Does the inclusion of secondary characters’ POVs mean my story isn’t a romance? How do I know if my story is a romance?
One of the reasons I started writing in romance was because I was fed up with what I call Dysfunction Masquerading As Conflict. You know what I mean: she’s supposed to be self-sufficient and stubborn, but just reads shrill. Or he’s “wounded” and that’s the reason he’s allowed to emotionally abuse her, and be a jackass because “it’s okay, ’cause he loves her.”
One of my favorites is the external conflict that a five year could solve. She needs the rind of an orange, and he needs the inside, but oh-uh!! There’s only ONE orange. What are they going to do? So the reader suffers through hundreds of pages of “come here” “go away” hot sex, more sex, oh, look, more sex and right when she hits the 100th orgasm, she realizes she really loves him, but boo hoo, there’s that problem of the orange. Then she either gets pregnant and runs away, or sees him having dinner with another woman and runs away, or realizes it’ll never work in this mad, one orange world, and runs away. Inevitably, she gets hits by a truck or car (no doubt, driven by the now, completely pissed off romance reader). Then, she wakes up in a hospital, sees him. He’s all “oh, I love you!” and she says, “It won’t work. There’s only one orange.” Then he solves it all by saying, “No, we can share the orange.”
Then there’s more sex…well, except for the reader whose too busy poking their eyes out or seeking professional help to even consider having sex.
Oh, wait, you had a question, right? 😛 Maybe I should stop ranting.
So, about the secondary characters:
Secondary characters are fine, they just can’t dominate the story. So, if you break it down, it should be (and I’m totally pulling a ratio out of my head for example, not as a hard and fast statistic) 85% the main characters, 15% supporting.
If you look at Crusie’s work, she has secondary characters, but they don’t dominate.
On a more personal example, in my novel Ethan’s Chase, there is a cast of 2 villains, 2 main characters, and 4 supporting characters. Not every scene is the H & H, but when they’re not together, they’re at least mentioned or in the “back of the mind.”
I think that’s the crux of a romance. If they’re not together, they’re thinking or talking about each other. And that doesn’t mean it’s all got to be kissy-face, swoony, stuff. It can be a “quick” mention. In Ethan’s Chase, Chase (the heroine) is dealing with a stalker, so her attention isn’t on romance. There are scenes where Ethan is mentioned, but just in passing and sometimes (if I remember correctly) not at all, because the discussion is the stalking and that would have been wildly inappropriate. Snort, can you imagine? “Oh, Chase, I know that Tony just posted all your private information on a rape fetish website and now you’re in physical danger and the police can’t prove anything, but who cares? Tell us about that hunky Ethan.”
Schwarzenegger had made a similar comment when he was filming Predator. The director wanted a love/sex scene and he was like, “Yeah, how? I know this giant thing is chasing us, but let’s duck behind the bush for some nookey.”
So, what I’m saying (in my usual long, rambly way), is (and this will sound like SUCH a cop out), but you’ll have to make the call. If the secondary characters take up as much space or more space (their story, not them supporting the main characters), then it may be more women’s fiction than romance.