Or, What genre are you REALLY writing?
This question occurred to me a few days ago as I was contemplating a new story and whether it properly ought to be a novella or a novel based on the plot I had in mind. Part of this was considering ways to expand the basic plot, which is the hero and heroine falling in love, and all the ways I could think of to expand it involved adding in elements that had nothing to do with their falling in love story.
All of which got me thinking: what genre was I really writing if I chose to write a novel with the expanded and accessorized plot? Romance, or mystery?
This problem is not uncommon in romance. The elements that make all romance novels the same and get them shelved together are that they feature two people falling in love who at the very end get their happily ever after. Sometimes the entire story is about the two of them falling in love. Other times they fall in love during the course of a grand advanture. Other times they fall in love but have some mystery to solve–such as who is trying to off one of them–before they can be assured of a normal life together. But what genre is it really if, after page 200, the romance takes a back seat for 100 pages of solving a mystery? Which is the more important story? Does the love story even exist without the mystery? If the answer is no, then, really, is it properly a romance?
Obviously, I know the answer to that question in the real world is yes, because mystery genre readers do no want to stop along the way for nookie, but I mean philosophically speaking. When you’re stripping the story down to its barest form and the love story is a footnote not the point, is it properly a romance?
I’m not sure. It could be. I’m just pondering here. I know for me, as a writer (and reader) of romance, one aspect of novellas I really like is the fact that they don’t need a secondary plotline the way most novels do. If the only story they tell is the falling in love story, that’s okay, because they can call it a day at 40,000 words instead of needing to do something else with the other 40,000 they have left in their expected space allocation. It keeps the focus on the couple and does not open up the possibility of a secondary plot so illogical/outlandish/boring/predictable/cliche/unbelievable/etc. that it makes the novel as a whole unsatisfying (which happens more than it should, but that is another post). And my hat is off to the novelists who manage to write nothing but a love story and take 75,000 words to do it–I have yet to manage it, but I’ve read some that did so it’s possible.
I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.