Amanda Lewis

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Romance and Horror: not light years apart

I spent most of the weekend reading, when admittedly I should have cleaned. Unlike when I was a kid, I now find my most energetic times in the late evening or night… when everybody in my house is sleeping; it’s when I write the best and it’s when my ideas coalesce into actions.

My WIP is a romance… I honestly don’t know what other category to place it in. But everytime I mention this fact, most of the people around me groan… Movies are rarely done on romances (romantic comedy and some YA are about as close as Hollywood will come to it). In the stricktest sense Romances are about the extraordinary couple and the struggles that they face… romantic comedies are more akin to a Harlequin with jokes. Don’t get me wrong, Harlequin’s are great. But they lack an extraordinary quality. The closest to a romance I’ve seen in movie form is Twilight (but not the same; as it’s riddled with angst-ridden teens) and the classic tales from Jane Austen & Charlotte Bronte.

Wisdom, I recently recieved, is that writers should read (rocket science… no). But you shouldn’t just read your own genre, you should read and examine every genre, including movies (did a little dance for joy about that last part as my husband and I are big movie buffs). So, lucky me, Space (channel) is holding a Stephen King movie week starting… (drum-roll please! You guessed it) today!

So, in that vein, as the stars align *giggles* I decided to compare my favorite genre (again you guessed it) Romance with Mr. King’s prefered genre of Horror!

Most people would not place the Horror and the Romance genres together. But they are two sides of the same coin. OK! Lets look at a few elements that these two have and compare them.

#1 Sex & Death

Put simply in a Romance novel the two main characters have sex. It serves the purpose of bringing them together and creating a bond in them. As proved in real life relationships the dynamics change when sex is brought in. So, it stands to reason that it would be the same in the fiction world as well. Conversely, in Horror movies people die, are murdered one by one as the character becomes obsolete or does something truely stupid. Sometimes as a consequence even. In thrillers (a close cousin of the horror and sometimes an element of a horror) the death doesn’t come at all. In these movies the fear is enough and creates the same adreneline rush in the audience as death and sex. 🙂 even the French have a popular phrase for it; le petit mort: literally “the little death”. There are, of course, exceptions. One good example of a Romance with no sex (not geared toward sex-sensitive audiences) is Lynn Kurland’s “My Heart Stood Still”, a story about longing, the test of time and the endurance of the heart.

#2 Women & Men

Demographic also plays a huge role in how these stories are presented. The deep, meaningful relationships and exciting adventure are things that gear more toward women. Whereas, the pulse-pounding action, scares around every corner, death and mayhem gear more toward men… Why? Because these are things that even  the ordinary woman or man living the ordinary life can escape to a world where everything is anything but safe and still, when they put the book down or walk out of a theatre, feel safe at the end of the day.

#3 Heroine & Hero

This one kindof goes along with the demographic. In Romances, it’s usally a heroine (for the most part) and her conflict. In Horror, it’s usually a hero and his conflict. Even though there usually are major suppoting characters of both sexes, but it is easier to bring in your expected audience with a character that superficially is just like them. It’s briliant in “Misery” how the protagonist is a man and the antagonist is a woman… something that’s rarely found in romances, this role reversal works beautifully for it’s purposes. Can you figure them out?

#4 Isolation

On the other hand these two genres are similar in a couple different ways; isolation is one of them. In general, characters are thrown together early and not separated, most of the time for survival. A forced closeness creates tension. In Horror, suspition and dwindling survivors and less possibility as to who the killer is. In Romance, trust and a bond that neither is likely to break until the climax.

#5 Affirmation of Life

Lastly, another similarity these two genres share; is the ultimate Affirmation of Life. In the end the killer is defeated and the couple gets hitched. Simpler than it is, but both of these outcomes create the same elation in the audience. A sigh of relief, a cheer of triumph, or even a nod of satisfaction. The audience leaves happier than when they came.

Can you find some other examples that these two genres are similar or different? Which one do you prefer? Why? Drop me a comment! I love to hear from you!

Happy Writing Monday!


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