Friday, April 1, 2011

Now where did I put my diaphanous gown???

This week I told a friend of mine I’m writing a paranormal romance.  She teased me asking, “Will anyone be wearing a diaphanous gown?  I think the woman has to wear a diaphanous gown.  It’s like a rule.”
Ah, the stereotypes of romance novels.  For the record, my heroine does not don a diaphanous gown, nor will she ever.  She’s a button up blouse and pencil skirt type of girl. More to the point though, I don’t think I’ve ever read about a heroine wearing a diaphanous gown.  Even in historicals, they wouldn’t wear something so scandalous.  In the privacy of their bedroom the scenes are more likely to include a chemise and stockings.  While my friend meant it good heartedly (and in all fairness she teases everyone about everything), she did bring about an excellent blog topic: What are the rules of the romance novel?
Nowadays there’s only three rules that are different from any other line of fiction.  You should have a pairing.  Your pairing should be at the center of your story and they should have some kind of Happily Ever After.  Everything else is up for grabs, including what the heroine wears.  Even HEAs come in different forms in the modern romance novel.  In the 90s and early millennia, it seems as though every hero and heroine had to get married at the end of the book AND either have a child or be expecting.  Now you can simply have the profession of love and that’s enough.  There’s always the promise for more and often readers like to imagine the future for themselves.  In some modern romances there isn’t even a hero and heroine, there’s a hero and a hero or two heroines.
I find it amusing to hear all the stereotypes that people believe about romance novels.  I don’t get upset and I never argue with them.  I educate and quietly point out that some of Hollywood’s biggest hits could easily be considered romance stories.  Avatar?  Futuristic Sci-fi Romance.  Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean? Historical Romance.  Sleepless in Seattle and Pretty Woman?  Contemporary Romance Novel.   Twister? Action Adventure Romance.  They are all either centered on a main pair’s relationship or they have huge romantic elements.  Romance is no longer about ripping bodices or puffy shirts that mysteriously lack buttons (although I love a good, old fashioned bodice ripper now and again).  It’s about carefully crafted characters and taut plotlines that keep you flipping the pages or watching the movie.  Oh yes, and a Happily Ever After.
So what’s your favorite romance – book, movie, or otherwise?
                                                              portrait by Jeremy Lipking


Elizabeth Michels said...

What? No diaphanous gowns?!?! Just kidding. I'm always amazed at the preconcieved notions of what is printed within all those pink book covers. Just this week a good friend of mine was shocked when I told her the plot of my book. Apparently she thought romance novels were just books of sex scenes. I agree with you, romances can be found at the movie theater. My favorite romances are Princess Bride, A Knight's Tale, Notting Hill, 13 going on 30, Can't Buy Me Love, I could go on. Great post!

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