Monday, October 18, 2010
Part Three in Big 4 Genres: Christian Romance
This is part three in the "Big Four Genres" written in Ron Benrey's "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction". Stayed turned for part four - my genre "Christian Suspense and Mystery".
Half of the mass-market paperback novels sold each year are romances and -- secular and Christian. romances are so popular, in fact, that most Christian publishers produce some -- and a few make romance novels the heart of their offerings.
All romance novels are about love, but some might not be considered traditional love stories. The vital distinction is that many of stories have sad endings -- think Romeo and Juliet or the movie Casablanca -- while romance novels and happily and optimistically, with a live hero and heroine, in a fully realized romance. If the pair aren't married by the end of the novel, the reader feels confident that they're on their way to the altar.
Christian romance may well be the easiest genre for a first-time novelist to enter,because romance publishers have a voracious appetite for manuscripts. Some will still consider unagented manuscripts. Also, so-called "category romances" are only 45,000 to 60,000 words long, depending on the publisher. Many romance novelist report that they are easier to write than the longer novels demanded by other popular genres. Category romances are published in a variety of sub genres, or categories -- such as romance, romantic suspense, romantic intrigue, and historical romance. Publishers of category romance produce a few brooks in each category each month. The books are often numbered for easy identification and are available for a short period of time -- typically until next month's romances push them off the shelf. The two leading Christian category romance publishers are Steeple Hill(an imprint of Harlequin) and Barbour Books.
No other Christian genre has more sub genres and romance. The list includes historical romance, Gothic romance, romantic suspense, romantic mysteries, prairie romance, Western romance, fantasy romance, humorous romance, mature romance, and ethic romance -to name a few possibilities. Full-length romances range from 75,000 to 95,000 words.
There are conventions and the romance genre that are important for you to recognize:
* Because most readers are women, stories are usually towed from the heroine's point of view (or at least begin and end from her point of view).
*The hero and heroine meet in the first chapter-- this is the romance novel equivalent of beginning the story in media res, in the middle of things.
*The shifting relationship between hero and heroine is the heart of the story(the reason why readers read romance novels); readers don't appreciate back story or extraneous detail that gets in the way.
*The lead characters are often stereotypes-- the beautiful female with a mind of her own, the handsome alpha male used to getting his own way.
* The story takes place over a compressed time period -- a few days or weeks, which means that the heroine and heroes relationship must develop more quickly than a real relationship.
Most Christian romances follow a well-known story plan: girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy again -- where some sort of misunderstanding, personality conflict, or external force drives them apart after their relationship has begun. This storyline is so familiar that it may strike you as a cliché. In fact, it can serve as the frame for an unlimited number of different stories, because there are so many possible variations for each one of the elements