Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Politics and the romance novel

Here's an issue you don't see discussed much for romance novels-- how politics influence or should influence the stories. In many romances, maybe most, there isn't any political element. And by this, I don't mean partisan but conservative versus liberal, exploring how far government should go, where does it have a right to intervene, etc etc.? They stick to love with some barrier between the couple. Some of the finest romances though, like those of Jane Austen, very much have a political aspect woven into the plot-- sometimes very subtly.

Probably a lot of writers, who aren't writing say an espionage novel, try to avoid a political bent because of its potential to turn off half the readers from the get go. In contemporary romance novels (there is a little more of it in historical romances but not a lot) having a political aspect is in my experience rare. Oh there is the lesson that love is worth what it costs, that doing right is the right thing, helping others is good, sometimes a religious one,  standing up to bad guys is necessary at some point, but contemporary stories about deeper governing issues, not so much.

Should there be or is the very nature of a romance novel to find one place you can forget about all that? To some point, I can agree with that. Probably the last thing any romance reader wants is preaching a political doctrine when they came for a good plot, set of characters, and a connection to their own lives for the emotions generated by the reading.

Except, when you consider the difficult issues our world faces, it seems to me at least some romance writers might give some thought to inserting plot elements into their stories that do explore what is good or not on a political scale. Not a party or candidate (which would be outdated all too fast) but what should we want from government? How accountable to us should it be? When does it become a problem? etc. etc. which obviously would be seen differently whether one is a right or left wing oriented writer.

I'll write more on this an example from one of my own books; but for now, take some time and watch this video. It's an interview with Jeremy Scahill as he discusses what I consider a very powerful moral issue for today (I got it from a blog called Hattie's Web). When I see something like this, I think now how could I explore this subject with one of my books? My next blog here will discuss an example of one of my books with a political theme within it.


5 comments:

Tabor said...

Novels that weave political philosophies in subtly have more texture and keep me reading. But many readers want simpler characters and simpler plots. I think it is hard for an author to do this.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

If the author has a theme relavent to all time periods, politics are woven into the book destined to be a classic. In other words literature can have romance.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

I couldn't get the video about Scahill to work. It is one of the blank icons from google.

Rain Trueax said...

Try YouTube direct-- on drones and assassinations

Rain Trueax said...

I think the issue when we put political ideas into our books is to be sure the themes are ones that go beyond one era which is why Jane Austen's still work as they are about societal unfairness which is current as a subject today. I agree though that I like it when a writer can weave them into the story and leave me still thinking when I read the last page.