Have you ever thought about what defines a romance as apposed to a love story? New writers wanting to be published in the field of genre romance ask themselves this question quite often and it’s a hard question to answer. If you’ve written a love story and submit it to one of the many romance publishers out there, it may be rejected just because it doesn’t follow the formula for romance. This is beginning to change to a certain extent, thanks in part to talented authors such as M. Jean Pike. Her recently published novels are love stories published in the romance genre. What exactly is the difference between the two?
Romance follows a very specific formula, which is why it’s necessary for new and established writers to continually come up with fresh, new story ideas. The formula for romance is pretty simple. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, and they live happily ever after. That last part is essential to be accepted by most romance publishers. On many of their sites, it will explain that the happy ending must be there for them to be interested or at the very least the ending must leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction. In between the boy meets girl and the HEA, there can be many different sub plots to move the story along such as mystery, suspense, paranormal, and others. Regardless of the sub genre, the basic formula must remain in order to be called a romance and the developing romance between the hero and heroine should take center stage. The first romance I read, as a young girl, was Jane Eyre. This story follows the exact formula and is still my favorite romance.
A love story doesn’t follow any set formula and doesn’t have to have a HEA. Although, through out the ages there have many love stories that could have been romances if they’d ended differently. Just a couple that comes to mind, Romeo and Juliet and Love Story. All the aspects of a romance are there in those stories, but there isn’t the typical happily ever after ending. Then there’s Wuthering Heights, The Bridges Of Madison County, and Gone With The Wind. Looking at these titles you might assume that a true love story must have a tragic or not so happy ending. Not so. Take for example The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. A lot of people call this a paranormal romance. I think it could go either way since it doesn’t follow the exact formula for a romance, but it does have a satisfying ending. Originally in my newest novel, Black Rock: A Time For Love, the hero and heroine fell in love early in the book and admitted that love to one another. After that it was the outside conflicts that held them apart. According the critiques I received, this was a no-no for a romance. I needed more internal conflict, so I went back and rewrote the entire story. In the long run, did it make the story better? Probably not, but it made it more suitable for the romance genre.
If you’re a writer trying to decide if your manuscript is a genre romance, read what the romance publishers are putting out there, read Jane Eyre or other tried and true romances such as Pride and Prejudice or any other Jane Austin novel. If romance publishers have rejected your manuscript, perhaps you’ve written a love story or a general fiction story instead of a romance. My first novel, Captive Fear was mislabeled a romance, when in actuality it’s a gritty suspense/mystery. There is a romance embedded in the story, but it’s definitely not a typical romance. You will need to define your story in order to query the publishers or agents that are the best fit. Whatever you’ve written, don’t give up–keep submitting until you find the best publisher for it.
©Elizabeth Melton Parsons