Friday, February 25, 2011

Romance Through the Ages

Romance isn't the genre for everyone, but for those it appeals to, we love it! What's better than that first sight of a potential love, that first kiss, or a happily ever after? And that's part of the reason romances are so successful and endure the ages. From Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to some of the contemporary romance authors of our time (some of my personal favorites, too) like Denise Hunter and Jenny B. Jones, these writers and their books follow a bit of a formula--a successful way of presenting a love story to a reader that fulfills what they're looking for.

The Connection

This is the moment the hero and heroine get their first sight of each other. It's either the first time they've seen each other at all, the first time their interaction is introduced to the reader, or a reunion of a hero and heroine who knew each other from the past somehow. Either way, it's that first moment the reader is waiting for. When the two people we root for to find love with each other and land on the page together. Sometimes there is breathlessness, sometimes there is a funny quip or humorous interaction like in Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones, but no matter how it plays out, it's clear the hero and heroine feel something for each other and will be meeting again.

Physical Interaction

This can be anything from the touch of a hand or arm, to a hug or kiss. This is the moment the hero and heroine move into a new stage of their relationship. Where it's taken to another level and made clear that they are falling in love. The moment Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy touch is just as powerful as contemporary stories that express interaction with a passionate kiss. The story builds toward this moment and readers expect it.

The Conflict

Ahh...well, of course we want the characters to fall in love and live happily ever after but we don't want it to come easy. Where's the fun in that? No, we want to see the characters grow and change, to struggle and overcome. So there's conflict, something that keeps the characters apart--Denise Hunter is a master at this. These conflicts consume the characters and make it believable that to them, they truly cannot be together. Whether it's an internal, external, or spiritual conflict, or all three, we expect as romance readers that there will be something to keep the hero and heroine from expressing their love or making it to that happy ending.

The Resolution & Happily Ever After

And just as surely as we know the characters will be pulled or pushed apart, we know they will come back together. There will be a reconciliation and a happily ever after. Sometimes this is a kiss, an apology, a declaration of love or a marriage proposal, but no matter which, it's the ahhh or awww moment of the book. The point we've been waiting for that all is well and the hero and heroine will be able to move forward with the love and life we've been rooting for.

If you haven't read any of the authors above, I recommend it. But you know from the last several posts we've had here on The Writer's Alley that most of us are fans of these authors and they're excellent writers. So, if you read romance or have read a romance, what do you think? Has this genre endured the ages because it follows a certain kind of formula? When you pick up a romance novel, do you expect these aspects to be present in a story or would you rather see something different?


Misha Gerrick said...

I think there are some basics in the genre that shouldn't be messed with - happy endings being most important.

But I find that some authors tend to follow formulae more than creating something new to read.

I find that annoying.

Still, I'm mad about romances.


Jennifer Shirk said...

I think romance has endured because it does follow that formula. Readers are definitely looking for that. I know I would be disappointed if it changed.
Jenny B Jones is on my TBR list. I can't believe I haven't read anything by her yet.

Jordan said...

I agree with Misha - give me a happy ending, but mix up the plot a bit. I agree that Denise Hunter does a great job of this...she's got some awesome twists in her books! Karen Kingsbury is also a master of creating unique love stories. Ashley and Landon from her Baxter series have one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read.

Oh, the first meeting. *sigh* I like all kinds, but my favorite is when they've been best friends forever (what better basis for a happily ever after?) and have been secretly in love. Aww!

As for the physical interaction, any touch or hug or kiss is welcome! I love "feeling" the same emotions they are from the touch. I'm also a fan of "almost touches", like when they are but at the lat minute, you're left wanting more. *Sigh*

I do love a good conflict too, of course. :) It keeps you on your toes, worries you a bit, keeps you reading.

Anyway, great post!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Misha, thanks for your input on that. Formulas can be a great starting point but it really makes you want to continue reading an authors work when they end with a book that creates a new fresh twist on something done before.

Jennifer, I have to admit, I look for that, too. When there isn't a traditional happily ever after or one of the other things we expect, it sometimes feels like a betrayal. And I'm so glad Jenny B. Jones is on your list. I think you'll love her books!

Oh, Jordan, just reading your comment made me want to go out and pick up a great romance right now! :) Yes, there are so many great things about a romance--especially, like you said, the oh-so-close moments. Yum! And I agree, it's wonderful when you can have the happily ever after but the plot is mixed and different before that.

Thanks for stopping by!

Keli Gwyn said...

I've been a fan of the romance genre for . . . a long time. (I wanted to say nearly four decades, but that makes me sound old, and I'm quite young at heart. =) I think what makes a romance so appealing is that we all crave love.

No matter what book I read or movie I watch, I'm apt to see love at the heart of it. In Hachi, it's love of a dog for his master. In The Wizard of Oz it's Dorothy's love of her aunt and uncle. In Toy Story, it's the toys' love of Andy.

For me, there's nothing quite as sweet as the love of a man and woman who are meant to be together. Watching their journey of discovery is such fun.

Pepper said...

Oh Cindy,
What a delightful post.
And Keli - no wonder I love you so much. Sigh. Romance :-)
Doesn't the mere word may you all warm and gooey inside?

Two 'scenes' popped to mind in my head when I read this post, Cindy.
Actually two scenes from one movie in P & P (2005):
When Mr. Darcy and elizabeth see each for the first time and there is that 'connection'.
Then when Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth's hand to help her into the carriage. (sparks! Whew)

What about the scene in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, when Matthew Mc. sees Kate Hudson in the lovely yellow dress. He thumbs his palm over his heart and just stares at her. Lovely.

There are so many fabulous scenes in movies.
But books have them too. Mary Connealy's 'connection' between her hero and heroine is usually pretty intense. Belle Tanner's connection with Silas. Both with Doctor in Petticoats and Wrangler in Petticoats, there is an INSTANT connection betweent he characters. It's wonderful.

And I'm a big fan of Denise Hunter's books.
Great post, Cindy

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Keli, yes! The dawning love between man and woman is such a sweet thing. It IS a discovery and a journey that never gets old--why wouldn't we want to relive it over and over through books or movies?

Pepper, I was thinking of that exact part in the movie P & P when Mr. Darcy helps Elizabeth into the carriage and they touch hands. Oh, it's soooo simple but there's so much magic there! And How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is great--I love that movie and know exactly what part you're talking about. Those moments are just seconds in movies or short sentences in books sometimes but they are so powerful. I LOVE romance!

Pepper said...

Some of the most poignant memories in life or books only take a few moments in our lives, don't they?
Though not romance, I remember meeting you in the taxi to the airport in September 2010. It was a brief moment, but that instant connection that binds writers - but not only writers, CHRISTIAN writers, was memorable.
Now look at us!
Alley Cats!!! :-)
Who'd have known but God!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Love this, Cindy! I think those patterns have stuck through the ages for a reason, but I love it when an author provides twists and turns that surprise.