Did you ever notice how many characters in romance novels are wealthy? Or at least pretty dang comfortable. A lot, right? And the number of rich people in romance novels has a pretty big effect on the plot.
Need to take a week off suddenly to hide from a murderer? No problem. Need to travel to catch the trail of a killer? Pay for those plane tickets in cash.
A lot of times even people portrayed as being poor(er) are at the used-to-be-poor-but-worked-hard-and-beat-it stage. Where that sudden vacation from work will cause some hardships, but they have some money saved that’ll get them through it ok.
So… not truly poor.
In a way, it makes sense that at least half of every couple in a romance novel has at least decent amounts of money.
- A lot of people read romance novels to escape negative things, and being poor generally sucks big time.
- It’s a handy plot device. You don’t have to scramble to figure out how the characters are going to pay for things or worry too much about potentially losing jobs. That’s not romantic.
So I can understand why it’s such a trope in the romance novel genre (not that it isn’t used elsewhere – although it is a bit lazy plot-wise). But now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t help but think how many plots would totally fall apart if one or more of the main characters weren’t wealthy. Pretty sure I can’t count that high.
And does that mean you can’t write a romance novel where both of the main characters are poor? Does the American prejudice against poor people (the whole if-you-worked-harder-and-saved-money-you-wouldn’t-be-poor attitude) plus the negative aspects mean that a romance novel with that premise isn’t possible? Or at least wouldn’t be popular?
Does anyone else see this pattern? Or know of a good book that breaks it?
I feel kinda dense for not really noticing it before, but now that I have, I keep wondering. And thinking I need to pay more attention to cash-flow in my stories if I want them to be believable – preferably without plugging a rich person in to take care of it all.
Easier isn’t always better after all.
4 thoughts on “Rich People in Romance Novels”
I can’t speak to romance novels specifically but it’s definitely a trend overall in literature and other media.
I generally don’t like the idea of “write what you know” but there is something to be said about perspective. All those books where characters are supposed to be poor but really aren’t are probably written by people who grew up comfortably.
Such as, when I was a kid I thought my family was poor because I never got toys unless I earned money and bought them myself and my mom made a lot of our clothes and so forth. And I was poor compared to the kids in my school that were mostly from an affluent suburb. But as an adult I realize that saying I grew up poor when my family had a house and plenty of food and two cars and a TV isn’t true.
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There’s definitely a broad spectrum as far as wealth, and, you’re right, what’s poor in one neighborhood could be rich or at least comfortable in another. And I don’t know if these are the right terms, but I’d also put what you described as the difference between poor and poverty.
There’s a level of poor where you have the essentials, maybe even a few luxuries, but you don’t have any wiggle-room or savings (nothing for emergencies or for the future). It’s still poor but not necessarily the poorest possible. But something unexpected that costs a lot of money or interferes with work (like an illness, natural disaster, or car problem) could potentially be enough to push them into the next level down.
That phrase “write what you know” has to mean “write what you know about” because otherwise nobody would ever write about anything other than their own life, and how boring would that be!!
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That’s the best explanation of that phrase I’ve ever heard! “Write what you know about” certainly makes more sense with science fiction and fantasy, which is what I usually reply with when confronted with “write what you know.”