Jul 31, 2005

Romance vs Chick Lit


Over 3,000 romance writers, agents and editors finished up the last day of the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Reno last night. The conference tends to slow things down in the publishing world, which is bad news for someone like me who isn't at the conference and is waiting to hear from New York. So frankly, I'm glad it's over.

I've been a member of RWA for about three years now and I've learned a lot from this organization. I went to the conference last year and it was AMAZING being a part of that creatively energized group. Most of the information I've received is applicable to any genre so even though I write Chick Lit, being a member has helped my writing immensely. If you're interested in writing commercial fiction it would definitely be worth your while to check out the RWA chapter in your area. There is a link to their website on the sidebar of this blog.


I have also gleaned a lot of information on writing romance, which I've found interesting. There are very strict rules for the genre. It's generally written in third person. There can be only one hero. The heroine is nearly perfect inside and out. The hero and heroine must meet in the first chapter. There must be conflict between them that keeps them apart...


There are several stages of sexual tension starting with a look, proceeding to a touch, kiss...etc. until they end up in bed. Romances are written in different "categories" which basically mean levels of sexual tension, starting with sweet romances where the sex is implied and ONLY after they are married all the way to the Blaze which is much more explicit and Romantica which has graphic erotic elements.


Then there are the sub-genres of romance which pair other genres with a love story. They include romantic suspense, historical romance, paranormal romance, time-travel romance, romantic mystery, etc. All of the rules I mentioned apply to these sub-genres.


But the one thing that is a MUST in Romance is the HEA (happily ever after.) When you pick up a romance novel you are GUARANTEED that the hero and heroine (who met in the first chapter) will ride off into the metaphorical sunset in the last chapter. Not that there's anything wrong with that...


But THAT among all the other rules is why I don't write or really even read romance. I want to be surprised at the end. My favorite movie of all time is "Sixth Sense"...what an ending! I also loved "Gone With The Wind" and "Titanic" both definite romances, but with decidedly unhappy endings. As a matter of fact, today Margaret Mitchell would be asked to rewrite her ending.


With Chick Lit all the rules are out the window. You can write in first person, there can be multiple points of view, multiple boyfriends, or no romance at all, the heroine can be flawed and therefore much more believable, and you don't know how the story is going to end. It can go either way. Generally there is a comedic "voice" which I love writing, too. Chick Lit is really more about the heroine's journey.

And in Chick Lit there are sub generes, as well, including Mommy Lit, Lady Lit, Lad Lit, Paranormal Chick, Time Travel Chick...you name it...

CurvyKathy31: Confessions of a Chat Addict is almost an anti-chick lit...and probably why it's been a hard sell. The manuscript I'm working on now is much more of a classic Chick Lit with a mystery as a sub-plot, so hopefully Chick Lit Mysteries will be hot when I'm ready to sell.


Hale McKay said...

INteresting...I never Knew Romance Novels adhered to such strict guidelines - and always a HAE? - - BOOOOORING! If I were stranded on an island with a crate of books and i could choose either Romance or Chic Lit - I would have to choose the latter. I too want to be surprised with endings.
_I'm planning on a surprise ending on my story - but in meantime I am throwing in as many twists as I can as not to tip off ending.
--Good post!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

According to all the reports I've read from the conference, chick-lit mysteries are hot right now.

Anonymous said...

I've never liked romance for the reasons you discuss. That said, one of my favorite movies of all times is Revenge. Yes, it has Kevin Costner, but it's a lively love story with a wonderfully surprising ending. I still cry and cry every time I watch it.

Karyn Lyndon said...

Hale, IMHO short stories require a twist at the end. That reminds me, I need to go read your new installments.

Elizabeth...guess I better finish it then!

Hamel...I've never heard of that one. I'll have to check it out. I LOVE movies that make me cry.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting!