A Guest Post by Coral Moore
I’m going to back way up for a moment and start with a classic, just to offer a bit of foundation for my claim. Romeo and Juliet is not a romance by today’s standards. Though the plot is driven by the central relationship, there is no happy ending. I would argue that since the budding relationship reaches a logical conclusion—even though the resolution is a tragic one—the story should still be considered a romance. The play is entirely about their love and how it shapes the world around them. It’s a love story, in the purest sense, yet it would never be labeled a romance now.
Why is the romance genre the only one so handicapped by the reliance on happy endings? If a science fiction story has a tragic ending, no one suggests that it belongs in a different genre. No one would have told Bradbury, “We only allow happy endings on alien planets here, move along now,” and thank goodness because the darkness of his stories is part of what makes them so good. Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending. I just don’t think it should be required for the genre because knowing how the story is going to end diffuses some of the tension for me. The most poignant love stories teeter at the edge of loss, and without the chance that things won’t work out, that potential for tragedy is gone.
My favorite stories are the darkest ones. I’ve always preferred them, probably because so much of my early reading was horror. If I can’t believe something terrible might happen as a result of the conflict, there isn’t much point to reading the story in my opinion. Let’s use Harry Potter as an example (Spoiler Alert: Though I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t know the basic plot of the stories out there). Until more than halfway through the series there really isn’t much fear about the consequences. Though the situation is purported to be dire, there’s no immediate sense that something awful could happen. Our heroes will just keep beating the bad guys, skipping along merrily at the end. Cedric’s death changes everything. Once we know that someone important could die as a result of what’s going on, the tone of the stories turns more urgent.
Though my stories are heavily romantic, I don’t like to label them as romances because I want there to be doubt and darkness at the base of them. When my heroine walks away from the hero, I want you to believe she might not come back. When the hero tells the heroine that she should leave or something awful might happen, I want you to believe the terrible is possible. That just can’t happen while writing under the strictures of modern-day romance, so what’s an author to do?
My newest release is Elements of Rebellion. I’ve waffled back and forth on how to label this story, basically since I finished writing it. I settled on Dark Fantasy Romance, but I’m still not sure if that’s truly where it belongs. Part of me still clings to the idea that the tension is somehow less if the reader goes into it knowing there is a happy ending.I’m sure there are dissenting opinions on this subject, and I welcome your attempts to convince me that every romance should end happily in the comments. If you’d like to have a more prolonged discussion, I invite you to come find me on Twitter, Goodreads or my blog. I might even give you a copy of my not-romance for your trouble.
After spending most of her life an unwilling captive in a brothel, Sindari is sold to Lord Devin, a man with a reputation for unspeakable cruelty. In the arms of this man who must pretend he cares nothing for her, Sindari finds compassion, making the journey through her barren homeland all the more perilous. Along the way she discovers she can channel elemental forces that compliment Devin’s ability to manipulate fire.
Harnessing this power, she battles the Dominion, an unrelenting foe that has broken the spirit of the Eldari people through twenty years of savagery. Trapped by the brutal empire that has enslaved millions, Sindari and Devin fight against hopeless odds.
Warnings: Graphic Violence and Sexual Situations
Written for NaNoWriMo 2010.