The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.
HOW CAN I CLASSIFY MY ROMANCE BOOK?
The first time I was asked about the heat level in my story by a self publishing site, I had no idea what they were talking about, so I put the question into my search engines and came up with these definitions.
WHAT IS MEANT BY HEAT LEVEL?
When classifying a Romance Novel for publishing, the writer is often also required to define the Heat Level in the Novel. The Heat Level refers to the intensity of the romantic scenes in the novel and can be applied to all romance genres. These Heat Definitions were borrowed from the RomCon Romance Heat Scale:
None: Sensuality is not the focus of the book. There may be very mild profanity or mild violence (two boys on a playground have a shoving match). (e.g., Young Adult, Family Sagas), but nothing graphic, and the story lines are more plot driven.
Sweet: The romance deals with the emotional aspects of love rather than the physical. No sex or scenes of physical intimacy except kissing. No profanity. No graphic violence. (e.g., Christian Fiction, Sweet Romance, Young Adult Romance.)
Mild: There may be mildly described scenes of intimacy. There may be mild profanity or violence.
Medium: Sometimes described as “Blush Level”, it is a little more than halfway between Sweet and Hot with more descriptive loves scenes and profanity than mild. There may be sex scenes or the preliminary action related to it. Scenes are usually not graphic and may contain euphemisms for sexual parts of the body are common. The emphasis is very much on feeling.
Hot: There usually are detailed sex scenes, profanity and/or graphic violence. Authors who often write at this level of sensuality include Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Rebecca York, Judith Arnold, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton, and Candace Camp.
Wild Ride/Erotica: There will be graphic sex scenes, including multiple partners and or alternate lifestyles. There may be explicit adult language and/or graphic violence. (e.g., Erotic Romance, High Fantasy, Thrillers…) Within RomCon®’s website, this is referred to as Erotic Romance. Be careful here; certain subject matters are still taboo (sex with children among others) and you will need to be specific in the reasons for your rating.
Blood Thirsty: Sensuality is not the focus of the book, but there will be graphic violence, bloody scenes, or horrific scenes with frightening or intense content. (e.g., Horror, Thrillers, some High Fantasy…), here again you need to be specific for the reason you gave the rating.
Paranormal Romance: is a subgenre of both romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Paranormal romance can range from traditional category romances with a paranormal setting to stories where the main attention is on a science fiction or fantasy-based plot with a romantic subplot included. Common devices are romantic relationships between humans and vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature. Beyond more common themes concern vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel; paranormal romances can also include characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy. Paranormal romance has its roots in Gothic fiction, and are one of the fastest growing in the romance genre.
Contemporary Romance: is a subgenre of romance novels generally set after 1960. Contemporary is the largest of the romance novel subgenres, These novels are set in the time when they were written, and reflect the ideas and customs of their time. Heroines in contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while women in those written after 1970 may have and keep a career. As contemporary romance novels have grown to contain more complex plotting and more realistic characters, the line between this subgenre and the genre of women’s fiction or Chick Lit has blurred. Most contemporary romance novels do contain elements that date the books, so eventually the story lines become inappropriate to more modern readers and go out of print. Contemporary writers like Elsie Lee and Emilie Loring come to mind. Some books do make the transition into Historical romance, but not many.
Historical Romance: is a broad category of fiction where the story takes place in a setting located in the past. Settings in this category will run the gamut from 1960 back into caveman times. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. More recently author Jean Aeul’s Caveman series and Roberta Gellis’ books have been on the best seller list. Historical romances continue to be published, and notable recent examples are Conqueror by Georgette Heyer, or the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis.
Western Romance: These books are set in America or Australia or in a contemporary or historical western setting (western United States, Canadian prairies or Australian outback), with a female lead. Readers expect the story to include horses, cowboys and a simpler way of life (but not a simpler plot). Think Joanna Lindsay or Willa Cather. For more traditional male centered westerns consider Louis L’Amour and Luke Short. The traditional male centered westerns have more in common with straight adventure fiction than romance. Women are usually secondary characters and have little or no part of the main action. Westerns are most noted for their clear lines of good and evil.
Gothic Romance: Combines romance and horror and may involve a mystery of some type. It has a long tradition, going back to the Regency/Victorian era. Made popular by Jane Austin and others, Gothic fiction, which is widely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre that combines fiction, horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story”. Gothic fiction creates a pleasing sense of terror; literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. The genre originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Regency Romance: Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive from the 19th-century contemporary works of Georgette Heyer, who still dominates the genre. She wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974. The more traditional Regencies feature much intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the leads and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex. The plot contrivances that can be found range from Marriages of convenience and false engagements to mistaken identities. Class differences are clearly defined and create barriers. (The son of the house never marries the maid for instance).
Romantic Suspense: The most plot driven of the romance genres, Romantic Suspense generally has a strong woman as the Main Character involved in a dangerous situation. The male hero usually starts out looking like the bad guy but turns out to be good, and the heroine often must make a choice between him and another man who may turn out to be the bad guy (or not). The setting for these books can be anywhen from deep in the past to contemporary. Think Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt or Barbara Michaels.