Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How NOT to Write a Romance Novel

Recently, during an evening with family and friends, the talk turned to romantic novels. Great recent reads were shared and discussed. What made them great? Good writing, including good research, careful plotting, and respect for the reader by way of meticulous editing. Realistic characterization, humour and considered vocabulary were also mentioned. It was interesting.

But, as the wine flowed on, it got more interesting. We moved on to rubbish romantic reads, and what made them so bad. There are some old chestnuts listed below, and a few surprises (in no particular order), but what do you ‒ as a reader ‒ think?

Add your comments below, and share your advice on how NOT to write a romance novel:

1. Eyes are not people, people. ‘His eyes rested on her face.’ What? Did his eyes climb out of their sockets, find pillows, and go snuggle up on her cheeks for a bit of shut-eye? No, of course they didn’t. Likewise ‘His eyes dropped to the floor.’ Go figure.

2. Do not give your hero hard thighs because it sounds like, you know, it spread downwards.

3. Please, please ‒ particularly in erotic romance ‒ no throbbing, bobbing, thrusting, moaning or groaning. And no pulsing, okay? And cut the heaving while you’re at it.

4. If your heroine is a single mum out on a date with the kid in tow, please don’t present us readers with an angel child. As mums ourselves, we feel inadequate. Let that kid vomit on the hero. Just the once, on his shoes. There, we feel better already.

5. Stop the love-at-first-sight scenario. Stick to strong physical attraction to get off to a hot start.

6. Please have the decency to remember that sexual urge does not make a woman’s brain stop working.

7. No woman has breath like fresh rose petals first thing in the morning. Get your heroine to nip along to the toothpaste station before Mr Magnificent wakes up.

8. Pay attention to emotion in sex scenes. Go deep, deeper, deepest (LOL!). Include sounds, smells, textures, tastes, noises, sensations, colours, thoughts, and more. Sex scenes without emotion are no more than porn.

9. Don’t take too long undressing before a sex scene. If hero and heroine are crossing the North Pole in midwinter on foot just say ‒ when they get to the igloo ‒ ‘They took off their clothes’, otherwise we’ll be here all week as they discard the layers and forget, along with the reader, what was supposed to be happening. Summer is easy. He can wear shorts, she can wear a bikini. There, done.

10. Please dress your heroes after sex because once, apparently, in some or other historical novel, the Duke left off ravishing his stolen maiden in the boudoir, seized his weapon (his sword, his sword, dear reader) and raced off to do battle. The author forgot to dress him! Imagine the danger, rushing into battle, naked? Apart from anything else he could have got that sword between his legs and...oooh...oh...ow.

11. As far as characters’ characteristics go, interesting is more interesting than handsome or beautiful.

12. A hero or heroine with an unhappy childhood or abusive background is old hat, boring, and a lazy effort by the writer to produce character flaws and conflict. Likewise the love triangle. Enough.

13. Create normal-sized people. The hero doesn’t always have to be 7’2” with a chest as wide as a brick sh**house. He doesn’t have to be able to bend steel with his winkie. He doesn’t always have to have a tan, for crying out, particularly if he’s wearing a kilt. I mean, have you ever seen a Scotsman with a tan? Still on the subject, the heroine must not be perfect. Give us a woman whose cuticles are in bad shape, so we can relate.

14. Hey! Let’s have protected sex, please. A fleeting thought will suffice, or a crinkle of foil.

15. Aim for sensation and sensuality in sex scenes, not a biology lesson. We know what’s going to happen and how, without being told which part fits where. ‘Show, don’t tell’ never had a stronger role to play than beneath the duvet.

16. Too much sex in a book is really, really boring. Unless it’s a sex book.

17. Guys don’t orgasm six times a night, every night. Believe me, if they did, we’d know about it.

18. Beware the virgin heroine ‒ oft-times found simpering in an historical novel ‒ who is a sudden, sexy, hellcat behind the closed curtains of the four-poster, who renders the worldly hero a gasping devotee, on his knees, begging for her love. We figure she’s lied about her past. Be a credible writer.

19. It’s a hard world out there and in this post-recession gloom we probably don’t want to read about severe financial mismanagement problems that put the heroine off the hero. However, not every hero needs to be a bazillionnaire, okay? Just make him good with money, that’s the max we ask.

20. And, lastly but not least, for the love of Jamie Oliver, give your heroine a good appetite at mealtimes. No one likes a picky eater.

Please add your comments below, and thanks so much for reading!

Gina Rossi

‘Life After 6 Tequilas’ - - Chick Lit
‘The Wild Heart’ - - Historical, set in 18thC South Africa
‘To Hear You Smile’ - - Contemporary novella
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  1. Thanks for the giggles Gina! I'll think of you when next I come across these often found pet peeves!

  2. This made me laugh! I must admit, 'eyes' feature heavily in my first drafts! :)

  3. Oh yes, I second the 'normal sized people' one! Most heroes sound as though they have to turn sideways to go through doors! Skinny guys deserve love too! And men who wear glasses - bear in mind that these are rarely cosmetic and if he takes them off he can't see! Less of the 'why, Mr Brown, without your glasses - you're beautiful!'. Unless the heroine also wears glasses and has taken them off, in which case they are both blurs to each other. Attractive blurs, hopefully.

  4. Laughing so hard my sides hurt!

    Bur praise you for mentioning love triangles are overdone. I mean seriously - it's a romance; how can he/she love 2 people and NOT know how to choose???


  5. Thank you lovely peeps for your comments. Especially happy l made you laugh!

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