Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The 10 Comandments of Romance Writing

After reading MANY MANY romance novels, I have been in mulling over what attracts and repulses me about this genre. With further reflection, my trouble is not necessarily the writers themselves, but the stylistic and creative choices they make. I'm a huge fan of YA, NA, and contemporary romance, but I think a few errors need to be addressed when writing romance novel. 

The 10 Commandments of Romance Writing

1. Thou shalt not be overly creative with anatomical synonyms for body parts. Chances are if you have to think really really hard to find one, it's not a good one. And if you're not sure, read or have someone read that part of your book. If you falter over the word or have to pause to think it through...don't use it. A good rule of thumb is if it is an item used in construction...

2. Thou shalt not write sex scenes like a prepubescent teenager. I cannot tell you how many times I've read the phrase "my special place" or "down there." (eye-roll) You make me embarrassed for you. Get over it! Great place to get writing advice about sex is Randy Susan Meyers blog post.

On a similar note, don't write about love like an naive teenager. If your characters are in that age range you can present scenes with actions illustrating immaturity, but when you're writing something only the reader will see or know you can illustrate a more mature level of understanding. I've read books where the author seems to have forgotten their job is to paint a visual and emotional picture for the reader and end up with a very one dimensional description. "I feel so much for him, words can't describe it." or "I feel some much all at once, my mind cannot focus on one single thought."

3. Thou shalt not describe your character(s) by referencing famous people. Nothing ruins a book more then when I'm reading along and imagining the features of a character and you suddenly rip out George Clooney or Channing Tatum as a reference...
As beautiful as both men are, there are millions of ways to describe someone's hair, nose, jaw line, eyes, and body. (This goes for female characters too.) Please use your artistic ability and do so. 

I'm also going to take a moment and address a personal preference. When you are writing a scene that includes a restaurant or movie DO NOT use real movies, actors or restaurants as references. The only book I have ever read that did this appropriately was the Marked Men series by Jay Crownover and it was used indirectly to describe the atmosphere of where some of the characters worked.

Paint a picture my artists!

4. Be involved in the cover of your book. (Sorry, I couldn't think of a way to make it sound very Biblical.) I know we are all taught not to judge a book by its cover, but trust me, we judge a book by its cover. Long gone are the days of Fabio's rippling chest and a scantily clad maiden clutched in his arms. No. I am looking for the provocative thought educing cover or the modern day, fresh looking title.   

5. Thou shalt not write a relationship that purely relies on the element of insta-love. Nothing does the human emotion and intelligence a grander disservice than explaining the reason for romantic relationship with insta-love. There are so many different layers to human emotion why would you skip all of that to just sum it up to instant love or love-at-first-sight? And how creepy is that really!? 


And I know what you're thinking...and yes, there is a difference between insta-interest and insta-love. Insta-interest is attraction to a person with possibility of a relationship and insta-love skips over all the things that make a person real to the reader and turns them into this infallible sex machine. Which is stupid. Who wants to read about perfection only?  BORING! Do Not "Mary Sue" your female or male characters!

6. Thou shalt not write a female character so blatantly self-deprecating. Yes we are all human and speak for women out there we all have issues with self-confidence. Whether it be our appearance, bodies, intelligence, etc. and it's fine to hit on those issues, but making obvious statements...it gets old. 

Having a heroine who is confident or develops into someone who is confident is more sexy than having a meek woman who is a push over. Those stories have their place, but not among my anything I like to read.

7. Thou shalt not write abrupt scenes. It's called planning people! I have read more than one book where a scene unfolds awkwardly. It can be a characters, dialogue or setting but it is difficult to read.

Example: I opened the door to the dining room and am greeted by darkness. I listen closely to the silence before entering slowly and sliding the door shut. The only light in the room comes from the moonlight seeping in through the windows on the opposite side.

WTF! You just said the room is completely dark. Then you randomly throw in descriptors about the room recanting your previous statement! Oh also, you can't listen to silence!

8. Thou shall write great dialogue. It's hard. I know. But it's even harder to read when an author is boring the crap out of you. Some of the most common mistakes can be identified here: Dialogue. I read a book where a group of guys who are friends were drinking beer at someone's house and talking about their relationships. The scene literally read like bad acting.
Guy 1: How is Sarah doing now that you are together?
Guy 2: She doesn't talk about her past much and keeps mentioning how different we are financially. She doesn't realize that I do not care if she was homeless. I love her.
Guy 1: Yeah, you need to stop that shit right away.
Guy 3: Jessa was that way when we first started dating. It took a while to get her to stop putting herself down.
Guy 2: Yeah, I'm working on it. 
#1 What group of guys has a heart to heart like this? #2 Just UGH! Use good AND realistic dialogue people!

9. Thou shalt not write useless information. What makes me write this commandment specifically, is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller book I recently read. This book had so many freaking analogies! It was like trying to get the story from Sheldon Cooper while he simultaneously gives you facts about random things. If it's not pertinent to the story and moving the plot...leave it! 
10.  Thou shall explain all major plot decisions made by characters. Again, coming from experience of reading I some pretty awful stuff, but is extremely mind numbing. Illustrating a character(s) struggle with a decision, whether internally or not, needs to be resolved with a believable and well planned thought process. The book that committed this infraction and therefore dictated this commandment was written by an author with multiple novels published in the romance genre. The characters pretty much developed like this:

Girl: I cannot love you. I am too broken to love anyone.
Guy: Yes you can. Because I love you enough to make you whole.
Girl 1: Ok.
Me: WTF just happened here? 
 She was too broken to love anyone and she went on for a whole page about it and then he says one thing, ONE and she's says, "OK?!" And I'm all...

Because that's accurate and believable.

I'm certain I'm missing a few commandments of romance writing so feel free to comment with your own. The more informed we all are the better writers and books will be.  Thank you for reading my list of greivances.


**Read more writing tips here:Terrible Minds 

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