Saturday, June 16, 2012

Genre Norms

Ava Donja at Silk and Stone had a post about Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with her opinion of the book, I will comment on her statement about genre norms.

Ava qualifies romance as "having an emotionally satisfying happy ending where the good guys are rewarded and the bad guys are punished."  I tend to agree with her synopsis.

Romance Writer's of America defines romance as:
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. 
Ava's novelette, Mind, Body, and Spirit, meets the norms. Boy meets girl, attraction, conflict, resolution, and lots of sex (even some hair pulling, if you're into FSOG type stuff). Does that make it less enjoyable read? No - I kept it on my Kindle, alongside Hearts in Darkness, and will probably reread it. Is it cliche? Well, what isn't? It's what the authors do with the norms that make the difference.

This is where criticism of romance is the most strong. Romance promises you a happy ending (take that how you will). How can anyone take the story seriously when you know it will all work out in the end? I would answer that the enjoyment is in the journey itself. Yes, I know the hero and heroine will live happily ever after, but as they get to know each other and discover their love, I'm getting to know them. I get a glimpse of their lives, their worlds. Cliche ending? Sure. But the same can be said of all genre fiction.

  • Sci-Fi - cool hero uses cool gadgets to save the world(s)
  • Fantasy - chosen one discovers destiny and saves the world
  • Mystery - super detective solves the mystery
  • YA - angst filled, under-appreciated teen comes to terms with self (eventually)

FSOG  breaks genre norms -- that is, if it was intended to be a romance. There is (spoiler alert) no emotionally satisfying ending. In this, it leans more toward how people define literature vs. genre fiction. Literature tends to be darker, leave loose ends, not end happily-ever-after. I know that is a gross generalization. Does that make FSOG a literary fiction novel? I'll let you answer that question.

1 comment:

Avadonja said...

Thanks for mentioning me. And buying/reading/reviewing my book. :)
Fifty Shades as literary fiction? Interesting. No comment.

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