this point might not work, because it would feel like two different genres and could be jarring. If I combined it, I knew it couldn't be romance because most of it wouldn't be.

Anyway, thank you all. I'll consider some of your suggestions and take into account audience and personal tastes.
 

cool pop

It's Cool, Miss Pop if You're Nasty
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
660
Reaction score
126
Location
Texas
If the girl is your main character this could be women's fiction but I wouldn't classify it as romance because the romance isn't the central part of the story and you said the story goes on a good while with no romance. So either women's fiction, contemporary literature or general fiction.
 

cool pop

It's Cool, Miss Pop if You're Nasty
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
660
Reaction score
126
Location
Texas
With all due respect to my fellow AWers, the OP didn't ask for suggestions on how she could rewrite her story to appeal to romance readers. A May/December pairing where the characters meet when the MC is very young is obviously squicky to some, but I think it's fair to assume she isn't writing for those people. Books like The Thorn Birds and the more recent All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Brynn Greenwood have their readership. What should be noted is that neither of these books are genre romances.

It's often said that the only "rules" in Romance-with-a-capital R are a) the focus of the novel must be the central relationship, and b) the novel must end in a HEA or HFN. Clearly, there are other, more nuanced guidelines inherent within the genre as it currently exists, as the OP is finding out. Even so, I have no doubt we could find at least a few polarizing self-published romances on Amazon that buck these taste-based trends. What makes one person say Yuck! might be another person's Yum! Take Tiffany Reisz's The Saint for example. H and h meet when the MC is 15 and the MMC is 29. That book won a coveted RITA award.

From the OP's description, it sounds like the book would be a better fit for coming-of-age, general or speculative (and possibly literary) fiction with romantic elements. Especially if a fair amount of time is spent with the MC during the years between meeting the male love interest and his return. Whether it should be contained in one book or split into two will depend on the shape and focus of the story. Series appear to be far more common in commercial fic than general or lit fic. If I were setting out to write general or women's fiction today, I'd aim for one complete book.

All this is fun to think about, OP, but it's cart-before-the-horse kind of thinking. Write the book, then worry about how you're going to sell it. Good luck. :)

I agree with you. This book is NOT a romance so the OP only has to worry about satisfying those who read this genre. She should not rewrite this into something it's not. I LOVE literature (that can't always be fit into a neat little box) and books that push boundaries and are edgy. I love stories that make things uncomfortable because in real life all types of situations exist not just the "neat and nice" things of the world. I love books that challenge me even if it rocks me to the core. Some books are supposed to be uncomfortable and even aspects we might find disgusting. That's what I love about reading. You get immersed in different worlds and that helps me understand humanity on a deeper level and even myself. If this was a romance, sure a lot of romance readers would not like it. But this isn't a romance and there are many readers who would enjoy a story like this. This is something I would be interested in reading. :)

Also I am a big lover of classics and if we didn't have books that made us uncomfortable or that weird us out at times we wouldn't have most if any of the famous literary masterpieces we have today.
 
Last edited:

cool pop

It's Cool, Miss Pop if You're Nasty
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
660
Reaction score
126
Location
Texas
OP, why don't you post this in the Contemporary Literature forum too and they might give you a better idea of how you can categorize this story.
 

BonafideDreamer

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 8, 2017
Messages
72
Reaction score
3
With all due respect to my fellow AWers, the OP didn't ask for suggestions on how she could rewrite her story to appeal to romance readers. A May/December pairing where the characters meet when the MC is very young is obviously squicky to some, but I think it's fair to assume she isn't writing for those people. Books like The Thorn Birds and the more recent All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Brynn Greenwood have their readership. What should be noted is that neither of these books are genre romances.

It's often said that the only "rules" in Romance-with-a-capital R are a) the focus of the novel must be the central relationship, and b) the novel must end in a HEA or HFN. Clearly, there are other, more nuanced guidelines inherent within the genre as it currently exists, as the OP is finding out. Even so, I have no doubt we could find at least a few polarizing self-published romances on Amazon that buck these taste-based trends. What makes one person say Yuck! might be another person's Yum! Take Tiffany Reisz's The Saint for example. H and h meet when the MC is 15 and the MMC is 29. That book won a coveted RITA award.

From the OP's description, it sounds like the book would be a better fit for coming-of-age, general or speculative (and possibly literary) fiction with romantic elements. Especially if a fair amount of time is spent with the MC during the years between meeting the male love interest and his return. Whether it should be contained in one book or split into two will depend on the shape and focus of the story. Series appear to be far more common in commercial fic than general or lit fic. If I were setting out to write general or women's fiction today, I'd aim for one complete book.

All this is fun to think about, OP, but it's cart-before-the-horse kind of thinking. Write the book, then worry about how you're going to sell it. Good luck. :)

Your post made me search up 'All the Ugly and Wonderful Things' and I spent yesterday reading it. With that book in mind, I understand the original poster's concept better. And I have to agree that the problem is not the relationship being unconventional. Or that readers might hate or dislike the hero (stories are supposed to provoke strong reactions). The problem is in labeling it a 'romance novel'. It's definitely not a romance novel, although it includes romance. If it's from the young girl's view point and takes place in another world (Fantasy? Sci-fi?) coming-of-age seems a good option.
 
Last edited:

Lex181

Registered
Joined
Mar 21, 2018
Messages
16
Reaction score
3
I admire your nerve for taking on a subject like this but it feels a little Lolita to me...
 

Twick

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 16, 2014
Messages
3,291
Reaction score
715
Location
Canada
I think once you say "this isn't our world," your primary genre is SFF. If the romance is the main story, then SFF-romance, but it sounds to me like this is more than that. So, I'd leave it in SFF. SF if the world they're in is more technologically different, fantasy if it's more magic-driven.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away