Or, Romance Novels Defined
So I had one of my first Twitter conversations the other day. I know, I know, not a big deal really, it’s what the medium is for (since one can only say “hey, complete and utter strangers, go read my shit,I promise it’s real good” so many times in a day without getting unfollowed by everyone including your mother…and maybe especially by your mother, if you’re saying it like that). Anyway, what made it especially fun was that it involved a romance author whose books I have bought from the bookstore shelf AND ME, which is of course very exciting for someone trying get any traction and name recognition at all.
The exchange had 3 people* involved and went roughly like “Lumrient…I meant LUMINOUS. What is lumrient? / Luminously prurient? / That should be goal of every romance writer [my contributed observation] / My thought EXACTLY.”
It’s a damn fine bit of coinage, if I do say so. Lumrient…luminously prurient. Yes.
So how does one go about creating work that would fit that definition? Where is the line drawn between the luminous and the simply prurient, and how wide is it? Is the line even the same for everyone, or is it like everyone’s lexicon of their native language, a unique and personal matrix of words and understandings?
There are some obvious qualities:
- It should be written well.
- It should be sexy and exciting to read.
- It should serve some purpose to the story.
The last is, in my opinion, the defining difference between romance novels and erotic fiction; in erotica, the sexiness is the point. In romance, the sexiness is subservient to the greater point of the story–the love story. It’s not a particularly fine distinction in my mind. In my experience the two genres are distinct, and I prefer one to the exclusion of the other. I read (and therefore write) romance because I am like Marshall on How I Met Your Mother: I need an elaborate story that involves great and sincere emotions in order feel truly comfortable enjoying a sexual fantasy. I have tried and failed to enjoy erotica about chance encounters on the train and mile-high clubbing with strangers. To me, it is not sexy without the emotional bindings or the potential for them to be formed. This is also the reason romance novels in which the primary mode of emotional bonding between the two lovers is sex or sexual desire tend to fail for me. They leave me thinking, quite cynically, but what happens in 2 years when the lust runs out?
If we want to be all linguistics nerd about this (clearly, I do), you could also look at the word luminous and extract the related word of illuminate quite easily: lumrient is to be prurient in a way that illumines the emotional journey.
So there it is. If it’s not going to further the emotional journey, then it’s out of place. This can actually create problems within the context of romance novel constraints, where the sex is expected (at least a scene or two) but isn’t really integral to the falling in love–but that’s another post….
*the other two being Carolyn Jewel, who coined the term, and Tessa Dare