So there I was, happily browsing the #WriterCommunity tag on Twitter, when I saw The Question. Someone wanted to know if a Romance needed a happy ending.
Life happens! HEAs are unrealistic! And her story is So Much MoreTM! All the things anyone who writes Romance has seen argued over and over and OVER again. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. Especially when said person knows so little about the genre they’re writing that they don’t understand why it’s frustrating and infuriating to have the BASIS OF THE GENRE questioned.
No one ever asks if a murder mystery needs a dead body.
Okay, let’s look at how RWA defines romance:
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around 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.
Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.
Endings can be Happy For Now or Happily Every After. If you’re writing a series, you want a HFN ending where the pairing is in a good place, though they don’t necessarily have had to made a commitment. Break-ups can happen, but they should occur during the narrative and the make-up should happen before the novel’s end.
Thing is, the author can absolutely put their couple through the wringer. It’s actually kind of expected. Opposition can come from outside, from the characters’ own beliefs, or both. Romance readers want love to be something that’s hard-won. That’s where the satisfaction comes from. (That, and we like the sex scenes*)
If you’re going to write Romance, READ Romance. Know the rules. Know what your intended audience expects. Most importantly know what publishers expect, because the quickest way to get a rejection landing in your inbox is to pitch a Romance that isn’t.