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The romance fiction genre is perhaps the biggest slice of
the fiction-buying pie available on the market today.
With more than 50% of paperback fiction sales being
attributed to romance novels, it's no wonder so many new
romance authors are popping up on the scene.
So what constitutes a romance novel?
Most romance novels should contain two basic elements to
be considered "romantic":
A central love story - the central plot and
a large portion of the conflict are focused on two people
falling in love and then struggling to maintain and
justify that love.
An emotionally satisfying, 'happy' ending -
Romance fans read romance for the 'feel good' factor.
After such intense conflict, trying to establish and
maintain the relationship, readers want to see the good
guys come together at last in a 'happy ending'.
Note that these basic elements do not focus on sex. A
romance novel is focused on the romance - the love story
between two people - and not necessarily on the act of
getting together physically. It is true that some
romantic authors will integrate sex scenes into the
central love story, but the main aim of a romance novel
is to tell a tale of an unfolding romance. Erotica is a
completely different genre - one we are not focusing on
during this article.
Once the two basic elements above are fulfilled, a
romance novel can contain any amount of extraneous
setting or plotting details the author desires. These
distinctions in plot and setting (or even time period)
give us the basis for most romantic sub-genres.
Remember - Sub-Genres are classifications used to help
categorize a novel in the marketplace, or to assist
readers in finding similar books in styles they already
enjoy. However, many authors will happily combine two or
more sub-genre styles within the one plot. As these
cross-genre books become more popular, this creates
sub-categories within sub-genres.
For more information
on how to become a romance novelist, look into societies
such as the Romance Writers
of America, and
purchase tutorials such as How to
Write Romances by Phyllis Taylor Pianka, or How to
Write a Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk, founder of
The Romantic Times magazine.
Romance tales set mostly in the present time, but can be
categorized as taking place after the World Wars. Can
(and often does) contain elements of suspense, humor,
drama - or any mix thereof.
Focuses heavily on the sexual component of the story,
often relying on graphical descriptions to turn up the
heat. This sub-genre makes heavy use of language not
commonly found in other categories of romance.
Although still centered on a romantic tale, Fantasy
Romances take place on other worlds and contain elemens
of magic. They can also sometimes incorporate mystical
creatures, like fairies or dragons, or horrific
creatures, like vampires and werewolves. Some authors
blend elements of mythology into fantasy romances.
Obviously, romance stories set in the far future and
containing some science fictional or fantastical
elements. Mostly classified in the "paranormal"
sub-genre, Futuristic Romances are gaining in popularity
and thus some publishers may classify this sub-category
as its own sub-genre.
Often focused on the rich and powerful, the
jet-set elite crowds and celebrity-like characters. Think
Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz and you've encompassed
this sub-category nicely.
Romance stories set in the past and generally before the
World Wars. Unfortunately "before the World
Wars" is a broad classification and can be stretched
so far back into our history to include: American West,
American Colonial, American Civil War, American
Revolution, American Reconstruction, Native American,
Australian Colonial, European Dark Ages, Early European
Rennaisance, French Revolution, Celtic, Medieval England,
Middle Ages England, Victorian England and Regency
Romance tales containing "other-worldly"
elements such as ghosts or spectres. Can also be extended
to include spirits, devils, demons or angels. In some
cases, the characters may posses certain paranormal
Stories about knights in shining armor rescuing damsels
in distress in medieval European settings.
Adventure and romance on the high-seas, featuring
swash-buckling pirate captains and feisty heroines
willing to risk all to be with the bad-boy of the sea!
Romance stories set in England in the early 1800s - even
though they are not the same as a "Historical
Romance". They generally have a stronger focus on
the surrounding society and the interplay between
characters. This sub-category of the original Historical
sub-genre became popular enough to warrant its own
From fast-paced screwball antics to simple, quiet wit,
these novels are often categorized in the "Women's
Fiction" section of some bookstores. Commonly
displayed with a cartoon-like cover, these books are
gaining in popularity!
Romance containing an element of mystery and intrigue.
Sub-categories include: Espionage, Forensics, Homocide,
drug-dealing, smugglers. Generally contain a more
dramatic tone and are most frequently set in a
Romance tales set across two different time periods, with
one or more characters "time-traveling" between
Harder to find on the shelves these days, but Viking
Romances center around characters from early Nordic
Often categorized under 'Historical' romance, these tales
are of romances set in the American 'old west'.
Romances written with the teenager in mind, so the
sensuality levels will obviously be understated. These
are hugely popular with the teens and are always in
Copyright 2002-2008 Lee Masterson. All rights reserved.
Other Useful "Must-Have" books for your
Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published" by Julie Beard
Romance Writer's Phrasebook" by Jean Salter Kent, Candace