I’m always obsessed with learning more about anything I tackle, and so for writing, I read and reread craft books, trying to soak in every tidbit. Right now I’m in the planning stages of a new novel and so I’ve been rereading some books on structure and some on writing romance. Coupled with a comment made by an instructor in a class I’m currently in, it’s made me step back and look at what kind of romances I like to read.
Hijinks or Tear-jerkers
What started this introspection were some comments made by this instructor that in romance the main conflict needs to be based on emotion, which echoes what I’ve been reading in the writing romance books. That I can’t have external issues keeping the two apart, etc. And typically the books will list different emotional, drama-inducing scenarios that frankly, while yes, they are heavy on emotion and conflict, just don’t interest me in the least. My usual response when reading a romance where the main thing that’s keeping them apart is some huge emotional baggage is “get over it.” I’ve never been into watching movies or reading romances where the sole purpose is to indulge in some huge emotion-fest.
But, please know this is not me judging those types of stories, it’s simply me stating it’s not my thang. I know that there are other types of stories that I find awesome, that don’t interest others. That’s what’s so amazing about humanity– the variety of opinions. Thank GOD we don’t all have the same tastes!
So, back to exploring my tastes :) Perhaps this is why I don’t normally read contemporary romances, since that seems to be how they’re mainly structured. Everyday domestic drama holds no interest for me. Especially if the main plot is 80% working through some emotional trauma that’s keeping the two apart. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some contemporaries that aren’t like this, but I usually come by them from referrals or because I know the author’s work. The historicals I typically read have some kind of interesting external plot the two get ensnared in, and hijinks and fun and love happens along the way. If some happen to elicit a tear or two, that’s awesome sauce. I’m not averse to emotion, I just don’t relish wallowing in it, if that makes sense.
Anyway, this led me to question whether MUST LOVE BREECHES is even a romance (according to the instructor, based on my GMCs I turned in, it’s not) and set me into a panic last week. But then I’d just finished reading a wonderful romance and I thought I’d analyze it to see if it would hold up to the instructor’s strictures, and I really don’t see that it does. But I could be wrong. Please feel free to set me straight in the comments. I want to learn!!
The book? A Week to Be Wicked, by Tessa Dare. It’s also getting great reviews, so I’m not alone in thinking this was a great story and romance. In fact, it could be one of her best. Since I’d closed the book with a sigh during all this introspection, I thought I’d see if I could write up the GMCs for this book (GMC=Goal/Motivation/Conflict, usually stated as x wants ___ because ____ but___):
External GMC: She wants to present her findings on her geological discovery because she wants to leave a mark on the world, but the symposium is in Edinburgh and she can’t get there alone.
Internal GMC: She needs to feel attractive and loved for herself but her bluestocking habits are usually all that guys see.
External GMC: ? In Act Two, he modifies his goals in order to get Minerva to Scotland because he realizes she’s determined to go anyway but he has to have a woman in his bed every night. But what’s his original story goal? Is it: He wants to live life on the surface and have a woman in his bed every night because he cannot sleep without someone physically next to him, but Minerva is a virgin and wants her to escort her to Scotland?
Internal GMC: He needs to keep everyone at an emotional distance because that’s how he’s learned to cope in life but Minverva challenges him
What am I missing here? I feel like I’m missing “it” on several levels. One– I can’t seem to come up with solid GMCs for Colin. If you’ve read it, can you help me out here? In fact, I just looked up the book description, and his goal is stated as “Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be . . . anywhere but Spindle Cove” which would actually dovetail with hers, not be in conflict with it. And Second– if this had been my homework assignment my instructor would have told me that my story was flawed because my hero’s GMCs were muddled and not tied directly to the heroine’s strongly enough. She would probably say that he needs to have some competing external GMC that would be opposed to her going and ditto with the internal, so that the whole middle was taken up with their conflict over this. But yet, she’d be so wrong. This story WORKS, and it’s a wonderful LOVE story with tons of ROMANCE. And I loved Colin to pieces and wanted to wrap him up and take him home with me. His character arc was wonderful to witness and a natural progression. As one reviewer said, it’s so much fun seeing a guy like that fall like a tree. Sigh.
The pretend instructor feedback on Dare’s book (hero’s GMCs were muddled and not tied directly to the heroine’s strongly enough) is similar to what she’d told me about mine and said “let me guess, your middle is mostly external conflict.” Well, yes, it does have a lot of external conflict, but it also has emotional conflict. After a while, I realized that the kind of romance she’s advocating is actually the kind I don’t like to read. As noted above, I like to have a good balance of external and emotional conflict. I also realized that this is how many who don’t read romance perceive it and is why they don’t read it as it wouldn’t be their thing.
So that you have an idea of the styles of romance I like to read, here’s my list of auto-buy, big-name romance authors:
- Loretta Chase
- Julia Quinn
- Amanda Quick
- Tessa Dare
- Katie MacAlister
- Courtney Milan (a recent addition)
I’ve never read a single Nora Roberts, as I have this perception that her work is the kind of romance I don’t like to read.
So, am I completely whacked and I’m analyzing Dare’s book incorrectly? Am I missing some key ingredient that would make all this crystal clear for me? Do you like purely emotional-driven conflict or a mixture of both?
Sorry for the rambling post as this is something I’m trying to grapple and understand. I’m hoping that by writing this post, it will help clarify some things in my mind.
I’m also aware I probably just exposed myself as a complete ignoramus and just shot any chances of landing an agent if they happen to check out my blog while evaluating my partials/fulls. *waves* Thing is, I want to learn. To get better. I figure by posting this and getting your feedback, it will help to this end. What am I missing in understanding the romance genre?