I’ve been working on an editing job for the past 3 days. (By the way – check out my editing page; look up there at the tabs and click on Editing Services) The book is scheduled to be released on the 30th, so we are under a bit of a crunch. This author ran into a dilemma, a problem that seems to plague many authors.
In the process of this line edit, the author found a problem in her story with her heroine. I don’t think it’s a problem, but we’ll work something out to get it out on time. For readers of romance, there are a few standard things that define the genre.
- Happily Ever After ending; but there are some happy for now stories.
- Hero/ heroine fall in love, something is keeping them apart, then they get back together. but . . . there are some that deviate from this plan.
- Strong relatable, appealing characters that the reader can connect with. (The definition for “connect with” is in that grey area )
- Conflict – in a romance the conflict is most often of the emotional type, character driven as the two build a relationship.
- conflict must be believable – really? Have you never read some of what is marketed in trade paperbacks? Define believable. Wait, let me disconnect my suspension bridge over the valley of disbelief.
- dialog – your dialog will make or break your books. Ideally yes, but I’ve read some pretty crappy romance.
Honestly, for as many readers as there are in the romance genre and as many that read nontraditional romances perhaps it’s time to reevaluate these standard tropes. I personally don’t relate to the damsel in distress tales, or the womanizing bad boy who has been with a hundred women, but decides to settle down with our heroine. Right – once a player always a player. (And let’s talk about the reality of an STD – I know, this is fantasy not real life) What happens when our heroine puts on fifteen pounds or more after carrying his baby? What happens if the unspeakable happens and she loses a limb in a car wreck? or shark attack?
I realize that there are readers of romance that want the dashing hero to come sweep the heroine off their feet and they live happily ever after. We don’t want to put too much realism into it because that would be too much like our every day lives.
I personally root for the underdog. I am an underdog. My characters tend to be underdogs. I want to write characters that say to all women that love can happen for them. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The fantasy of falling in love, the thrill of those rollercoaster emotions without actually having to put yourself out there and risk the heartache.
A small percentage of girls were cheerleaders in high school. A small percentage were pom-pom girls, or on the dance squad or whatever they call it these days. Another percentage of girls were athletes, on the volleyball team, basketball, softball, swimming, gymnastics – whatever sports were offered for girls to participate. These tend to be the mainstream heroines that are depicted. What about the rest of us? What about the average girls, the book nerds, the science geeks?
Not every girl is a bubble headed bimbo. Not every girl is the perfect size 2. To be honest in real life I have yet to meet a female that is a size 2 and has C cup boobs that aren’t implants. Just saying! With curves usually comes more body fat, a tendency for wide hips and derriere. Those naturally thin Taylor Swift girls have to buy boobs, they aren’t part of their natural makeup, yet we think that every guy wants a size 2 Barbie look-alike with big boobs, tiny waist, and curvy backside. Well, we’ve been lied to. Women come in all shapes, sizes, and manner and many men prefer curves and a woman with a brain.
Why is it then that in a romance novel, the heroine has to fit the paper doll cutout? How many bad romances do we have to endure before we meet a woman of substance? I can’t relate to the perfect girl, the cheerleader, daddy bought her a dream car, she got into the perfect school, has perfect hair and never even burps. Puh-lease!
Life happens. Even to people that we think have the perfect this or the perfect that, life happens. Maybe Patty Perfect had a tail when she was born, but mommy and daddy had the doctor perform a surgery to “fix” their perfect princess.
I know, I have a morbid sense of what if at times. Life is unfair to all of us equally. Accept it and move on. Even on the crappiest of crap days, you can find the silver lining to the blackest cloud.
my house was destroyed by a tornado – I’m still alive and so are my loved ones
I was raped – but I wasn’t murdered!
I lost my job – I can find a new one that I enjoy!
My husband left me – I won’t have those nightly fights!
What doesn’t kiss you makes you stronger. You don’t have to remain the victim forever. Put the past in the past and make each day count, own it! You’re a survivor not a victim! You’re an overcomer – not defeated!
So back to our overused tropes. I’ve had people tell me to not use those overused tropes. I’ve had people tell me that my characters need to conform to the standards. I’ve had people tell me I need original characters that stand out as unique. I’ve had people tell me that I need to make the character relatable. ARRRRGGGHHH!
Just like my inability to conform to the CBA guidelines, I can’t force my characters to conform to some preformed mold. So I either quit this nonsense of dream chasing ( and y’all know that isn’t going to happen) or I get on with writing in my own style. Nobody told Stephen King how to write Flagg, or Pennywise.
I have to admit, I contemplated it for a brief period of about an hour. After receiving two more rejection letters I felt like I should just quit altogether. Then this crazy thing happened. My friends rallied around me, encouraged me to not quit, praised my writing, picked me up out of that mud puddle and brushed me off and pointed out the guy that knocked me down then said – go get ’em!
RAHR! I am not defeated and you shouldn’t let others define who you are or what your style is because of current standards. So what if your story doesn’t fit nicely into this niche subgenre. MAKE YOUR OWN! Twenty years ago noire fiction wasn’t a thing, now it’s a thing!
If you’re in the writing industry strictly to make money then follow the trends, see what’s popular – see if you can jump on that train before it reaches the final station. * cough cough – vampires, zombies*
OR, be a trail blazer, a maverick, an innovator! Ask yourself why are you doing this? Is it just to make a buck? Do you feel compelled to write? To tell stories? Is it an inner drive that you must do? What do you get out of writing? Is it a sense of accomplishment? Satisfaction? A check to boost your account? Is it to prove something to someone else?
Think about why you do what you do. If it isn’t benefitting you in some way then you may want to find something else to do. As for me, I feel an inner driving force to write, to tell the stories that are inside my head. Yes, it may be a little arrogant or egotistical to think that people will want to read my stories, but I have to try. If I fail, I fail honestly, by giving it the best shot I could and not measuring up. But there is something inside me that says I will not fail! I will succeed at this and the sense of accomplishment by typing THE END is almost as good as, well I’ll let you use your imagination there.
Pursue your dreams, don’t let others tell you what to do. Don’t be a lemming! Don’t be the guy that is miserable with his day job and takes it out on his family. DON’T BE THAT GUY!
Write on my friends, or go after whatever your dreams are. Make your life count!