Writing Wrongs

July 14, 2006

Over on Romance the Blog today, there’s a post about a new blog Teach me Tonight, Musings on Romance Fiction from an Academic Perspective.

So riddle me this. The entry on Romancing the Blog is bemoaning the fact that the romance genre is actually being taken seriously.

Say what?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard romance authors complain about having to field “When are you going to write a real book?” or “Oh, so you write that trash?”

Here we have academics applying real literary criticism to the romance genre, treating it like honest to goodness literature, like real books.

And we’re complaining?

I don’t get it. And I don’t understand the comments about how a story doesn’t have to be meaningful. Honestly. I’m not being willfully obtuse. I have never understood the division between “meaningful” and “entertainment.” They are not mutually exclusive. A good story, well told, is meaningful. It doesn’t need to contain a political or social agenda to make it so. Sure, plenty of literary fiction does. A lot of it does not. But by and large, readers look at that genre as “meaningful.”

And some of us are even entertained by it. Imagine that.

You know me. I love a “kiss book.” Unfortunately, I don’t find many in the romance genre I truly want to read. Part of that is the size of the genre. It’s huge, so statistically, the number of so-so books will be higher than in other genres (and yes, there are bad lit fic books too).

Another problem I encounter is one that I see in the young adult genre as well, now that it’s “hot.” A lot of style over substance. Flashy, even enticing premises, with zero follow-through. Or the follow-through is so generic, so predictable that it feels like a standard fill-in-the-blanks story with this year’s hot premise tacked onto the front end.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’d love to see a “literary romance.” I’d love to read (and write) meaty books. I actually think it’s harder to pull off a happy (or hopeful) ending that works than it is to fall back on the tragic ending. What’s that saying? “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”

No. Dying is easy. Romance is hard.

So why do romance authors shy away from a respectful examination of the genre? Are they afraid of what they might learn?

I say: Bring. It. On. I know my romance writing friends, both published and unpublished, are capable of great things, of great writing. Let’s allow them to push the envelope of romance. Let’s go where no romance author has gone before.

And maybe we shouldn’t look a gift blog in the mouth.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 11:33 a.m.