You Should Take Advantage of Romance's Popularity

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[Romance novels] focus on something we all innately crave—love. We want to love and be loved, and what better way to explore that notion over and over again..."
— Claire Contreras

Cha-ching! Romance novels rake in over a billion dollars every year. That’s more than the mystery, science fiction and fantasy genres combined!
You may find this surprising, but it shouldn't be. Romance's modern-day success has been centuries in the making. While I would argue that Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream inspired the modern romance form (and the sub-genre of fantasy romance too!) The first romance "novel" is typically considered Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740), and there has been a steady rise in this genre’s popularity ever since: from Jane Austen to a host of novels adorned with shirtless Fabio covers, to Fifty Shades of Grey.
Despite this chart-topping success, some still regard romance as a lesser form of fiction, one that shouldn’t be taken as seriously. One critic even wrote, “Sitting around all day reading romance novels hardly qualifies as a life, and romance novels hardly qualify as books.” The critic doth protest too much, methinks. How much do you want to bet there's a secret stash of bodice rippers, under their bed?
But seriously, when we peel back the layers of logic behind their argument, where do these naysayers often find fault? Romance writing’s inherent formula.
You know the story: Girl meets boy. Girl gets boy. Boy loses girl. Girl and boy reunite, get back together and live happily ever after. Cue the newlyweds riding off into the sunset.
Dare I say the very thing most people criticize this genre for—its formula—is exactly what keeps readers coming back for more, and putting (lots of) money in the pockets of authors? I do!
This formulaic nature is not a flaw but a strength that makes romance stories such a pleasure to read and write. We'll discuss this notion in the Fabio-lous romance mini-course we're about to release, but for now, here are a few reasons we just love romance:
What’s to love about the classic romance formula?
1. We could all use a little satisfying certainty
Yes, romance is predictable, but in a gratifying way. In a world of uncertainty (if not downright upheaval!) who wouldn’t enjoy something they could count on, occasionally? I, for one, revel in a read with a simple narrative that I can relax into, secure in the knowledge that the main characters will end up together, "happily ever after".
Writers can also find great satisfaction writing within the specific parameters of romance. Without having to recreate the wheel, they can focus on creating fascinating characters and compelling storyworlds, and exploring the vicissitudes of romantic love to their hearts' content.
2. It offers a break from hardship and tedium
Escapist fiction is a broad category that encompasses sci-fi, horror, mystery and fantasy in addition to romance. While any good book transports you to another world (well, except for textbooks), the world of a romance story is typically much more pleasant than most: a manor house in the English countryside, an exciting metropolis, an exotic destination. It’s easy to get lost in it and forget your troubles as you’re swept up in a whirlwind of passion.
When you crack open a romance, you know you are going to have a good time. There’s often humor, and a light-hearted, breezy tone to the genre that makes it particularly delicious. Romance author Santino Hassell says, “Romance is hope. It's a ray of sunlight on a rainy day...Is it escapism for me? You bet it is. But now more than ever, I think we could all use a little escape.” He continues:
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For me, reading romance is self-care when the outside is harsh, aggressive, and anxiety-inducing... and almost like a super power because I can potentially create that feeling for somebody else.

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3. It’s fun to fantasize about ideal love.
Despite what Taylor Swift says, very few of us have fairytale romances. For those of us lucky enough to have love in our lives, our day-to-day reality isn’t all flowers and candlelight. Romance novels pump up the volume. An irresistible love interest with a larger-than-life personality draws us and our protagonist in.
Plus, those still looking for love (possibly in all the wrong places!) can find it - safely - in the pages of a romance. Many readers savor the ability to put themselves in the shoes of a character who achieves the relationship of their dreams. Just as readers of sci fi, or adventure, enjoy living vicariously through their favorite characters.
Romance also delivers a sense of justice, because we know kind-hearted characters will be rewarded, and not-so-lovable ones won’t. This makes for a gratifying resolution, where evil step-sisters and mothers get what they deserve and don’t stand in the way of true love.
Ultimately, romance is a “genre” for a reason. Generic, or formulaic, elements simply form the basis for a given type of writing. They don’t have to be boring or limiting. In fact, they make romance distinct and oh so satisfying.
Try this: Write a few lines inspired by the image below. Want to really challenge yourself? Surprise us with a twist. Be sure to send us your paragraph so we can share our favorites next week!
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Update, some of the best responses to the prompt:
She is ready for the ride of her life. Her chariot awaits for the start of her day. They are both excited as time passes. I wish them well on this romantic venture.
— Keith
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