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16 September 2011 @ 10:41 am
Why Romance Is More Popular Than Gen  
I periodically lament and wonder why romance is so overwhelmingly more popular than gen, when romance represents just one component of human experience, while gen encompasses all the other components.

Jesse Bering, evolutionary psychologist and Scientific American blogger, recently posted a sardonic and potentially enlightening contribution to that question.  "Listen Carefully: The Evolutionary Secret To Making a Hit Record" (08/30/11) discusses how "across music genres, the more 'embedded reproductive messages' [i.e. courtship, sex, procreation] a given song contained, the more likely it was to have become a smash hit."  That is, "Country songs averaged 5.96 reproductive messages per song, Pop had 8.69, and R&B a whopping 16.77 per song.  For all genres, however, and across a sixty-year history of the Billboard charts, the sheer number of reproductive messages in a song was meaningfully linked to that song's commercial success," even when controlling for the singer's popularity and skill.

Similarly, he reports that research analyzing newspapers in multiple cultures from the past three centuries shows consistently that:
[T]he hallmark of sensational news — what makes something particularly alluring to any readership — is its relevance to reproductive success in the ancestral past.  Most high-profile, front-page stories dealt with things such as altruism, reputation, cheaters, violence, sex, and the treatment of offspring.  In other words, argued these scientists, what whets our appetites in the social domain today are the very same gossipy topics of conversation that the first humans were probably gabbing about 150,000 years ago in sub-Saharan Africa.

The blog post includes a handy list of the 19 categories of "embedded reproductive messages" tracked and analyzed in the study.  Writers of romance, you may wish to refer to it. ;-)  They're almost like prompts, assuming that you have a preferred couple to which to apply them.

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greerwatsongreerwatson on September 17th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
"That is, everyone agrees that romance is a worthy goal, but they may or may not agree that solving a crime and staying off blood is."

Certainly that's true of staying off blood; there's a whole crowd who feel that Nick should accept his vampire nature, especially since there's bottled blood nowadays.

I'm not so sure that people doubt that solving a crime is a worthy goal in and of itself. I suspect they just feel that it's the boring part of Forever Knight. Or, if they don't feel that way themselves, they fear that potential readers will. FK was, after all, essentially a cop show. It never had enough character scenes of any type, and we treasure them.

I think this ties into the point you made elsewhere about fans who want to continue what the show did (which here means solving murder mysteries) and those who want to expand on what the show left out (i.e. character scenes, especially romantic ones involving the principals).

There is another point to consider, too. Among those fans who do try to incorporate a murder mystery, many do it badly.

Detective stories take a lot of careful plotting. When I was writing FK4, I had ideas for flashbacks, vampire themes, and character interactions that I wanted to do. In fact, quite a number of small character scenes came to me very strongly, were written down lest I forget them, but then had to be saved as small files for later incorporation if I could find a suitable spot. The point is that nothing could go forward until I came up with a police plot. I always had myriad notes and notions and little files that simply couldn't gel into an episode until that elusive murder mystery was hammered out.

On top of that, the cop show aspect always took up the lion's share of space—perforce, since I was trying to simulate actual episodes of FK. It was often very frustrating. There were so many things I wanted to fit in, and hadn't space for. That is why I eventually wrote an entire virtual season (and still had more ideas that were never used).

Ploting out the murder mysteries was really tedious at times. Contrariwise, with character scenes, all I had to do was put Nick, Nat, LaCroix, Tracy et. al. in the same room together and let them talk...and then write down what they said! (And edit it later, of course.)

Abstract the tedious, tricky mystery plot, and you are left with character vignettes, heavy on dialogue. Fanfic archives are full of them.