Romance and Teenage Readers

As February winds down which means that we are starting to come down to the end of romance month. but before it comes to end, I thought that it would be fun to talk about when should young girls start reading romance novels. I have talked on here before about keeping in mind about the age of our readers while we work on our stories. Most girls from what I have found usually start reading romance novels when they are about 12 or 13.

While some may think that this is young, I feel that it’s about that right age when you really look at what is on the market for teens in the young adult section of the bookstore. Most young adult romances might be geared towards those that are usually about 15 or 16 or maybe older but that does not mean that younger teens might not find these titles intriguing.

I can remember being in college and taking children’s literature with a delightful teacher who was also a librarian in Boulder for a middle school. One day she brought up how students were checking out this one book in particular from the library. Having her curiosity peeked she decided to take the book home and read it. She said that she was surprised to find out that this book was being checked out because of the sex that was in the book. Granted, she also did not know how the book in question got into the library but when she decided to remove the book from her library she got in trouble not only for censorship but for removing a popular book from the shelves.

When she explained why she removed the book from the library, the students brought up the point that the book while containing a certain topic got them to read. She wanted to argue with them about it, but she couldn’t deny that the students were reading. She said that her solution to the dilemma was simple she would have more romance novels in the library, and would only let the students check out the books if the parents approved the reading material. One parent, she said, came to the library and saw the romance section and told her that she was smart for listening to what the students wanted. But as my teacher told her, true I might have given them what they wanted but I got what I wanted in return and that was for the students to be reading.

Now some may say that this is not what is needed but on the other hand, it was getting books into students hands and they were reading them. It’s not different then when there was the Harry Potter craze or the Twilight years, or even in some cases the Hunger Games. The point is that if young, teenage girls want to read romances let them read romances since 55% of what is being marketed to them has some sort of romance between the covers and this may or may not include sex (just saying).

Romance versus Women’s Fiction

Today I want to talk about the difference between romance and women’s fiction. Romance is the bigger of the two genres in terms of sales, whereas women’s fiction is the biggest reads when it comes to books that are read and talked about in book clubs. Granted, as it is has been mentioned before romance is more the hot, steamy reads and as the old adage states, “Sex sells.”

But when it comes to women’s fiction the genre is more about women and the struggles that they overcome and there may be some romance but it is not the main point of the novel. Someone said that there is a grey area between the two genres and I would argue if sex/romance is not the main plot of the novel then you are writing/reading women’s fiction. This same person said that The Hunger Games is not women’s fiction either and to that, I would say “no duh”.

The Hunger Games was not written to be considered women’s fiction as it was geared towards teens in a futuristic world. If it The Hunger Games was meant to be women’s fiction then we would have a story from the mother’s point of view as she watched her little girl go off to be in the Hunger Games; however, the mother in the book was a very weak character whereas, in women’s fiction, the demand is for strong female characters.

Sorry, for the little rant but when I heard that I was a little pissed off about it. Since first of all, not every young adult novel that has a female character is intended to be considered women’s fiction. But I digress by saying that while Katniss is a strong character, who has to deal with the impacts of PTSD, it is not what a typical woman goes through unless she has given birth or been through some other dramatic situation.

Women’s literature has its place but it is not the same as romance. I feel that at times that women’s fiction is read/written to match what a typical woman goes through when dealing with relationships and family and everything in between. While there might be some escape in women’s fiction, more of the escape comes from romance fiction. I believe that while two genres can be compared, they are not exactly in the same boat as what is between the covers.

The Romance Novel and the #Metoo Movement

In the last couple of years, the news headlines have been filled with dominant, male figures being taken down by a string of accusations of sexual misconduct the question that comes to mind during the movement of #Metoo is what about our romance novels? We as writers have the job of creating escapism for our readers. In that we want our readers to be entertained while escaping from their everyday lives, and in some ways, as writers,  we also need to escape. But in the age of #Metoo can our leading men still be domineering or do we have changed how we view our male characters?

When we as writers study the genre of romance, we are shown countless times that we want as women strong men in our lives. That we want to be taken care of and that we also have desires that need to be filled by the males in our lives. But when we are told that sexual misconduct is not okay then are we being told as writers that we have to change a genre that has been around for years? Or are we being told that we have to be more conservative as writers with our works?

I feel that the romance genre should stay the way that it is with our strong male characters, dominant or less dominant, and our female characters needing to be swept off their feet by a male character who will take care of them. This still includes giving into the impulses of sexual desires. Please, not that them not talking about the sexual tendencies that are in Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m talking about our general romances that can be found in the local supermarkets.

I agree that sexual misconduct is not acceptable but should the genre that we enjoy have to change along with it? While there are no guidelines under the #Metoo movement of how relationships with males should change, except that men need to undergo a change in how they act and treat women. However, should fiction imitate real life events? Therefore, if the answer is yes, then the whole genre of romance will have to get a facelift and that would be devastating to a genre that helps fill in a void for so many women that want that strong male to fill their desires that we don’t get from our every day lives.

As I have mentioned before, we should not be writing to trends and that we should stay on point with our genres and what expectations our readers have within a given genre but so far as today we should not have to change how we write our romance and if we are told that we have to change then we can say why? Why should we change when we are creating art? Why should we change when we are giving our readers what they want most? Of course, we could be challenged with the question of why not change? The answer then should be because our readers don’t want us to change.

Occupations in Romance

While we continue our discussions on romance and romantic fiction, I thought that I would spend today talking about making the right relationship choices for your characters. When we look at our characters, we think about their physical traits such as eye color, hair color, height, weight and we think about their other attributes such as age, how they speak, if they are heroes or villains. But the one attribute that is rarely touched upon is their occupations.

Occupations come in very handy, especially when you are talking about romance. Granted, for the most part, writers tend to put the job on the male side then the female side and that is because depending on the job of the male character sets the genre of the novel. So for instance, if your male character is a vampire, then we know that it is going to be a paranormal romance. If your male character is a spy/detective then the genre is going to be thriller/action romance. But when we start looking at the female characters they can be whatever they want as long as it fits with the male counterpart.

I read one romance novel where the female character was an art dealer (boring right) but when you add in the male character who is an international spy then the boring female art dealer is then taken on a whirlwind adventure that you never thought that an art dealer would be going on.  The point is that if your female character has that boring, snoozefest of a job or life, and we match them with a male character that you would never think that they would be together then you make her life more thrilling and then the relationship gets juicy. Granted, we can not forget that there will be tension but at some point, she will develop feelings for her.

When we are writing romance, for the most part, our readers are going to be females who feel that their life needs a little kick and the best way that they get it is through our characters. So we want our readers to relate to our characters on some level but we also want to take those characters out of their norm and give them an experience that will make them work for that happy ending. It’s sort of like the reward for the hard work. We should also want the readers to feel the same way after they read our work they should be rewarded with a happy ending at the end of the novel.

Disney’s Romeo and Juliet (1998)

I want to start this post by saying that if the Lion King is Disney’s adaptation of Hamlet, then it can be easily said that Lion King‘s sequel, Simba’s Pride, is Disney’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Simba’s Pride has all the possible elements that make Romeo and Juliet be Romeo and Juliet. We have the star-crossed lovers, the feuding families/lion prides, and we have death.

Granted, this is one of the few adaptations that have our star-crossed lovers surviving the whole story and granted one side of the battle loses more members than the other but that is also because we have the overall telling of good versus evil. Granted, this being a Disney film there is not too much darkness for this is geared towards children.

But it does pick up from where the original story ends, so then Disney in being creative went from creating Hamlet to making it’s sequel be another Shakespeare adaptation, Romeo and Juliet. This is in our personal opinion, very clever in them trying to keep one of the inspirations for the Lion King intact for the sequel. Granted, looking at the newest installment of the Lion King saga, The Lion Guard really does not keep with this tradition, which is a great shame when they had a way to make Shakespeare accessible to young children without making it seem that they are watching Shakespeare.

So this ends our look at the known adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. I hope that you have enjoyed this week as much as we have.

 

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

The next adaptation of Romeo and Juliet that I will be discussing is the 1996 version from Australian filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet, and John Leguizamo as Tybalt. Now John Leguizamo gives Tyblat not only justice but a great quality to the character that you don’t find anywhere else.

This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is not only modern but it’s edgy as well. In the beginning, we get the prologue as a newscast then we are thrown so many images that set our scene of the Montagues and the Capulets. Furthermore, we get a western meets mafia picture. If you have ever seen a Baz Luhrmann film such as Moulin Rouge or his version of the Great Gatsby you know that he has a tendency to be somewhat outrageous with some of the technical effects and this version of Romeo and Juliet is no exception. Also instead of swords, we have guns, and instead of being set in Verona we are placed on Verona Beach.

While I state that this is the most outrageous version of Romeo and Juliet, I will give this for this version in that it was made at the right time with the right cast. Leonardo was cast in this role just as film career was taking off since this was before Titanic or The Man in the Iron Mask. He really showed that he could Shakespeare and while he had not done Shakespeare since which I would say it is a pity for if he was to do another Shakespeare adaptation then it could really show his breath as an actor. Granted, I know he did other dramatic roles but Romeo and Juliet were one of the first films that really put him on the map as a movie star.

Clarie Danes, on the other hand, had done numerous dramatic roles in the past, I just felt while watching her performance that this was just another role to add to her massive collection of roles. I loved Clarie Danes in Little Women and My So-Called Life but for me, she doesn’t speak that she should be Juliet although, she managed to pull the part off it just wasn’t to the same caliber as Leonardo.

This is adaptation is ranked as number 2 for me on the best adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Tomorrow, I will talk about Disney’s version of Romeo and Juliet (yes, they did a version and it might surprise as to which film is considered as Romeo and Juliet).

Writer’s First Source: Romantic Comedies

Happy Wednesday! You know what that means it’s Writer’s First Source Wednesday and for this addition and keeping up with our Romance theme for the month, we are going to be talking about romantic comedies. I know that these type of films usually get labeled as chick-flicks but there is something to them, especially if they are done right as far as the mixture of the comedy and the romance. The one mast to romantic comedies was Peter Marshall.

Pere Marshall directed Pretty Women and Runaway Bride. He also directed The Princess Diaries, which in a way has some of the romantic comedy elements in it, even though, it is more of a coming out story it still has some romance in it.  The other biggest romantic comedy of all time in terms of box numbers was My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is humorous and light and at the end, she gets the man of her dreams while dealing with her rather large, greek family. Granted, the sequel nor the television series panned out as well as the movie but still, the movie set the bar.

When looking for romantic comedies to use as inspiration for your writing, the key is that you want to look for films that set the bar at the time that they were made. They are films that we go to over and over again. Another one that I’m going bring up even though it is geared more towards young adults but can still be enjoyed by adult audiences is Ten Things That I Hate About You.

Before you downgrade it for being another Shakespeare adaptation let me start by saying yes, it’s another Shakespeare adaptation. I admit it that it is an adaptation of Taming of the Shrew but this film is still relevant for today’s audiences and it does on numerous occasions makes fun that Shakespeare is definitely apart of this film. I recommend this film not just because it’s Shakespeare but because it shows how you can laugh about high school and all the different groups that were in high school that we hated while seeing two unlikely characters go for one another and in the end up together and the poem at the end is also beautiful and well written.

I would suggest make a list of 10 romantic comedies that you have seen over and over again and list out why you come back to them and how you can use some of the methods for your writing it’s a fun little exercise.

West Side Story (1961)

During the course of this week, we are talking about adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, and we continue the discussion by talking about West Side Story. West Side Story changed a few things from our the original telling such as instead of fair Verona where we lay our scene we are placed in New York.

Granted, also when we look at Romeo and Juliet we are as writers never told why the Capulets and the Montagues are fighting, whereas in West Side Story we are given a true reason for why the two groups (Jets and Sharks) are really fighting, which is race. The race between white Americans (Jets) and the immigrated Porterigans (Sharks).

Furthermore, the stage is set where instead of lines are just spoken we get a musical telling of the story. Granted, all the characters names have been changed and certain facts of the story are changed as well, such as our dearly Romeo, who is named Tony, dies and our fair Juliet, who is named Maria, lives but must mourn the loss of Tony.

There are other parts of the story that were changed for a more modern telling but even more so given what I stated in yesterday’s post that when adaptations are being made look at the times in which they are being made. The reason why I restate this comment is that they are discussing of re-making West Side Story now given the current climate of discussions in terms of immigration isn’t this a perfect time to be remaking West Side Story? I would say yes, but we all know that the adaptation would not be the same as the original, which will be the downside of the film for it will be judged against the original film. I enjoyed West Side Story, but I think that it will be interesting to see how things are adapted for a more modern version of the tale.

Tomorrow, I will be discussing the more outrageous adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and it came out in the late ’90’s.

Book Review: Romeo and Juliet

I just finished reading Romeo and Juliet and I must say every time that I pick this book up I get something new out of it. The first couple of times, I was more into the draw of the story; however, this time I was more drawn to the language of how the characters spoke.

Shakespeare’s langue is so beautiful and it is used quite often with every adaptation that is in a Romeo and Juliet adaptation except for a few. But for the most part, the language is there, as well as the feelings for the characters.

Yes, we all know that the story takes place over the course of 3 or 4 days and during that time period we learn about the relationship between the parents and how it conflicts with their growing affection for each other. But more than that we get the sense that based on Romeo’s tendency to rush things that the relationship was not to last and furthermore this rashness that comes from Romeo is the reason why he took the poison, granted there were other factors that came into play but the biggest one is his character flaw of rushing things.

Granted, Juliet is young and she is sort of put into this spot also by Romeo but she went into it willingly but at the same time she was failed upon by not only Romeo, her family but the people that she put her loyal trust into like Friar Lawrence. Friar Lawrence, we could argue also put this trust into the wrong clergymen, for if he had chosen someone else then Romeo could have received the letter and he would still be alive and so would Juliet. But however, that is not the case.

However, but so it is that some at the end are pardoned and others punished and therefore, there is no greater story of woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Romeo and Juliet Adaptation #2 (1968)

Almost thirty years after the awful MGM adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, we get a beautiful telling of the story by director Franco Zeffirelli with Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo. This adaptation is by far my favorite and it really sets the bar for all other adaptations for Romeo and Juliet.

The first correction that Franco Zeffirelli did in this classic film was to cast a young Juliet and a young Romeo even more so that when the film debuted Olivia Hussey could not even go the premiere of the movie. The other standard that is in this film is not only the costuming one of the best but the music.

Aw, the music was gorgeous and it is used quite often when pairs skaters skate the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. This soundtrack does not even come close to the other soundtracks for the other adaptations for Romeo and Juliet.

Above all this adaptation came out during a crucial time in American Culture for it during the rise of the youth. The youth during 1968 was front and center of pop culture, political upheaval and of course can we forget that this was during the sexual revolution that was taking place as well.

Most times when an adaptation comes out the question needs to be asked, why now? Well back then the answer would have been that basically while Romeo and Juliet as a tragic love story it is also about the young. The young in the conflict of their parents’ quarrels and the conflict of trying to appease of them while wanting to strike out on their own. These things that make this adaptation stand the test of time.

Furthermore, during this time in pop-culture, we get another great Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, which I will save for tomorrow.