Hi BDH, howl you doing? Mod R here, creeping it real. Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating!
If you take a peak at the poll results from last Friday, we will start the new Ilona Andrews character series with Arabella and follow up with Roman (always the banshee, never the bride with him hehe). As your resident Transylvanian, I thought today we could do a quick trick or treat of jargon terms around genres, tropes and character types, to ensure no one is left out of the conversation once it starts going.
If you have further insights or questions please add them in the comments, I’ll be here goblin’ on candy and trying to rein in the puns! (Only one of those things is true)
Romance (genre)– fiction which focuses on 2 crucial aspects, a primary focus on the love story between 2 (or more) people, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
In translation, this means that it’s a romance if the story would fall apart without the protagonists having romantic interest in each other. Clean Sweep in the Innkeeper Chronicles universe- not a romance. Although there is certainly chemistry between Dina and her male suitors, with or without that she would have fought against the enemies and provided help to the vampires. Sweep of the Blade in the same series- a romance. None of it would happen if it weren’t for Maud and Arland’s love for each other, even though one of the main aspects of the plot is Maud finding a place for herself and Helen within House Krahr independent of Arland’s status.
The other sine qua non element of the romance genre is the HEA (Happy Ever After)- our protagonists ending up together despite all obstacles. Without it, what you have is a book with romantic elements. Romeo and Juliet, Nicholas Sparks tearjerkers, even though they focus on romantic relationships, are not romances.
HFN– happy for now. A variation of HEA, it means the couple’s romantic arc is not quite done “cooking” and their relationship may still encounter trials before they walk off into the sunset of Happy Ever After.
White Hot in the Hidden Legacy novels is the perfect example of that. At the end, Neva and Rogan are together, but they have all the challenges of Wildfire ahead of them, including what it means to their relationship to have Neva become a Head of House in her own right, the discussion about their children potentially not having magic (haha) putting an end to both Houses, and of course a ready and willing ex throwing herself in Rogan’s arms etc.
HFNs are usually not considered enough for a genre romance ending- as we aren’t sure the protagonists have found their “forever” partner and closure- which is why they will be generally encountered part-way through a series.
Cliffhanger– speaking of endings hehe. A cliffhanger is a plot device by which a narrative ends with the main character(s) in a precarious or dangerous position, an injured state where fatality may incur, an abrupt and shocking revelation or another life-or-death dramatic event involving the protagonist on which the reader doesn’t get closure.
Cliffhangers are used to create suspense and encourage the reader to return to the next installment in the narrative or to discuss it, but -and I cannot emphasise this enough- not ALL unsolved arcs or suspense elements are cliffhangers. Sometimes it’s just that the series hasn’t ended yet.
Guess what doesn’t constitute a cliffhanger, despite the cries of a certain Horde I won’t mention here by name? The protagonist’s brother showing up for a chat at the end of the book, when the protagonist is safe, healing and loved, planning her wedding after she successfully defeated the Big Threat. ::blows raspberry:: (This is about Sweep of the Blade btw, Klaus coming to see Maud at the end- since I got accused in the comments of spoiling Sweep of the Heart.)
Competence porn– a trope term referring to narratives that focus on capable and efficient characters collaborating to solve complicated problems, using hard work and smarts as opposed to Deus ex machina interventions (unexpected and unlikely solutions that just magically show up).
Although both the narrative and challenges are realistic, and the effort and intelligence used is commensurate to the problem, competence porn is Wish Fulfilment fiction because it has a happy resolution aimed at giving reader satisfaction (problems will be solved, crimes discovered, patient cured, fight won etc). Life is not fair, but fiction can be! The term was invented by John Rogers, a TV writer for the show Leverage.
Mary Sue– is a general fiction term applied (dismissively and liberally) to female characters who show competence.
Its origins are in fanfic, from a satirical Star Trek zine published by Paula Smith in 1973. Starfleet Lieutenant Mary Sue, a 15-year-old prodigy who is beautiful, perfect in all things and nice to everyone, has both Captain Kirk and Spock instantly fall inlove with her. She takes over the ship and receives “the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of Good Guyhood.”
Despite the caricatural self-insert proportions of Lt. Mary Sue, a slew of female characters from popular culture who show skills deemed “outsized”, knowledge in various fields and become romantic interests have been painted with the same brush. There is a male equivalent (the Mary Stu or Gary Stu), but very few male characters ever get called out for overall competence, and the term Mary Sue continues to carry a lot of gender bias.