Unusual Romance: The Curious Position of Writing the "Weird Stuff."

Warning: Long Post!!!

(Picture courtesy of the Feebleminds website at

For years now I've been WARA's resident oddball. I write romance, but I write it in subgenres and categories that aren't the usual. Off-the-wall stuff such as fantasy, futuristic and paranormal romance, erotic romance and fan fiction. Different, huh?

Nina's already talked about the tribulations of writing the "weird stuff" and about the roots and significance of fantasy, futuristic and paranormal fiction. The only thing I would add to her statements is that, for market considerations, an FF&P romance has to have an even balance between the romance and the other genre. All the elements of romance, hero, heroine, sexual tension, and most importantly the HEA, have to be present.

Many novels today are featuring FF&P elements with a strong female protagonist and a heavily romantic subplot. However, to be considered an FF&P romance the emphasis has to remain on the romance aspect of the story. The definition of what constitutes an FF&P romance is fluid, but for most houses the statement I made above is an accurate one.

Which leads me to address my other forms of weirdness. I write erotic romance. Erotic romance, along with chick-lit and women's fiction, garners about 2.9% of the sales in the romance market. Small, but significant.

Erotic romance, like FF&P, has a fluid definition that can vary from house to house. A basic definition of it is a love story imbued with a highly sexual content. There has to be an emphasis on the romance, and it has to be balance with the sexual content. Most erotic romances allow exploration of more controversial elements, such as multiple partners, role-playing, bondage/sadomasochism, etc.

To write erotic romance, sex scenes have to be plotted. They must move the character toward a goal, bring the character into conflict with opposing forces or strengthen or change a character's motivation. You can't just take a story and "sex it up." The sex has to be a part of the character's fictional journey. A good reference work for writing Erotic Romance is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Alison Kent. There is also a special interest chapter of The Romance Writer's of America for the erotic romance subgenre called Passionate Ink.

While I have yet to be professionally published in this subgenre, I am gaining experience with it in another fashion. The erotic romance writing I've done has been in the realm of "fan fiction." Fan fiction is writing in the story world of a movie, TV show, book, video game, etc. It cannot be done for profit, only for the love of the characters involved. Like writing everywhere, it runs the gamut from really bad to excellent.

Fan fiction is controversial, and many people do not consider it "real writing" because it is not original work. Some authors and creators don't like it because they feel it infringes on their creation. Despite efforts to curtail it, fan fiction continues and has grown in numbers over the years. Most authors now consider it to be a sincere form of flattery.

Fan fiction is a place where writers can test the waters. It allows a beginning writer to experiment with plot and characters without pressure. They can learn by using settings and characters that are familiar and comfortable. Its main goal is to tell an interesting story and to keep the characters as close to those of the original work as possible. The stories are posted on websites, and other fans of the work are encouraged to give feedback.

For me fan fiction is an opportunity to try out new techniques, like adding sexual elements to a familiar story, and to play. I use it to write about fictional people I've become fond of and to write without the strain of deadlines or editors. If you are interested in this type of writing, check out FanFiction.net at

I've maundered on enough now. Aren't you all glad I went last? :-)!


Becky A said...

Hi Jeannie, that explains a lot. I still have one question. I have noticed a few books that have been written by a different author based on the original authors' characters. In your explanation that sounds like fan fiction but these were books for sale. So I am a little confused. If fan fiction cannot be sold, what is the difference of the books I saw? I hope that made sense! Thanks, Becky

Becky A said...

PS: Nice pic!

Pat Davids said...

Good explaination of your genres. I've always understood the draw of fan fiction, some things are so good, some characters just so wonderful that you don't want their story to end.

But I'm on the fence about how I would feel if someone took the characters that came out of my brain and used them to keep the story going. On one hand it would be okay. I never like my people very well by the time the book is done anyway. I keep thinking, "Will you just kiss and make up already!!"

On the other hand, they are mine and if I did object, would anyone listen to me?

Just a thought.

Jeannie said...

Sometimes in series books the characters are not owned by the initial author but by the publisher. Several authors may write about the same characters.

There are also pseudonyms, like Carolyn Keene, who is listed as the author of the popular girl's detective series about Nancy Drew. The books have been written by a number of different people over the years but were all published under the same name.

An author may give permission for other people to use their characters. Some publishers have several different people writing books or stories set in the same "universe" or "world." Characters may be created by one author but used by another as well. An example of this kind of stuff would be Robert Asprin's THIEVE'S WORLD series.

For the most part, fan fiction cannot be written for profit because of copyright infringement. The only country I know that has different laws about this is Japan.

In Japan, fan written and illustrated books about popular shows, anime, manga and video games can be sold for profit. They are called "doujinshi," and I don't know much about the Japanese law or the publications.

Thanks for the compliment about the picture. Feebleminds has some really fun gifs, borders and pictures that can be used for free on a non-profit web site. You do have to credit them as a source.

Jeannie said...

One of the hazards of writing fan fiction, Pat, is that the original owner/creator of the work can bring legal action against you. George Lucas initially tried to exert some legal control over the STAR WARS fan fiction by threatening to sue, but I think he has pretty much given that up now.

Most fans publish a disclaimer with their work, stating outright that it is not written for profit. The sites that post it usually require one.

I did see a couple of sites that stated they would not accept anything featuring characters from Nora Robert's popular IN DEATH series because of possible legal action. So Nora's not letting amateurs play.

Having read some pretty bad fan fiction stories in my time, I can sometimes understand why an author would feel that way. I also understand about the bond between creator and creation.

As I said before, most of the authors/creators involved realize that it's like the Hydra monster from Greek mythology. You cut off one head, and it grows ten more. So they just accept that it exists and don't fight it. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of time and money tied up in lawsuits to no purpose.

So yes, Pat, if you did object, someone would listen. Most professionals write the fan fiction off as flattery and drive on.

Rox Delaney said...

The comment(s) I'm about to make might sound strange, but this has been rolling around in my mind since I first read the blog post.

If I were the author of something that became fan fiction---and the likelihood of that is pretty much nil---the one thing that would bother me would be when someone took one of my characters and had them do or react in a way that I didn't feel that character would do.

As writers, we get to know our characters quite well, sometimes even better than ourselves! Having one do something completely out of character would be disconcerting.

As for copyright, gee, that's well beyond my realm. I know titles, as a rule, aren't copyrighted, but characters can be? Over my head, obviously. ::grin::

Thought provoking discussion!

Penny Rader said...

I've never tried my hand at fan fiction, but I've enjoyed reading many of your stories, Jeannie. What was that series you were fan-ficting (is that a word?) when I first met you? Border something? Was it a Western set on the border of the US and Canada? Your stories made me want to track down the tv series and watch it.