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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Every Writer Can Learn From Regency Romance



Regina Scott has been known to get lost in the Regency period.  The author of more than twenty Regency-set romances, her latest, The Captain’s Courtship, is out this month from Love Inspired Historical.  You can learn more about her at www.reginascott.com or catch up on the Regency at the blog she shares with YA author Marissa Doyle at www.nineteenteen.blogspot.com



Ever read Jane Austen?  How about Georgette Heyer?  These two ladies set the standard for romances about early nineteenth-century England, and they still remain on the bestseller lists, decades after their deaths.  Their work spawned an entire romantic subgenre that has grown to encompass single title romances, mysteries both cozy and gritty, inspirational stories, and even speculative literature.  Readers of Regency-set stories are loyal and voracious, and the advent of e-books has sent previously published stories onto the charts once again.  
Why do these stories endure?  Why are readers so passionate about them?  And what can we learn from them as writers?
The Regency period, strictly speaking, ran from 1811 to 1820, when George IV was Regent of England.  The mores of the period actually covered the late 1700s to 1830.  Real-life heroes and heroines faced the industrial revolution, where technology transformed the fabric of their society even as information technology is transforming ours.  They watched countries fall to revolution around them, just as we watch other nations struggle with concepts of democracy.  Even the clothing of the Regency, so informal compared to the hoops and powdered wigs of the previous period and patterned after the simple frocks of the French countryside, reflected a transition in society similar to our jeans and exercise wear. 
Regency romances build on the model of society developed by Georgette Heyer and are generally scrupulously researched, taking on a shared world flavor similar to some science fiction and fantasy novels.  In fact, it isn’t uncommon to find Regency dancing at science fiction and fantasy conventions.  
The enduring popularity of these stories can serve as clues to writers of any genre who want readers to devour their books as eagerly:
  • Dialogue can draw you in.  Regency romances are famous for their witty banter, and language plays a key role in the shared world feeling.  A gentleman might drive his cattle (horses) through the ton (the better society of London) so that others might consider him an out-and-outer (impressive fellow).  A lady might invite her bosom beau (best friend) to her at home (time available to receive callers) so that they might have a nice coze (talk).   What words and phrases are unique to the world you’re building?  How can you sprinkle them most effectively to pull the reader deeper into that world?
  • The right details matter.  Research can be seductive, and historical periods aren’t the only ones rich in detail to uncover.  Which you choose can make a difference in the pacing and depth of your story.  Which details move the plot forward?  The candlestick found still burning when no one was supposed to be awake?  A missing candy box shaped like a woman’s slipper?  What details illuminate character?  The hideous rug your hero keeps in his bedchamber because it reminds him of his late wife?  The pair of boots your heroine’s father had specially made for her when she first started riding because he was so proud of her?  
  • Setting can be character.  Society in Regency England was a demanding place, and woe betide the gentleman or lady who forgot it.  The rules of that Society influence character as well as plot.  Take the hero who is “the spare,” the second son of an aristocrat, passed over for title and often the bulk of the wealth.  Is he angry at his fate, envious of older his brother’s favored status, or relieved that he has more choices for his vocation?  What role does setting play in yours story?  How can you use it to advantage to deepen characterization or propel your plot?    
The next time you’re looking for something new to read, pick up a Regency romance.  You might be surprised what you learn.





The Captain's Courtship

The dashing Captain Richard Everard has faced untold dangers at sea. Steering his young cousin through a London season, however, is a truly formidable prospect. The girl needs a sponsor, like lovely widow Lady Claire Winthrop—the woman who jilted Richard years ago. 


Claire believed herself sensible in marrying a well-to-do viscount rather than a penniless second son. How deeply she regretted it! Now their fortunes are reversed, and Richard's plan will help settle her debts and secure his inheritance. Yet it may yield something even more precious: a chance to be courted by the captain once more.


6 comments:

online diploma said...

Thanks for writing..The links works fine when I click on it..Thanks for updating..

Michelle Griep said...

One thing I've learned about Regency readers and writers is that they're passionate. One tiny faux pas or skewing of a fact brings 'em out of the closet. In the case of Regency, research is king!

Patty Smith Hall said...

I love Regencies! I'd even like to write one eventually, but it would probably take me FOREVER because I'd need to make sure I got every fact straight.

Thanks for being with us today, Regina!

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Patty! And Michelle, you're right about research. Of course, it's terribly fun as well. It's far too easy to get sucked into a tantalizing sideline (did you know the inventor of the submarine tried to interest Napoleon when the U.S. and England proved unimpressed?) and forget the story you're trying to write!

Michelle Griep said...

Actually, yeah, I did know about the submarine dealio. I'm a Regency junkie as well, so I totally hear you about getting sidetracked.

Karla Darcy said...

Regencies are always great fun to read because of the humor inherent in the genre. And you're right that the society really shapes the characters. Good for us writers to remember.