Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Romance as a Sub-Genre

This week we're looking at romance in fiction. On Monday, we reviewed the romance genre. Today, we'll look at romance as a sub-genre.

You may have heard the term "with romantic elements." This term is tacked onto a genre to let an agent or editor know the book has a strong romantic theme but isn't a romance.

Many writers have a hard time determining the genre of their books. If you're struggling with this issue, here are a few questions to ask:

- Is the main plot about two people falling in love?
- Are the romantic characters the main characters? Do they share most scenes?
- Is the romance journey throughout the book or is it only in a few chapters?
- What is the main purpose of this book?

Let's look at a scenario.

Jack has to find and dismantle a bomb or his sister will die. He meets Mary, who he's attracted to, and she helps him locate the bomb. She leaves, and he spends several chapters fighting bad guys and trying to save his sister. Mary shows up again, and they realize they love each other. Jack then dismantles the bomb, thwarts the bad guys, and saves his sister.

This clearly is a suspense and could even be a romantic suspense. However, since Jack and Mary don't spend the majority of the book together, and the main plot from beginning to end is Jack saving the day, this book cannot be classified as a romantic suspense. It is a suspense with romantic elements.

For this book to be a romantic suspense, Jack and Mary would need to meet in the opening chapters, be in close contact throughout the book, and be dealing with their inconvenient attraction while solving the bomb issue. They would not declare their love for each other until the case was solved. The suspense would be secondary, but that doesn't mean it would be less suspenseful. I've read many thrilling romantic suspenses that have not skimped on the suspense for the romance's sake.

It's important to correctly name the genre you write when querying, because agents and editors will expect the main plot to be a ROMANCE if you call it a romantic suspense, but they will expect the main plot to be a SUSPENSE if you call it a suspense with romantic elements. Clearly defining your genre could mean the difference between getting a request or getting a rejection.

Join me on Friday when we'll discuss how adding romance in any amount can help your book.

28 comments:

  1. I used to struggle with this distinction. I originally categorized the book that is now out on submission as women's fiction with romantic elements. But somebody set me straight, and I'm glad she did. :)

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  2. That phrase "with _____ elements" could work for a lot, and really make explanation with genre a lot easier. Great and clear post, Jill!

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  3. Nice explanation! You really hit it.

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  4. I love the idea of sub genres within genres, really giving a writer room to choose their niche. And speaking of romantic suspense, Carla Neggers is having a coffee at my blog today, with much words of wisdom!

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  5. Good Morning!

    Katie: It's difficult to correctly name our genre, but it's so important. Lucky you having someone help!

    Janna: Absolutely! All of these terms are interchangeable. That's the beauty of genres and sub-genres!

    Jessica: Thanks!

    Tamika: Thanks, glad it helped!

    Joanne: Yes, it makes it easier on the writer and the person she's querying. Thanks for the head's up about Carla Neggers. I'll be sure to check it out!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. That's a really cool photo! I never knew there were distinctions like that until I started looking at contests and saw "with romantic elements." For me it's easy right now--plain ol' romance.

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  7. Perfect timing for me, Jill. Thank you!

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  8. Great post for me and perfect timing, Jill! I love this series!

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  9. This has been my downfall for far too long. A friend of mine just yesterday informed me I had written a thriller. Really? I was the last to know. Really I should have laughed but I was stunned. *sigh* still so much to learn.

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  10. I love your questions to ask. That really helps narrow down the genre. Thanks!

    And I can't wait to see if my library has that book you mentioned on my blog! Thanks for that too. :)

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  11. Georgiana: I love that photo! Wish I could have been there.

    Niki: Oh good!

    Heather: Thanks! Glad it helps.

    T.Anne: Don't feel bad! It happens to all of us. It's great you have a friend who told you what it was. It's hard to see our own work objectively!

    Elana: Your book sounds amazing. I love the themes in your query. Let me know if you like that book!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  12. Hi Jill -

    Thanks for clarifying the elements that make up romantic suspense versus suspense with romantic elements.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  13. I'm excited about next week because the books and movies, in my opinion, that are the best are the ones that make it difficult to nail a genre. They include action, love, comedy and drama...I love it.

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  14. Jill:
    I also thank you for explaining the romance sub-genre distinction.

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  15. Susan J: You're welcome!

    Brittany: I like a little bit of everything too, as long as there's a clear focus. There are some amazing artists out there!

    Quietspirit: Welcome! The criteria works for any sub-genre, which makes it handy!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  16. Wow, thank you for clarifying! I think sometimes I have difficulties picking a genre for myself. This was helpful. :-)

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  17. Nice explanation Jill. Dang you're good!! Even though I don't write romance this helps me. I've always had a hard time defining genre. =)

    YOU ARE THE ONE! =)

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  18. I think my friend kinda ran into this problem of defining her genre. She writes romantic suspense but actually the suspense was a lot lower than the romance. Can you have a romance with suspensful elements? LOL!

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  19. Icy Roses: Okay, I LOVE your new profile pic! And it's hard to figure out genres. Really hard!

    Robyn: Ha! Ha! Just sharing what I learned from old pros!

    Jennifer: Gotcha. Right now, I think agents and editors want tense, fast-paced suspenses, romantic or otherwise. Your friend would probably be smart to either tag it as a romance (and yes, she could throw in with suspense elements) or she should consider ramping up the suspense.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  20. This is such an important post. Whether we like it or not, the powers that be categorize books, and not just by genre. Jennifer, lOVE, LOVE, your clarity!!!

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  21. I agree...this is really helpful. It can be so tricky to label books sometimes. You actually make it easy!

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  22. Hi Jill, Very good clarification. Based on your questions and sample story, I'm re-thinking the categorization of my genre from romantic suspense to suspense with romantic elements. Hmmmm. It's a revelation! Patrice

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  23. Patti: Fellow writers have shared their rejections with me, and we realized some rejections were based on the genre alone. It's vital to get it right!

    Lisa and Laura: Thanks! Like I said, just sharing what the pros told me!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  24. SO true. I've had this debate a lot recently. Is what I'm writing romance, women's fiction with romantic elements...or just women's fiction? There's a fine line, especially among the latter two. It was easier when I just wrote category!

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  25. Patrice: From what you've told me of your book, (which sounds way cool and I want to read, by the way) I'd say your book is a suspense with romantic elements. I'd hate to steer you wrong, though!

    Steph: I know, it's hard! There is a fine line. Is the book more about a woman's journey and there's a romance along the way? Than I'd say it's a women's fiction with romantic elements. Is it a book about a woman falling in love and during the romance she grows? Then it's romance. But if it's a woman's journey and she's dating but not exclusively, I'd say it's women's fiction.

    The important thing is to prioritize what's going on in the book. This is what makes it easier to define the genre.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  26. Oh...and I have an award for you on my blog today!

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