Smoke and mirrors: Event patterns in the discourse structure of a romance novel

Publication year
Journal of Pragmatics

From the abstract:

This article investigates a paradox in popular romance novels. On the one hand, the plot of the typical popular novel of any genre consists of a series of actions, most of which are initiated by the main character. On the other hand, the ideal heroine in a romance is passive and therefore should be initiating few actions of any sort. An analysis of the climax of a novel by Barbara Cartland, an extremely popular and prolific romance writer, shows that she uses a series of stylistic strategies to resolve this paradox. Some of these strategies up-grade the apparent activity of the heroine, while others down-grade the actions of her opponents.


Summary of upgrading strategies:
Allow heroine to act on other entities, but make those entities powerless or part of the heroine herself.
Have heroine engage in lots of movement (of herself and other entities) which has little permanent effect. These movements will include behavioral as well as material processes.
Give heroine a spurious role in activities in which she has no part, by reporting them through her senses and knowledge. (1073)