Romance 101

What makes a romance a romance?

Library Journal Reviews boils it down to characterized by characteristics- "—a love story and the satisfying resolution of that story" (LJ Reviews). Essentially, a romance has a happy ending. Though authors are constantly playing with the rules of romance and breaking out of traditional boxes, an happily ever after (HEA) ending is what appeals to most readers. We want to see our the protagonists of the story wind up together in some fashion. They don't have to walk down the aisle together, though most historical romances do end that way, but we want to see some type of commitment.

Readers' Advisory expert and author Joyce Saricks explains that while a reader may not always be able to describe exactly they enjoy about a romance, there is a strong emotional component and appeal to the reader. In a Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, Saricks says:

"How exactly does one describe that satisfyingly evocative, romantic tone? Readers expect to be drawn in, to identify with the characters and their relationship, to experience these stories, and it is this tone that prompts the vicarious emotional appeal on the part of the reader."

Characteristics of a Romance

Our resident R.A. guru, Joyce Saricks, explains further the characteristics of a romance:

1. "The evocative, emotional tone draws readers in, and they participate in this love story and read toward the emotionally satisfying ending.

2. Characters are easily identifiable types. Men are rugged, strong, distant, and dangerous; women are strong, bright, independent, and often beautiful.

3. The story features either a misunderstanding between protagonists or outside circumstances that force them apart, followed by a satisfactory resolution of their romantic relationship. Moral and social issues may play a role in the story lines, although they are always secondary, and do not interfere with the happy ending.

4. Engaging details of time and place attract readers, and these historical, cultural, and social particulars often frame the stories.

5. Although Romances usually can be read fairly quickly and are called fast-paced by their readers, they can also be stopped and started easily, without losing the story line.

6. Language plays an important roll in setting the stage. The language of a romance is easily recognizable, with extensive use of descriptive adjectives to delineate characters, settings, and romantic or sexual interludes."

I would further add that these are generalizations. More authors are breaking out of the established rules of a romance, but still remain true to its essence. I can not wait to see where the genre goes next. To learn more about romance readers' advisory, check out the Washington State Library webinar, videos, and resources below.

In 2010, Washington State Library held a webinar specifically for Romance R.A. (Way to go Washington!) This one of the best presentations I've ever seen on this subject, and even watching a portion of this clip should help give you a solid foundation in romance r.a. Though the whole video is posted for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy this short video to about the basics of Romance R.A:



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