By Sela Carsen
I ship for a living.
I ship Sherlolly. I ship Johnlock. I ship Stucky, and Black Widow with Hawkeye even though it’s totally not canon. I ship Batman with Catwoman, but not with Wonder Woman because I ship Superman and Wonder Woman.
Why should I care about these completely imaginary couples? Because I’m a romance writer and it’s my job to ship people.
Romance, despite all claims of being “forumlaic,” only has two basic rules.
- The love story is central to the plot, and
- it has an emotionally satisfying and uplifting ending.
If you write (1), but not (2), then you have a love story, but not a romance. If you write (2), but not (1) you have pretty much anything else that might have a romantic subplot, but it’s not a romance. If you write neither (1) nor (2), then you’re probably writing literary fiction and nobody has time for that kind of negativity in their lives. (Kidding. Kind of.)
But aside from those two elements, absolutely everything else is open. Want to write the undead in Victorian England? Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series. Want to write cyborg shapeshifters in space? Naomi Lucas’ Cyborg Shifters series. Want to write stories set in a quirky tourist town run by vampires? Kristen Painter’s Nocturne Falls series.
They can be lighthearted and fun, or they can be dark and taboo, or they can be heartwrenching and complex. The three basic categories of romance -- historical, contemporary, and paranormal -- encompass virtually any kind of story that can be told, from military thrillers and detailed historicals to sci-fi and fantasy with world building to rival Neil Gaiman or C.J. Cherryh. Romance is the only genre that crosses over with nearly every other genre, giving it a breadth and depth that can appeal to all readers.
The only thing that romance, like any other story, has to do is tell readers a story that lifts them out of the mire of chaos that makes their everyday lives so stressful. That’s the same reason people read anything, really -- mystery, horror, graphic novels, whatever. The reader who finds joy in Frank Miller or Dan Brown or N.K. Jemisin is looking for the same kind of satisfaction as the reader who reads the latest Nora Roberts.
It’s my job to ship characters who go through all kinds of obstacles to be together, whether it’s something as simple as an overworked single mom and a mechanic, or a lady-in-waiting and a vampire. Love can be found anywhere. And I totally ship that.
Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least. Find out more at http://selacarsen.com