Genre Tropes

Quotidiandose does not own rights to this image. Al rights reserved to artist.

Quotidiandose does not own rights to this image. Al rights reserved to artist.

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!


A Maverick

I hate it when people start off giving me a definition.  However, to convey my thoughts I’m going to give you a definition. (Boo, hiss!)  The definition of a maverick is a person that takes chances, one who departs from the accepted normal course.

Garth Brooks sang it well!  (Nathan Fillion’s butt! tee hee!) James Garner portrayed it, as did Mel Gibson.  Someone who goes against the grain, takes the road less traveled, a free-thinker.

Some refer to us as: bohemian, dissenters, extremists, nonconformists, radical, rebels, revolutionaries, and entrepreneurs.  We pave our own way, make our own paths. We stretch the rules, bend them to our whims, we color outside the lines.  We are often perceived as a threat to those who are happy with status quo. Status Quo blows!

Traditionalists don’t like mavericks. We disrupt their universe.  They build their little box and we mess it up. They tidy it up, we rearrange their furniture. We are the free radicals of society.  Most of society likes to be told what to do when to do it and how often to do it.  Whatever the “it” may be, workers are expected to do and not think.  Thinking has been discouraged in our society.

NO! I’m serious it has.  From a minimum wage job of flipping burgers, to the factory worker on an assembly line to the lab technician that has a set routine, a formula that they follow.  The mindless dance steps of their daily job require little brain power.  The general masses fit into this group.  I’m not knocking it, or criticizing anyone who is content with a set routine.  Some people thrive on normalcy, and routine.  Every one of them mindless job zombies, not to be confused with Rob Zombie.

A maverick however dies a slow tortuous death in such an environment.  Writing a technical manual for the targeting division of the defense department was dull and tedious.  I found the addition of a tense relationship between two of my soldiers and their object of their affection, a female officer, added a certain dramatic element.  The love triangle added a dimension to the manual unprecedented. Apparently I was the only one that the dullness of the government document bothered.  I was told to remove it, and was sent to a procedures class, followed by a sensitivity course.  DARN!

I worked in an environment with engineers, scientists, geodesists, and other cartographers.  They follow the dance steps; it’s just a different dance than the factory workers at an auto plant.  I don’t line dance; you know that country thing they do?  Everyone does the same steps at the same time on the same beat.  The Cupid Shuffle is OK at a wedding. The Electric Slide is a mandatory tradition. Beyond that I’m an eighties gal and I dance freestyle.

The masterful choreography of daily routine across the globe makes the cogs work.  I get that.  But, it’s the free thinkers that come up with ingenious and witty inventions.  Writing is one outlet for my creativity.  I have others as well.  My plan is to have multiple streams of income, not one linear model of time exchanged for money.

Creative’s look at the world differently.  They aren’t rose colored glasses, that’s a term deigned from the traditionalists we irritate. I have gold-rimmed glasses with a leopard print inside the frames, little bling blings on the side, and transition lenses that turn black as I step outside.  Yeah, that’s right I’m bad! They rock!  They ought to, I paid a small fortune for them.  Glasses or contacts help correct your vision.  The creative’s lenses gives crystal clear clarity that the general population never sees.

Think in terms of pearls:  A grain of sand is an irritant to the oyster.  It secretes a substance to get rid of the irritant.  Years go by while the secretion continues, making the irritant larger and larger inside the oyster.  Then one day some one or some thing cracks open the oyster and eats it.  A beautiful pearl has formed.  Yeah, I may be an irritant now, but by darn one day I’m going to be a pearl of great value!

The life of a maverick is risky.  The pay is inconsistent, and there are no benefits in the beginning.  It’s appealing to many to get the 9 to 5 job that offers the company car and the health care package.  The safe path isn’t as secure as it once was.  The days of retiring from a company with the gold watch are behind us.  Company loyalty means nothing – it’s not personal, it’s just business.  There are no guarantees.

It’s not called starving artists for nothing!  It’s often feast or famine. In addition, the critics come out of the woodwork because we are going against the grain. They criticize because we don’t play by their rules.  They are afraid to step outside the box, while a maverick fears the confinement of the box. Cut them some slack, they just don’t get us!

I got the mental picture many years ago, of the scene from Metropolis by Fritz Lang, from 1927, where the men lumbered en masse into the factory.  This is the status quo.  It’s a mind-numbing, dream killing, monotonous grind.  There is more to life than existing.

Dan Miller sums it up like this: “We can transform our work by seeing it as the primary application of our purpose rather than a necessary and practical evil.”  By changing the perspective of how we view work, a J-O-B becomes a meaningful expression of who we are.

It’s not a life for everyone; it takes a certain bent to be an entrepreneur.  Writing is one expression of entrepreneurship.  Eventually entrepreneurs’ can hit it big.  I’m one witty invention, one creative idea away from financial success.  In the meantime, I have bills to pay and work the J-O-B while I pursue my dreams of publication like a second job.  Traditionalists think I don’t work, but I work a traditional job, am a mother (translate: chauffeur, maid, housekeeper, laundress, teacher, warden, chef, etc), and I am a writer.  Trust me, the traditional job takes the least brain power, or effort.

Perspective is the difference from feeling downtrodden and the uplifting of spirits.  It helps us re-order our priorities, and unravel our own destinies.  Opportunities abound all around us, it’s the free thinkers that can see them and make something of them.

Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage of your life? Are you suffering death by a thousand cuts in a status quo job?  Are you content with the status quo or do feel the need to paddle upstream?  Do you have a sense of accomplishment or a sense of purpose in your life?  If you want different results, say five years from now, what are you willing to change to obtain the results you want?

If you can’t be happy with what you’re doing, maybe you should be doing something else.  Life is too short to waste it being unfulfilled and merely existing. Whatever your dreams are – go for it!

Write on my friends, write on!