Romantic fiction is often defined as an exploration of love and a story that portrays a powerful relationship between two individual lovers. Many see romance as the gradual progression between two people from a state of familiarity, to an ultimate nirvana of love and sacrifice that draws two characters intimately together. This is the general understanding that many people have.
There is another face of romantic writing that is often hidden by this common notion of a “happy ending”. That face is one of a romantic death or separation of love. Take the classic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow White and Prince Charming come to know each other through what is essentially chance. After traversing through many trials and challenges, they eventually succeed in their quest for love. They happily marry in the very end, dancing joyously with each other and falling deeply and ever so gracefully in to the arms of true love.
What brings this story to my attention is that in this tale there is a moment that embodies death and separation. This is the moment that Snow White is thrown in to a deep slumber and taken away from her true love, Prince Charming. Imagine if you will that this is the end. Imagine that Snow White never awoke from her state of suspended animation. What would become of their love? How would this change the substance of the story? If the story were to end with Prince Charming on his knees pleading for Snow White to come back to him, this story would still overwhelmingly be a fable of romance and love. But if death were the end than how could that be? This is because a tale of romance has two major routes it can follow; the path of separation and the path of connection.
It is not the end relationship between two lovers that defines romance. It is the plot and the complications and the problems that arise to challenge the strength of a relationship that defines romantic fiction. If these odds are great enough to destroy the love that two characters possess then so be it. To quote the Spanish novelist and poet Miguel de Cervantes, “The journey is better than the inn.” However, this is not to say that a novel or story could not be romantic fiction without plots that challenge two characters love.
With this in mind we now know that that this idea that romance is a “happily ever after” tale that ends in the collision of two characters, and ultimate true love, is only a mere passage of romantic fiction. If we are to analyze romantic fiction from a technical perspective we can easily determine when a story becomes majorly a romantic piece of writing. First, we must define romantic fiction using what I have written so far. To surmise the latter, romantic fiction can be characterized as a story that overwhelming emphasizes the struggle of two lovers to attain or experience love against any or no odds, regardless of the conclusion. As I have done before in my other articles, I will use a table of story point value to determine how one can easily define a romantic novel or story. I will begin by stating that there are six important values that make up a story; the plot, setting, theme, characters, problem, and solution. When the majority of these elements in a story reference two lovers striving to be together, with or without a variety of challenges, be these challenges emotional or physical, it can be than be considered romantic fiction. I will create an example of this idea below using a hypothetical story.
The Heart and Stone (Hypothetical Story)
- Plot (Draws mostly from romance = 1 point for romance)
- Setting (Draws mostly from horror = 1 point for horror)
- Theme (Draws mostly from romance = 1 point for romance)
- Characters (Draws mostly from real history = 1 point for historical fiction)
- Problem (Draws mostly from romance = 1 point for romance)
- Solution (Draws mostly from horror = 1 point for horror)
Horror has 2 Points / Historical Fiction has 1 Point / Romance has 3 Points = This Story is Romantic Fiction
This chart draws from the idea that each of the six facets of a story can be defined by a genre. If more than three of the six elements are drawn from the definition of one particular genre, in this case romance, than a story becomes a part of that category of writing. This is a very simple way to determine what aspects of a story stand out the most. If a story comes up even when assigning point values you must use critical thinking to determine the true identity of a story. An author must always be unbiased when attempting to assign a genre to works they have created.
In conclusion, I hope this article helps my readers develop a better understanding of what romanticism in writing truly is.
Note: After spending the past several hours writing this I noticed I did not once refer to Romeo and Juliet. I will do the story justice by including in this article an 1871 painting by Ford Madox Brown that depicts Romeo and Juliet.
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