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The Cardinal Sin of Romance


I love my fellow writers on this site. They offer me support and encouragement when I need it the most. Every one of them has read my work and offered invaluable feedback.  But I must say, both Michelle and Amanda are quite…selective in their reading. Neither of them favor the romance genre. I truly believe that neither of them would have ever read a romance in their lives had I not requested their assistance in beta reading/editing my work.

I love them dearly, but I get the feeling that romance disgusts them on a fundamental level. They’ve asked me to kill my characters. But that would NOT a romance make. They take the phrase “kill your darlings” literally. I merely torture mine, then ensure they at least have a happy ending for the moment. I don’t think I can even write anything but romance. It’s not in my blood to spill blood.

Michelle and Amanda tease me incessantly about my inability to commit MC (main character) murder. I cannot do it. Well, at least I haven’t yet. I may at some point in my career, but today is not that day and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

By definition, romance must have a HEA (happily ever after) or a HFN (happily for now). You cannot kill the MC or multiple MCs and still have the story remain a romance by definition. It may have romantic elements, but it’s not by trade definition a romance.

Some of the best stories have elements of romance in them but the MCs die.

Romeo and Juliet ~ NOT a romance.

Terminator ~ NOT a romance.

Titanic ~ NOT a romance.

See where I’m going with this…the stories themselves have romance elements, but they are obviously not the main plot. Although Romeo and Juliet could be contested otherwise…but it’s obvious love is NOT enough…especially when you have a sadistic writer. Yes, I’m looking directly at you guys (you know who you are).

Serial murderers you are, the lot of you. I swear sometimes I think you do it just for fun. Okay, so I know you don’t just do it for shits and giggles. But the thought of killing off one of my main characters gives me feels deep down to my bones. I…*sniffles*…I can’t do it.

But I’m going to take my own advice and put myself out there, try something I’ve never done before in my own writing, slip outside my comfort zone and test the limits of my strength as a writer.


~ Kirsten ❤



17 thoughts on “The Cardinal Sin of Romance

  1. “Okay, so I know you don’t just do it for shits and giggles.”

    Oh yes, we do. Muhahaha!

    OTOH, it’s not about the murder. The murdered character becomes uninteresting as soon as he/she’s dead. Much more important are the survivors and their struggle out of the abyss this death hurled them into.

    • I understand the reason for the death and the theory behind it. But I write romance…my focus is on life and love. Death can play a role, but not at the expense of my MCs.

      I don’t doubt you guys do it for S and Gs. LOL.

  2. It may be the definition of romance -now-, darling, but I live to challenge the rules. I’ve fully admitted to this cardinal sin; even using exactly that phrase. On a serious note, for me it was incredibly hard, it really was, because I LOVED the character I had to sentence to death. But in my Writerly bones, I knew…that was just how the story had to go. In order to make way for the true tale to unfold, my beloved Darling had to die.

    That being the case, you DON’T have to kill off an MC. You have to do what’s right for the story. I’m all for stretching your writerly boundaries and applaud you thusly, but don’t feel bad if its not part of your unique tales. 🙂 just be true to the story.

  3. Are you implying that the story is not a romance if the couple doesn’t end up together in the end or only if one of them dies?

    • According to the RWA (Romance Writers of America):

      Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

      A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

      An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

      If you kill a main character (one of the couple) or they do not end up together, then it’s not considered a romance.

      You can have romance elements in any story and kill whomever you please, but I personally don’t consider it a romance if they don’t end up together or one of them dies. No.

      • Thanks for the response and I’m glad you posted the “rules. Because IMO (I’m writing a hybrid memoir like project that may or may not be considered a romance) “emotional justice and unconditional love” can come even if a character dies. Or even if the characters don’t end up together. Needs to be a satisfying reason why, but could work. Like Time Traveller’s Wife.

        • True. But I’m going off of what I look for when I read romance. I prefer a HEA or HFN. Life is hard enough without having to deal with the “meh, go our separate ways” or “one of them dies” endings. I personally won’t read them if I know those are the endings, which is why they aren’t normally included in the genre of romance. They’re normally published as general fiction or literary fiction.

          When I read something, I want to know that they’re building a life together after I close the book. Again, this is my personal preference. 🙂

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