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Misconceptions About the Romance Genre

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get really tired of all of the misconceptions about the romance genre. I think all lovers of romance, both readers and writers have heard variations of the following.

“Oh, you read/write those kind of books?”

“I only read books that are well written.”

“I don’t read trash.”

These comments usually come with a host of misconceptions that I’d like to address.

1.) Romance novels are demeaning to women.

Right. Reading about strong women who know what they want, who overcome obstacles in their lives and manage to find love along the way is soooooo demeaning.

2.) Romance novels are old fashioned and have nothing to do with the real world.

Overcoming adversity, personal growth, love and happiness are obsolete? Yeah…I didn’t think so.

3.) All the female characters are simpering wimps in need of rescue and are nothing like today’s women.

Tell that to the heroines who are helping save the world or doing it outright. What about the heroines who are following their dreams, taking charge of their lives, slaying the monsters and generally making the world a better place? These are today’s romance heroines, not some damsel in distress sitting patiently waiting for her knight to save her.

4.) There’s a formula for writing romance and all writers use it.

There is a formula. Just like any other genre of fiction, the stories we write have beginnings, middles and ends. There are protagonists as well as antagonists (be they actual people or issues) there’s rising and falling action as well as big black moments and satisfying endings. This is the formula —it’s called good story telling.

5.) Romance novels are cheaply written porn – all sex with no plot.

Certainly sex is a component of romance, particularly erotic romance, but so is plot. Lack of plot, lack of character emotion, motivation and development equals lack of story.
6.) Romance novels are for people who aren’t smart enough to read a “real” book.

So smart people are opposed to love and happy endings and would to prefer to read books that end badly with death, misery and the crushing of the human spirit. Personally, I see enough of that in real life—I prefer not to perpetuate it in the fiction that I read and write.

These are just a few of the misconceptions about romance novels that I find particularly annoying, but I know there are more. What fallacies about the romance genre irritate you?


Dakota Rebel said...

Great post. You hit alot of my big grr arghs about misconceptions. My biggest problem comes to EBooks. In this day and age it is about time people get over the thought that EBooks are not "real" books. Or that it is any easier to get crap published with EBook publishers. I have to tell people constantly that EBook publishers have just as high of standards as any other publisher. Just because the book is not in print does not mean it is not a great book.

Grr Argh!


Brynn Paulin said...

Excellent points Bron! I'd have to say Dakota mentioned one of my hotspots, so to speak, about ebooks not being real books. Come on already!!

You covered most of the other misconception hotspots I'd mention. Now let's get started on misconceptions about romance writers. Oy vey! My list on that one is HUGE.

sterlingwriter said...

Anyone can write a romance novel (tying into the formula theory.)
We all know Nora. (Cause we're Noratorious)
Just send it in (it doesn't have to be perfect) and it will be published within the year.
Agents and editors are prompt (slush pile? What slush pile?)
I'm sure there's more. . .

Ashley Ladd said...

So very true and well put.

Another thing that gets to me, is that people think romances are so easy to write. They think anybody can write them, that they can pound them out in a couple days.

Lisabet Sarai said...

I belong to an erotica writers group, and sometimes I get hugely annoyed at the out-dated views that they have about romance.

The romance genre has changed and matured, especially in its willingness to include relationships that are not purely heterosexual. Love is love, whatever your gender.

I'm going to post the link to your entry on that other list right now!

Anonymous said...

These so called 'know it alls' are a good 20-30 years behind the times. Sounds like they could do themselves a service by picking up a modern romance novel. They certainly could learn something.

Kathleen Bradean said...

As Lisabet mentioned, it is frustrating to read writer's harsh comments about romance - especially when it's erotica writers. We have our own genre image issues to fight, but some of us willingly jump on the hate wagon for another genre. Ugh.

When someone insults romance, I always ask, "What romance novels have you read?" That gets a lot of hemming and hawing. "I don't read that kind of stuff," is the usual answer. I nod and say, "Oh, so you have no idea what you're talking about, and you're willing to prove it. Brave of you. I know absolutely nothing about 13th Dynasty Chinese vases. Would you like to hear my criticism of them?"

I think what it really comes down to is that romance is considered a woman's genre, written by and for women, and therefore it can't possibly be important or worldly or high quality like stuff by & for men. And let's not forget that romance is 50% of the book market. Success always brings out the petty side of people.

Sandra Cox said...

Great blog Bron,
You hit the nail on the head as far as common misconceptions.