June 24, 2013
Grateful to Polly Iyer for writing a sensational blog while I’m at ROMCON and on deadline. Take it away, Ms. Iyer!
Recently, I watched one of my favorite movies of all time—Casablanca. I mentioned at a meeting where the guest was an acquiring editor for an up and coming e-press that I thought it was one of the most romantic movies I’d ever seen. “But no,” she said. “Casablanca isn’t a romance, it’s a love story.” She was right, of course. A romance has to have a happy ending. I’m not giving anything away, because everyone knows after seventy years there is no happy ending in Casablanca.
Did you know the director filmed two endings for the movie, and even the actors didn’t know which ending would wind up in theaters? Focus groups preferred the ending we all know. If the movie had ended happily and Ilsa and Rick walked off into the mist instead of Rick and Captain Renault, would it be the classic it is today or would it have been just another movie?
My opinion is a happy-ever-after ending would have relegated Casablanca as just another movie. Those immortal lines in the last scene are sad and gut-wrenching. The look on Ingrid Bergman’s face, the glistening tears in her eyes—those are emotions you remember.
Rick: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
Ilsa: “But what about us?”
Rick: “We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we…we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.”
Ilsa: “When I said I would never leave you.”
Rick: “And you never will.”
Sure it’s a love story, but come on, that’s romantic. Here’s a clip for any of you who’ve never seen the original. Then tell me if that isn’t ROMANTIC. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa-dGYjSq5k Some of the comments say Romantic, best film of all time, iconic lines. All true.
My point is this: those of us who write romance, whether it’s contemporary, suspense, or any other genre (erotica has more leeway and is now removed from Amazon’s Romance sub-genres), where two people fall in love, are bound by the Happy-Ever-After formula—yes, I said it: formula—that is required in order to classify a book as Romance. I understand organizations need parameters to specify genre descriptions, and a HEA is the determining factor in Romance. I understand it, but the rebel in me doesn’t like to be told I HAVE to do something. I’m glad one of the sub-genres now is Romantic Elements. I’m happy about that.
If you’re wondering if all my books have HEA endings or whether the maverick in me wins out, and a few love affairs fizzle by the end of the book, no fear. They all have a HEA ending. But it’s still my contention that romance shouldn’t be confined by that limitation. If you remember the movie Love Story with Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, corny by today’s standards and even those in the day, the title separates it from romance. Love Story says it all. But wasn’t it romantic watching Ryan weep over Ali when she dies (personally, I was glad to see her go—did I mention corny?), when his whole world comes crashing down? What’s more romantic than the tortured lover? Heathcliff, anyone?
Alas, I give in, or do I give up? I’m arguing semantics when we really need those boundaries. Thrillers and Suspense should make you turn the pages faster, Mysteries should challenge you to solve the murder, Horror should scare the pants off you, Fantasy should take you into another realm, and yes, Romance should have a happy ending.
Now, should we tackle Conflict? Must the Hero and Heroine be at each other’s throats for half to three-quarters of the book before they acknowledge their love? Why can’t they just like each other and fall in love? I have veered from that in one or two of my novels, but that’s another blog post.
Polly Iyer is the author of six published suspense novels. A Massachusetts native, she studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. She spent fourteen months as a free-lance fashion artist in Rome, Italy, provided art and copy for small stores in Boston, and became a storyboard illustrator in Atlanta and Greenville, South Carolina. She took up writing thirteen years ago, and hasn’t stopped since. Polly now resides in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina.