From author Jami Gold:
Throughout the history of fiction, a divide has separated literary fiction and genre fiction. We only have to look as far as the review pages of “serious” journalism sources to see the difference in how much respect each is accorded.
If we write genre fiction, we might bemoan the lack of respect or media coverage, but the same lack of respect occurs at the reader level too. At various times in recent history, readers of science fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, young adult, and romance have also been looked down on (along with probably more genres that I can’t think of off the top of my head *smile*).
Within the romance genre, many outsiders have attempted to make readers ashamed of their reading choices:
- “Oh, you read that?”
- “I can’t take anything with those covers seriously.”
- “Aren’t they just porn for women?”
Therefore, as a romance author, I try very hard not to shame readers for their reading choices. We all read for different reasons, and there shouldn’t be a pecking order for how valid or noble those reasons are.
. . . .
My point is that our reasons for reading and what we personally enjoy are extremely subjective. Because of that, conversations that imply that readersshouldn’t enjoy certain types of stories make me very uncomfortable.
I might find no redeeming qualities in a story, but that doesn’t mean others wouldn’t. Or that the story wouldn’t speak to anyone else. Everyone will have different measures for how to quantify that very subjective “good” or “enjoyable.”
Yesterday, members of the romance writing community received their scores from this year’s RWA RITA and Golden Heart contests. As usual, many were shocked by how their scores were all over the map.
. . . .
RWA doesn’t provide guidelines for how to score entries. In past years, the only hint for providing a score was essentially “how much did you enjoy this story?”
That’s a great scoring mechanism for duplicating how non-writer readers might react to a story. Readers will either like our story or they won’t, and they probably won’t analyze why.
But when those judge-readers aren’t a story’s target audience, it’s tougher to get consensus on which stories are “better” than others. What are they judging each entry on? How much it doesn’t offend them? Or irritate them? Or hit their pet peeves?
. . . .
The romance genre is made up of several subgenres, which each feature their own tropes and expectations. Some romance genres focus almost entirely on the romantic relationship. Other subgenres can include extensive worldbuilding and/or a strong external plot that might (in the eyes of some readers) take away from the romance.
For example, the romantic suspense subgenre includes a strong mystery or thriller plotline, as the characters attempt to evade the bad guys. Paranormal romance might have extensive worldbuilding of made-up cultures and a big “save the world from the bad guy” plot.
So what happens when a reader of contemporary romance has to judge a packet of romantic suspense entries? They might give higher scores to those stories light on suspense, as they’re looking for the focus on the characters and relationship alone.
Or what happens if a reader of historical romance has to judge a paranormal romance featuring a psychic working for a secret government agency?
They might not realize that paranormal romance features far more than vampires and figure the story is off-base. Or they might look at all those worldbuilding scenes between the psychic and her boss establishing the conflict with the Big Bad (and where the hero is nowhere to be seen) and think the story is “not a romance” (which can disqualify an entry).
. . . .
I’ve seen statements that this book should have been disqualified from the RITAs because the power differential between the hero and heroine prevented consent, so it couldn’t have been a romance.
That’s a very slippery slope. We see huge power differentials in romance tropes like billionaires and their secretaries. In paranormal romances, the non-human member of the couple typically has abilities the human member doesn’t.
In the niche of dark romance stories, motorcycle club and fight club criminalheroes are downright threatening to the heroines. There are even a few sex-trafficking-victim-falling-for-her-kidnapper stories out there.
In short, romance has stories with power issues everywhere. In fact, as Sarah MacLean teaches in her conflict workshop, every romance will have a conflict rooted in power.
The heroine needs something from the hero and vice versa. The story often is about the couple’s power negotiations.
Link to the rest at Jami Gold and thanks to Ron for the tip.
Here’s a link to Jami Gold’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.
Between yesterday’s eruption over the Hugo awards and Jami’s experience with the RITAs, PG wonders if contests for books are a marketing tool that has passed its prime, particularly given the tradpub/indie author divide that appears to be a bit sharper all the time.