Monday, February 14, 2011

Where has all the romance gone?

Romance vs. Love. There is a difference, you know. At least there is in my mind. When I first began to be published as a novelist, everyone who wrote LDS fiction was accused of writing romance. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now. I'm not sure there is a definition that separates the two into exact categories, but I separate them this way: If the story is primarily boy meets girl, they are attracted to each other even if they deny that attraction, an obstacle keeps them from getting together, they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after, that's romance. If boy meets girl, their relationship deepens as they get to know each other, trust and respect for each other grows, they each make significant sacrifices for the other, they become stronger, better people because of their relationship, and they develop a lasting commitment to each other whether they foresee being together in this life or not, the story is probably a love story.

Another difference I see is the tone of the story. If it is light-hearted fluff, flirtation, and cutesy games, it's probably romance. If a large part of the story is dedicated to fashion, romantic settings, and flowery descriptions, again it's romance. If the story is filled with improbably dramatic inventions calculated to bring on tears, it's the worst sort of romance. Love stories often invite a tear or two also, but they come about more from a tender moment of identifying with the character rather than the creation of tear-trigger scenes. Love stories are usually more serious than romances; they are of a broader and grander scope.

There are few novels in any genre that are completely lacking in romance or love. Relationships are one of the most compelling sources of human emotion for good or evil. It would be naive to think elements of romance wouldn't appear in stories that are primarily mystery, suspense, western, historical, science-fiction, or fantasy. In our LDS culture the eternal companionship of a man and a woman are of paramount importance. Our eternal future depends on such relationships, so it would be unrealistic to leave this aspect of the human experience out of our novels. In much of today's general market fiction, physical attraction plays the key role in Romance and sex is a cheap substitute for love. For this reader, such novels are a disappointment.

There are still a few romance novels around in the LDS market, but real love stories have almost disappeared. Recently a few authors have produced stylized romances which are fun to read, but leave no lasting imprint. The sob-sister stuff sells in large quantities in both the LDS and national market. Some of the best love stories are hidden in the pages of other genres, but there are few novels today devoted primarily to true love stories.

It's human nature for those who are immature to laugh at what makes them nervous, ridicule what they don't understand, and to feel embarrassed by tender emotions. Unfortunately the romance novel and love story are often the recipients of this kind of scorn. I find this unfortunate, since this is certainly an age that could stand more attention to the gestures and polite forms of romance as well as the deeper caring, sacrifice, and appreciation of genuine love.

Happy Valentines' Day all.


battraws said...

I love this blog, Jennie. I'm glad you wrote it because I feel the same way. While I love LDS fiction, there aren't many love stories. It seems like there used to be a lot of them, although they frequently were boy meets girl, boy gets baptized, boy marries girl and they live happily for eternity without any real problems (I am really generalizing here). Are you going to write the great LDS love story now?

Elizabeth Morgan said...

i totally agree with your description. There is a difference that most people don't care to see because of that they all get lumped into the same category.