Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why read a book when you know how it’s going to end?



That’s the question a lot of romance writers get. So, if the hero and heroine get together in the end, and it’s happy ever after, why read the book?
For the journey, that’s why.
Every genre has an expected ending. In crime novels, the criminal must be caught and punished. In mystery novels, the mystery must be solved. In spy novels, the mission must be achieved, or at least ended. In romance, the hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroes and heroines, or any variation thereof) must have a happy ending.
In one book I wrote a ménage, with two mermen and their lucky lady, Liquid Crystal. Although it was an unequal ménage, ie one of the participants made it clear he wasn’t in it for the long haul, some readers were still unhappy with the ending. However, Kai had his own loves waiting for him, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.
A few years ago an author called Cameron Dean published a trilogy of novels, which her publishers promoted as romance. The hero was a vampire, the heroine a slayer, but despite being on different sides of the fence, the vampire and the slayer fell in love. The vampire had a death wish, and there was no chance for the hero and heroine because they were different races. Just the kind of conflict a romance reader adores.
Only, you know what? (I can’t go into too much detail because it would spoil the whole series)
It didn’t happen the way a romance reader would expect. If the series had been marketed as something else – a love story, a story with romantic elements, poaranormal suspense—then the reader’s expectations would have been different, and the ending wouldn’t have enraged the romance reading community. Cameron Dean never published anything else, at least, not under that name.
I don’t know if she was given advice to sell the series as romance, or whether she decided that for herself, but it didn’t work. It’s like having a murder mystery novel where the detective shrugs his shoulders in the library scene and says, “I haven’t a clue who murdered the vicar—does anybody know?”
Romantic suspense is in some ways a cross-genre. There are two requirements—the romance has to have the right ending, and the mystery must be solved, or at least be resolved as far as the hero and heroine are concerned. It’s a tall order, or it can be. I plan my books, so I know where I’m going, like someone relying on GPS to get from place to place. I have no idea how people who write romantic suspense by the seat of their pants does it, but it must surely include a lot of revisions.
When I alter the plot of a book, it’s like a ladder in a stocking—it runs all the way down. That’s even more pronounced in romantic suspense. The ladder has to be followed and repaired, so all the consequences fall back into line. To do that over and over would just about kill me, so I have a lot of respect for people who can hold all the threads of the book in their heads and work it through flawlessly.
I’m sometimes confuses as to what romantic suspense it, to be honest. The one I thought was romantic suspense, “Learning to Trust,” was marketed as a contemporary romance, and I won an award for a book I thought was a historical romance—“Harley Street.” I also write two series, the Department 57 series and the STORM series, which has paranormal secret agents. Kind of James Bond with tooth and claw!
I guess I just write. But whatever I do, it’s always romance, because I’m a sucker for romance.

Lynne Connolly
http://lynneconnolly.com


5 comments:

Kathy Ivan said...

I love the journey through romance to get to the HEA. That's why I read romance. I get enough angst in my day-to-day life, I don't need it unnecessarily in unhappy reading experience.

I remember reading that series by Cameron Dean. Whoever told her to market it as a romance was way off base. As a reader, I felt cheated and undervalued. I would probably have picked up the books anyway, because I love a good vampire/hunter story, but I had specific expectations from the marketing, and literally threw the last book against the wall at the end. Very disappointing.

Fortunately, I'ver never had that happen with a Carina book. :-)

Anne Marie Becker said...

" It’s like having a murder mystery novel where the detective shrugs his shoulders in the library scene and says, “I haven’t a clue who murdered the vicar—does anybody know?” "

LOL! Love that.

I think it's so important (especially when growing your career) to know your audience and please them. And you're so right about romance stories being about the journey. I love watching the emotional growth. Often, if the author resolves the romantic conflict too early in the book, I lose interest. The other conflicts just don't hold the same appeal to me, typically.

Toni Anderson said...

My hubs won't watch anything with the Titanic b/c he says he knows how it ends :)
I would have been upset reading a series sold as a romance and then left with no HEA. Because I'm all about the journey but I need that happy ending otherwise I'm not going to invest my energy in the book. And people say, 'but real life isn't like that'. And I say, 'Exactly.'

Rita said...

I’ve been told that it doesn’t need to be a strict HEA the is, everything tied up nice and neat and they ride happily into the sunset. But, the distinct possibility for an HEA has to exist. The hero or heroine can’t die at the end. A romantic suspense/mystery/thriller has two separate stories that interact each affecting the other’s outcome.
An HEA is how I separate genre from literary fiction. No HEA and its literary. Literary is a book that the character grumps about their life and does nothing to change. It ends the same way it started. Blek!

Clare London said...

Great post! Isn't it difficult, to balance the pleasurable anticipation of an HEA and the slightly scary titillation of a where's-this-going-to-go? I certainly need both at times.

I wrote a Halloween short once - it's re-releasing this Oct *g* - that was in essence horror. And one of my readers wrote angrily to me that it had shocked and horrified her, when she'd obviously been expecting romance. My fault for bad labelling, I think, but it made me think about how as an author I do like to write a different kind of story sometimes.

Good food for thought! :)