Thursday, August 12, 2010

Romance and Writing

I don't like Jane Austen.

Well, that's not entirely true. I've never actually met Jane Austen to know if I like her personally or not. Rather, I should have said that I don't particularly like the writing of Jane Austen.

People are usually pretty shocked when they learn this about me. I get all kinds of interesting reactions:
"'re one of those Englishy writer bookish types. You HAVE to love Jane Austen."
"But...but...but she's JANE AUSTEN. All women love Jane Austen. You're a woman. It's like an unwritten law that you must LOVE JANE AUSTEN."
"Um...maybe you should read some of her stuff again, because I just don't understand how someone couldn't like Jane Austen. EVERYONE loves Jane Austen."
"*Sigh* There's just something wrong with you, Ruth."

The last statement is probably entirely true. There is just something wrong with me. And that's all right. You see, I am an Englishy writer bookish type, but that doesn't mean I have to like Jane Austen. I DO have an appreciation for Jane Austen's writing. I understand the humor and the social aspects of her writing. I admire her for being a professional female in a time when it was practically scandalous for a female to be a professional. The problem I have with Austen is that I just don't like romance for the sake of romance.

Romances are so predictable. Couple meet. Couple has problem. Couple resolves problem (or the problem is somehow resolved for couple). Couple lives happily ever after. I grew up on Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and all the other happy Disney stories. It didn't take me too long to realize that life doesn't work out like a Disney movie. People don't always live happily ever after. While I still love the old Disney classics, I think I've just gotten too old to embrace romances that I didn't know as a child. I can't take them seriously. A plot that just revolves around two people and their romantic relationship is me.

With that being said, I don't hate romance. In fact, stories WITHOUT romantic elements are usually just not that interesting to me (there are a few exceptions, but not many). I love it when there are two characters who find each other and fall in love within the course of their dealings with some other situation or situations. I DO like happy endings. It's just the whole concept of romance driving the whole story that I can't get past. I like romances WITHIN plots, just not as the plot itself.

For instance, my favorite book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, is NOT a romance. It's YA science fiction/fantasy. However, the story is greatly embellished by the connection between the main character, Meg Murray, and her unlikely friend Calvin O'Keefe. Without their close friendship (and eventual romantic love), I would not like the book nearly as much. The romance makes the story better, but it doesn't make the story.

In every major project I've written so far, there has always been a romantic love story woven somewhere into the plot. The love story, however, is not the driving force behind the story. There's always something bigger happening. Romance is great, but I believe it should be something that embellishes a plot, rather than being the plot itself.

Anyone is, of course, welcome to disagree. I know a lot of people do. I mean, after all, there IS just something wrong with me.


  1. Much like life...romance should be a bonus not the entire plot! Though I love Jane Austen's stories, I certainly don't deny you your right not to ;)

  2. you are not alone in your feelings about Jane Austin, she is the one writer of whom I can say I liked the movie better, lol. Movies can get by as pure romance, books need more of the meat of life in them.