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How much is TOO much??
Tabetha Waite
Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:22 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


When I read a romance (historical especially), I like to be thrilled by the growing attraction between the MCs, but while a love story itself is all well and good, I realize that there has to be some sort of intrigue or mystery behind their relationship, if nothing else, then just to spark further interest for the reader. What I want to know is when you think that the 'filler' of the novel becomes too redundant or even a bit 'over the top?' For example, I'm currently reading a novel by a well known and respected author, but I have to say I'm skipping through a lot of it, just because it just seems too 'intelligent' for a romance. I feel as if I'm getting a history lesson rather than really getting to know my hero and heroine. Thoughts??
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012 7:23 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Hi Tabetha -

This is the wrong place for this discussion. Nobody will see it here. I'm moving this to Genre Talk: Romance.

Cheers!

Colleen


Alexandria Brim
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 2:29 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


Tabetha, could you just be more clear about what you mean by "filler"?
Tabetha Waite
Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012 6:09 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


Thank you, Colleen Alexandria, what I mean by 'filler' is what I would consider to be unnecessary historical facts that seem to take away from the attraction between the hero and heroine. While I know some information is required to set up the story, I don't want it to take away from the romance aspect. I want to be 'dazzled' by the love story of the MCs, not feel as if I've just read a history lesson. 
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012 3:50 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


Hi Tabetha,

I think this is a very good question. I'm not sure if there is a definite answer, however.

Many readers prefer historical over other romance categories because of the historical tidbits, the formal language, and the particular ambiance of the period (whether it is a regency or WWII romance). The history frames the stories in a way that make them palatable to these particular readers. Therefore, I suspect that, to a varying degree, historical romance readers are indeed interested in the kind of “filler” that you are talking about.

There are two caveats, however. First, historical romance is still primarily...  about romance. It is first and foremost about the love story between two people: about the outside and internal forces that keep them apart and the eventual successful resolution that brings us, the readers, to an emotionally satisfying ending. Historical details may be important, but nothing is more important than the Romance itself. Many novels contain a romantic story arc, but if it is only secondary to the book's development, the book is not a romance.

Second, historical romances are not always 100% authentic. The authenticity quotient runs the gamut. You'll have writers like the one you are referring to who are sticklers for authenticity, and will incorporate a “history lesson,”  but then you'll find writers who deviate significantly from the historical and cultural canon. In fact, our own (Book Country) definition of the genre reflects that: “Romances set prior to the 1970s, although this is subjective and changes with time. Many stories infuse contemporary sensibilities into historical settings, such as a heroine with higher education than the historical norm or a career.”

I really think you have wiggle room when it comes to deciding how much history to infuse your novel with.

I hope this helps!
Nevena


Tabetha Waite
Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:28 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


What a great reply, Nevena! It was exactly what I was hoping people would look at and get opinions on. The 'stickler for authenticity' as you put it, as opposed to taking away from the romance between the MCs, is something I'm always questioning when I read a book. I realize that you want to know some aspects of the time when you are reading a historical, but I would rather know about the ball, rather than Wellington's entire compaign on Napoleon. 


Alexandria Brim
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 12:43 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


I have to agree with Nevena's answer. I know I have to determine where the line is between "creating setting" and "overkill."

"I realize that you want to know some aspects of the time when you are reading a historical, but I would rather know about the ball, rather than Wellington's entire compaign on Napoleon."

I definitely agree with this. One of the best fanfictions I ever read was for an "American Girl" series, Felicity. Because the story covered several years, she would start each chapter by writing about what was happening in the country at the time. Then she would go back to the characters and show their relationship and how the events of the country affected them. It was very good and I wish more authors knew how to achieve this balance.

Laura Dwyer
Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:50 PM
Joined: 1/10/2012
Posts: 192


As someone who enjoys a good historical romance, I have to comment here. I think that anything added to fill out the story must be relevant to the main characters, their world, and what is happening to them. Even if on the periphery of their lives, these background events have meaning. They affect the characters in some way, altering the trajectory of their paths. Otherwise, what's the point in including it?
We all know the Titanic sank. There are many reference books to go to for facts, novels, movies, etc if you're looking for a history lesson. No problem. But if we're reading about the details of it because the female MC's fiance was aboard, on his way to marry her, and drowned, well THAT matters. At least, that's my five cents on what historical details need to be included. In this case, it's not filler. Hope that helps.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 11:16 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


Well said, Laura! The issue of "relevance" is I think is key to all genre/commercial fiction. If you want to read about the history of an era in more detail, you can turn to some literary fiction books (e.g., WAR AND PEACE) or go straight to a history monograph! Romance is about the resolution of an emotional relationship--not that of a war conflict (even though love can be war-like .
NoellePierce
Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 8:36 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 227


Whew. This is a question that plagues those of us who write it, as well as those of us who read it. And, in fact, the entire romance community (Blog rants have ensued. Links below). Writers who are not as authentic as the time period warrants get skewered in reviews and general discussions because there ARE readers who need every detail to be correct (as they know it...I've found that sometimes, even they have things wrong). 

Just as in urban fantasy, the setting in historicals is often likened to a character. The time has to come alive. For some people, that's a hint of clothing or speech patterns. For others, it's a blow-by-blow of a historical battle. For yet others, it needs to include proper behavior by ancillary characters. (One of my stories was slammed because the lady's maid was more motherly and took the heroine to task for doing something she shouldn't have been doing...I was told that servant should be turned out immediately, because no lady would have stood for it. I respectfully disagreed.). 

Society and events shape all of us, and to ignore that part while writing leaves a story without a full spectrum of human experience. Some people lean a little heavy on the events in an effort to explain character motivations (at least, I hope that's why it's included in a romance, though I admit to reading a few where it was more obvious the author just wanted the reader to see how much research s/he'd done. Or show off his/her knowledge.).

I don't mind if the history lesson is lacking, but I have to say, historical romances are THE REASON I passed my high school world history class. Cold hard facts do not stick in my mind, but put them as a backdrop to a love story? I'm so there.

Ranty blogs/discussions on this topic:
http://www.mayarodale.com/2011/04/20/a-rant-on-historical-accuracy-in-romance-novels/
http://www.likesbooks.com/quick15.html
http://www.shelfari.com/groups/10983/discussions/341121/Historical-accuracy-a-must-
http://bookssky.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/historical-accuracy-and-lack-of-same/

Tabetha Waite
Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 7:10 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


I agree about your lady's maid, Noelle. That's the problem I've found many times. While I do like to have a scene set up in the proper, historical time period for me, like the ball, the gowns, and what might be happening around them at the time, it's what the story consists of, in my preference -- the look our hero gives our heroine that makes her shiver, or the witty dialogue that has that wonderful tension. That, more than how many badges Wellington has intrigues me more. It doesn't have to be accurate right down to how each bodice is trimmed or how a servant might act. That's what's great about fiction!
Alexandria Brim
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013 6:14 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


I do feel the same for my historical romances. I prefer to let the romance and the relationship between my stories be the main thrust of the story. Just use the history to create a setting and atmosphere. Maybe to create some conflict if I think it fits the story but not to overburden it.
 

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