Demystifying genres: PNR vs UF, erotic romance vs erotica, & looking at fave romance trends #IndieMonth2017 #giveaway
Genres, tropes, & POVs, oh my!
Welcome to Week 2 of the GraveTells Indiependence Celebration! This week we’re chatting about what’s inside a story that makes it so addicting. Genres are the most obvious place to start, so let’s talk about what’s out there and what you love most!
What exactly makes a romance?
Since you’re reading GraveTells, I’ll assume you’re a fan of romantic fiction. Romance itself is a genre, and within it are several sub-genres that help funnel us toward our preferred story types. To make things even more confusing, the romance genre also crosses over into other genres as more of a theme. So what makes a romance?
RWA, the Romance Writers of America, defines a romance by two crucial elements:
- It must contain a central love story
- The ending must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic
This means that—yep—Romeo and Juliet is not a romance; it is a tragedy. In no way is the ending of R&J “optimistic” or “satisfying” from a romantic perspective, even if it is emotionally overwhelming and the love story is central to the play. Good stories always evoke emotion—that doesn’t make them romances.
Why is this important?
Romance readers expect a HEA (Happily Ever After) or a HFN (Happily For Now) ending. It is essential for a reader to know that no matter what the couple goes through during the story, they’ll get a happy ending. The couple should be together and in love (with each other) at the end of the story. Think about your favorite “romance” and run it by RWA’s definition above. Does it fit the requirements? If not, how else might you categorize it?
Within the parent genre of Romance, there are some clear delineations in story types. Here are a few that GraveTells likes to feature:
- Contemporary romance (modern day setting)
- Paranormal romance (contains paranormal elements or is based in a story world build on paranormal rules)
- SciFi romance (futuristic setting, focus is on tech rather than magic)
- Fantasy romance (could be modern day or historical setting, features magical creatures or abilities)
- Dystopian (modern day or futuristic, set after a catastrophic world event where the balance of power is skewed)
Some other popular romance sub-genres are historical and steampunk.
“Contemporary romance” is a very broad category. In fact, it hosts some of my favorite niche story types. I consider these sub-genres of Contemporary Romance:
- Men in Uniform romance (fireman, police, special forces, ex-military, mercenaries—these dudes are alpha and badass)
- Cowboy romance (western setting, modern day, Stetson-wearing hotties)
- Celebrity romance (musicians, actors, politicians, and socialites)
- Sports romance (hockey, football, boxing, diving—I don’t care, just give me muscles & a competitive spirit!)
- Billionaire romance (okay, not my personal favorite, but these stories definitely have a following!)
Notice I didn’t list Romantic Suspense. That’s because, while they are set in modern day and GraveTells features them, these usually ride the line between romance and another genre of fiction (thrillers). Sometimes the romance is central to the story line, and sometimes it’s merely an accent to the thriller aspect of the plot. That’s why I don’t feature a ton of these. I have to read them first (or know the author’s style) to judge whether the romance is the focus.
I also didn’t mention Erotic Romance, not to be confused with Erotica. Erotic romance is more of a heat level, but it can also be a sub-genre. In erotic romance, the focus is on the sexual journey of the couple, and the sex scenes are explicit (and often). Erotic is also not limited to Contemporary, although many of them tend to live there. Identifying a story as erotic romance can be tricky, but it is definitely different than erotica. Erotica is sex for the sake of sex, for titillation. There may be a story, but it’s not required. Just good, hot, sweaty sex. 🙂 Erotica is written porn (and I say that with zero scorn for porn), where erotic romance is a romance with high heat and raw, honest sex.
Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy
Distinguishing PNR from UF can also be tricky. Here’s my rule of thumb for deciding:
Paranormal romance stories center on the couple and their path to happiness—romance is essential.
Urban fantasy stories focus on a greater plot arc that the couple works within—sexual tension is encouraged, but a romantic HEA is optional.
There are a few paranormal series that love to waltz around both sides of this distinction. For example, in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, Cat & Bones are the central couple, but (SPOILER) they aren’t together at the end of the first book. The entire series features them and chronicles their adventures (and their relationship), but the overarching plot arcs drive the storylines. Night Huntress is urban fantasy.
Nalini Singh has two series out that flirt with the line between PNR and UF, but ultimately fall on separate sides.
Guild Hunter primarily features Elena and Raphael, but their romance (while central and always ending HFN) usually takes a backseat to whatever craziness has them sidetracked in any particular book. There are occasional books that feature other characters and couples, and these are more strictly PNR because they’re one-offs, but I consider the series as a whole as urban fantasy.
Psy-Changeling features one couple per book, and they always get an HEA. And their romance is the driving focus of the story, even though there is a greater plot arc that ties the books together.
Clear as mud? Totally on board with my definitions? Let’s chat romance!
What romantic genres do you gravitate to? What are some PNR and UF series you’re not sure how to categorize? Got any go-to ways of identifying a story’s genre? Let’s chat! Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking! <3
These are open to US & international readers! Leave a comment on today’s post, then fill out the prize widgets below to enter to win these fantastic prizes! Not sure what to chat about? Here are a few prompts to get you started…
- What are some PNR and UF series you’re not sure how to categorize?
- Got any go-to ways of identifying a story’s genre?
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