Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Writing Silly Romances, Part I

This is a repost from Votaries. However, this time, I am going to split the post into 2 parts.

I mention in a prior post that yes, there are bad romances out there. A number of years ago, I read a book about how to write romances which was entirely unintentionally one of funniest things I have ever read.

* * *

I am reading a book called How to Write Romances on the principle that romances sell, so they must be doing something right.

Unfortunately, I haven't learned anything so far except not to switch viewpoints in the middle of a sentence, and I already knew that. The book is aimed at almost entirely inexperienced writers and is the sort of book that recommends new writers keep a file of newspaper clippings for ideas. There's nothing wrong with this suggestion, but I can't really wrap my head around someone wanting to do something (write, paint, sing, program computers) which they have never ever tried before, all on the off-chance that it will be EASY! and FUN! [Hello, American Idol.]

However, despite the lack of useful tips, I am still reading the book because it is entirely unintentionally, completely hilarious. I ran across this quote:
He didn't have a leg to stand on when it came to taking Petey away from Ashley. Not unless he could prove she was an unfit mother. After seeing her with Petey today, he knew that was out of the question. She was a perfect mother, and he was an out-of-state politician who hadn't known the boy existed until a day ago. That's why he had to get her to Texas.
"Study the preceding paragraph," the author writes, "to understand the wealth of information fed so discreetly to the reader."

I had to read the above sentence twice to make sure it actually said what I thought it said ("discreetly"?) and to check that the author was serious. And that's when I realized I was going to have a lot of fun reading this book.

This is my favorite bit of advice so far: Concerning figurative language--
You should not use Arctic comparisons if your novel takes place in the tropics.
Such as . . . Tarzan lurched along the jungle floor, beating his handsome, muscular chest and yodeling like an Arctic seal calling for its mate!

[Unfortunately, I have found the above advice does need to be given to my composition students. At the time I wrote this email, I thought not mixing metaphors a rather obvious tip, but apparently, mixing metaphors is a national pastime for beginning writers.]

Back to the book:
For most romance lines, a coal-mining town . . . is too difficult to imagine as a romantic setting. A small-town setting with a fashionable resort, an Olympic-trial ski run, or other point of interest could easily be considered exotic.
And whilst you are describing the exotic ski run, do NOT write, "Daphne, taking a break from her hard life as a secretary to a billionaire lawyer who secretly loves her but can't show it due to some silly misunderstanding, which will be cleared up in Chapter 12, watched the snow fall on the ski lift like coal dust from a town very far away and completely unrelated to her." Because ski lifts and coal dust DO NOT mix.

[My lack of romantic imagination occurs when I'm reading about Scotland pre-1900 and the Wild West. I keep thinking, "Cold!" and "Cold! Scratchy!" Yet both of those are common settings in romances.]

Let's take a look at character development:
There is an advantage to keeping a character chart. When you first begin writing, it is very easy to remember names and descriptions. However, as you progress from chapter to chapter and book to book, you will soon discover how easy it is to forget names as well as color of hair or eyes. By charting or listing the physical as well as psychological makeup of your characters, you will save time and effort.
I can just see Shakespeare: "Darn it all--is it Lear with the daughters in the rainstorms or is that MacBeth? Which is the Dane? Fudge! I keep confusing Juliet's boyfriend with Ophelia's!"

And what color are Romeo's eyes anyway?

[Actually, I've read some romances where I wish the writer had kept a chart. If I didn't keep glancing back at the first-person chapter titles, I would have no idea which protagonist was speaking.]
Even the most villainous people should have at least one good point to make them believable.
Because we all know villainous people who steal, murder, and mug little old ladies but have a soft spot for cutesy bunny rabbits.
If you want to show strong feelings but prefer not to spell out the swear words, easy solutions exist:
'He swore competently.'
He swore COMPETENTLY? Is that like getting a prize at a spelling bee? "Jimmy, please stand up and swear competently. Are you ready, Jimmy? Begin with the s's."

How about some plot advice?
Mark, a newspaper columnist, finds himself attracted to Coryn. But after a few dates, he abruptly stops seeing her without explanation. Coryn's father is about to run for political office. Interwoven subplots involve Coryn's mother, who is in the initial stage of Alzheimer's Disease, and the death of Coryn's dog, all neatly tied together to make an inspiring and informative read.
I could write a novel like that: "The subplots of Pamela in Portland combine the ongoing search for Mr. Right (Now), the loss of the heroine's job, a sudden discovery of a cure for cancer, and the death of the heroine's cat by a passing car."

To be continued . . .