Hello. Um, I know this post just screams February 14 but there’s a good reason for that: I can’t always comprehend words, it seems, and thought this would go live on Valentine’s Day. So, if you would, pretend its heart and candy day while your eyes travel down the page. You’re awesome. Kthanksbye.
Based on how many romance novels are released every day, one might think it’s super easy to pen one. And it is. Now, to write a good one is an altogether tougher task. Anyone can take a single lady, throw some money, kink and a big strong man to save her into the mix and *boom* you’ve got the next 50 Shades of Gray. But that’s not really something to be proud of. Let’s be honest here; Gray is a poorly written tome (and an even worse film adaption). And before you get all hate maily, let me finish (that way you can yell at me good and proper).
Some of the terrifying terribly staples that pop up time and again include the lustful pirate who “seduces” the virginal maiden into love, the girl-with-the-tortured-past who needs a Man to save her, new-to-BDSM wholesome ladies who love every weird thing the (confused) author throws at them and, of course, the princess in the tower.
There’s nothing natural about any of these scenarios, no truth in the narrative. How romance has moved so far from the emotions that inspired the genre, I don’t think I want to know (but I’m thinking cash cows like 50 Shades has something to do with it). Now excuse me while I complain about the state of romance stories.
TIP: stay away from drivel such as Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey and The Vampire Diaries. Unless you want to know what not to do; in that case, have at it.
Most romances have a lady character at the center of it but so many of them are weak and sad and pathetic and in need of a big, strong man to make her world worth living in. Even when she doesn’t start out that way, after meeting her guy, she can’t even choose which socks to wear without his expert guidance. Ugh. Maybe we can have some lady leads that don’t end up placing all their value in a lousy relationship with giant jerks? Hm.
STOP THE ABUSE
Christian abuses Anastasia. If you don’t see it, I question your 20/20 vision. He spends so much time controlling and stalking her, I’m amazed he can still run his multi-billion dollar business. Maybe he’s fueled by the tears of the miserable? And he’s not the only one; mean man plus innocent girl runs rampant in romance and has the added bonus of sending an awful message: just because he’s cruel doesn’t mean he’s not your soul mate. Just take it until you can fix him. And just like that, he’ll know what love is. Um. How about some women who don’t rely solely on the power of love to make a bad man good? Either have the dude not be an abusive tool or have her see the signs and know to leave or portray it as what it is: abuse. Seeing the latter two don’t exactly scream ROMANCE, just have a decent dude (or dudette) be the one.
THE ALPHA MALE
Six feet tall with big muscles, lots of cash and a huge… car. All bow down before him and give into his every whim. There is no one above him. He is the apex man. And he’s boring. Just once I’d like to see the heroine fall for the mail room guy instead of the CEO with a sordid past. Make him short, six pack-free and not super frikkin rich. Heck, make him a bloody virgin instead of her (cause that’s totes old, too’ women have libidos and use them so why do book ladies always seem to come orgasm-free?) just for shoots and googles. Try a beta for once. Just not Edward. Please.
STOP making her struggle to make the bills until he steps in and drops piles of cash on her lap. STOP putting her life in his hands. STOP writing clueless girls who can’t even turn on a computer. Make her capable of more than falling apart. Do You want to write good romance? Write realistic characters. More independence and less codependence are a nice start. She doesn’t need to be an ice queen but don’t surgically remove her spine.
DO YOUR OWN THING
If you’re setting off on a romance writing adventure, I beg you to use that big, beautiful brain of yours and inject some much-needed non-nonsense into the genre. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; just make sure you’re not driving around on a flat. And when in doubt, ask yourself what multi-loved Buffy would do.
Also, in honor of the amazing holiday, have a HAPPY WALKING DEAD DAY!!
D. D. Syrdal says
I started a romance, and was about to throw in the towel on it because I can’t write the tripe that characterizes 50 Shades and Twilight, yet sells like crazy. Is there a market for more intelligent romances? I wonder.
Will Van Stone Jr says
There is! Don’t think you have to do what the current big sellers are doing. They’re only big now because more original books haven’t been able to crack their monopoly but that’ll change. It has to.
Sheena-kay Graham says
Original stories just have to work harder in this landscape. It is unfair but right now that’s the name of the game. Keep going. 🙂
Sheena-kay Graham says
I agree that Fifty Shades is tripe. Have not read the books but saw the movie and the flimsy story line makes April O’ Neil showing her belly in the TMNT2 movie trailer high art. Now I don’t hate on any writer whose book makes it big because that takes effort no matter how good or bad your book is. But I did not appreciate E.L. James writing a book on how to write. No, you make your series based off fan fiction of another author’s work…just don’t do that. Seriously, it spits in the face of writing. At least S. Meyer has long admitted her good fortune and about not being the shit of writing. She knows she got lucky and has admitted to that. Plus she still won’t add more books to the Host series despite knowing people would buy it and deciding to not publish Midnight Sun to me is what a real writer would do after being betrayed and having your draft thrown online. Like stealing my shit? Well I aint gonna write it now so come steal from me again. I can tell you a lot of people hate the a-hole who uploaded that thing to the internet. Respect Meyer.
Now I am going to defend Twilight. I can hear the shock all around but I don’t think it falls into the bad tropes the way most people think. Also the majority of the bad tropes thrust upon it is Meyer’s fault for not being to go deeper into her characters and leaving a lot of really serious issues as only ‘surface problems’. Why? Because it’s romance and no one wants to delve deep into serious issues in that genre, especially YA. We just want a handsome guy, a wayward girl and then throw some shit at them they beat in the end. Ta-Da! Bull shit. Bull Roar.
First off Edward is not the super awful stalker boyfriend he is portrayed as by critics. WHAT? Listen, he has been with vampires for his entire immortal life and who can really get away from being indebted to a guy who not only saved your life but also made you immortal. Also let’s not forget the fucked up way Meyer ensured ending immortality works. Sure everybody wants to be torn to pieces and burned to alive. Did you not read that in that new generic shit romance? It’s a real fictional thing. *Eye Roll*. Especially when you live under the cultic rules of The Voltori who make it impossible for vampires to have ‘real’ lives in society by not only making it illegal to tell humans you what you are. But also if you do tell you either have to kill or turn them. Because that’s what everybody who lives a fucked up life wants. To bring in more people to fuck up their lives. Vampires in this series live a wretched existence but again Meyer just does surface. Rosalie comes closest to really showing how messed up their life is behind the glamour and implores Bella to stay human and go live her life. Rosalie is the girl who’s stuck and Meyer did a disservice allowing readers for a long time to only see her as a stuck up bitch not wanting a human around her.
Back to Edward. Carlisle saved him from dying from a disease by turning him. Yet coincidentally the mother was dead so there was no one else for Edward to rely on. Does no one think it’s messed up that he allowed Edward to go out and kill people until he ‘decided’ to stop drinking human blood? Sure ‘son’ just go out and be a serial killer but a home is waiting for you with me. Oh and by the way remember the Volturi rules that you can never have a life outside of me or other vampire clans that just might kill you sooner than take you in. Have fun. Holy Motherf… What choice did Edward have other than going back? Remember he was the only one who did not form a romantic relationship with his so called brother and sisters. To me he was among the most ‘normal’ of the bunch. The guy went, nope I’m not having a long term relationship or sex with someone who has to be my adopted sibling in public. Screw that nasty shit.
Then he meets Bella who don’t let her innocence and clumsiness fool you. She is the true antagonist in his life story. This girl had mental issues and syndromes from the get. For starters he actually tried to drive her away. The way he revealed being a vampire should have had her running for the hills. No romantic sweet way, he told her exactly what he was and that he always had the urge to kill her. But Meyer just had to make her stay…NO! Bella in my mind is one of those characters writers write that take over the story. Why do I say that? Here’s my antagonist mental Bella timeline. From the start Bella clearly had some form of attachment disorder, daddy issues, delusions and an inability to go for her own happiness and identity. She moved to Forks not to try to reconnect with her father but to let her mother stay with a man because heaven help the world if a single mother loses that new man in her life. Then she meets Edward. The first time is awful, he makes her feel like shit. But Meyer still had to set them up so he feels bad and goes to her. Does anyone not feel him going back to her after pushing her away so hard early in the book was sort of forced? He acted like she was a stinky plague but forget that, this book is a romance. OY!
At first Bella is unsure and wondering what’s this turd’s problem? Perfect thought. But since this is romance…God why! WHY! Anyway they get together despite obviously…ugh. Edward is immediately overprotective. Which from the get I got. He’s a vampire, from a family of vampires, others exist and he has no idea how to act like a real boyfriend. His family pretend to be siblings and are also together for heaven sakes. That is not a good way to learn how to have a relationship and since he only has that Alaskan tribe or whatever as an alternative…the guy was fucked from early. He really was. She’s lucky he did not just grab her and say “You’re with me now and whisk her off to Alaska”. Thank you Meyer for at least not doing that. Worse Meyer decided to wait until book 2 to really delve into the true dangers of the Volturi. By then the flimsiness of Bella/Edward was way too established to ever recover. Edward was overprotective for a good reason. Any day vampires could learn he had a human girlfriend and not just come for her but report his entire family and get them killed. It was sort of addressed in book one but yeah, it was done very poorly.
But there are moments when he goes too far. Disabling a car to keep your girlfriend from visiting someone you don’t like is classic sign to run like hell. WRONG. Showing up in your girlfriend’s bedroom without her permission. Stalker wrong. Even with the Volturi issue a lot of the problem on that level would have been addressed if he had just asked permission to pop in and see of she was okay. Hell say that you don’t sleep and it’s nice to see her resting and he loves every moment of her humanity. Something that did not scream creepy stalker. Yet again his messed up family we are together all time once we are in a relationship to me just added to his messed up mentality on this. Still wrong but his capacity to understand that was hampered a bit. Still wrong though. Oh and don’t get me started on the Taylor/Edward debacle. Your fault, Meyer, your fault. Then there was the pseudo Christian vibe when he kind of scared off a human male from Bella. That was just wrong and Edward needs a “Get Secure” class for that. So no I don’t believe he is an innocent. There are terrible bad boyfriend tropes on him.
Now back to Bella. I commend Meyer on developing a clumsy girl you could see in real life. One who could never fight off vampires, ever. This girl exists people. But then the story messes up the rest of what could make her a character feminist could even try to accept. Bella needs mental help and never got it. Before you question that remember in book two she saw delusions of Edward. Delusions. Meyer tried to pass it off but that is NOT what happens to a girl who loses a guy typically. This is the lady who makes it on the ID channel for murdering her boyfriend. I said it. And yes vice versa. Like I said before she has severe attachment issues. Once she latches unto someone she does not want to let go. But unlike the bad romance tropes this to me has shown to be an illness. She attached to her father and wanted to ensure he was okay which was not that bad. But when she get to Edward oh boy did the shot show go into overdrive. Remember people Edward tried to leave her multiple times. Even went as far as trying to commit suicide. But who stopped that? Not just Bella but his enabling family who only Rosalie seemed to be the only one who really thought turning Bella went against the human girl’s true happiness. As much as I love Carlisle, he’s also a selfish a-hole. Remember when he wanted Bella turn his little speech mentioned nothing about her welfare just that he was not going to lose his son. Yup, creepy town. There is only so much that can be parental love. Also did anyone notice that Rosalie’s boyfriend and Carlisle’s wife were essentially cardboard cut out cult victims? What other purpose did they have but to be there as arm candy? Rosalie wanted a man…poof! Carlisle wanted a woman/mother figure after getting a son…poof! And who is not suspicious that the ‘wife’ came after the son? Manipulation much? I’m liking Carlisle less and less as I write this.
Also did anyone notice how insane Taylor’s life got after Bella attached to him? Oh and that can’t let a guy go thing was just…ewww. Hell Meyer had to use some creepy baby mojo thing to keeo Taylor around her. Author entrapment at it’s worst. Taylor was a victim and so was Bella in this case used as a pedophile relationship incubator. Gross, Meyer, gross. Bella came across as that desperate girl who would do anything for attention. Even going towards those biker guy and scaring her friend who was like screw this I aint hanging with your crazy ass. Why? Because Bella was indeed mentally ill with all sorts of other issues not nearly addressed. Remember how after she turned Taylor just nick naming her baby threw her into an attacking rage? Why? Because she can’t absorb the concept of her baby being around anyone other than herself. Her anger about Taylor ‘connecting’ to her baby was understandable. Sick. And Meyer’s excuse for Edward not killing him was bull crap.
Oh and let’s not forget the worst fight was all a dream scenario pushing that fucked up ends to fucked up relationships don’t happen. Thanks Meyer because this shit show would really end up happily.
Any way that’s all I have to say for now on that. Hopefully this makes you think a bit more on Twilight and the unfortunate position both Bella and Edward were drawn into by an author who needed to write a happily ever after romance. But I still commend her for writing a screwed up human/vampire relationship even if she did it poorly. A vampire being with a human is essentially pairing a human up with a bucket of fried chicken that never goes bad, can talk and the rule is don’t eat it but then again you can and by the way you’re married now. Tell me with a straight face how the hell is that outright freaky scenario supposed to work? It doesn’t.
Sheena-kay Graham says
On a whole this was a great article/post illustrating why bad tropes exist and needs to go. But I have to ask. Do you notice that a lot of the worst female trope examples are based in very real world scenerios and the best are often very fantasy/dystopian based? Why is that? I love The Hunger Games but where is the super popular novel of the girl fighting aback against the man in our current type in a non future dystopia? Buffy comes the closest and if Meyer had focused more on layering her characters and their lives Bella could have been Buffy lite-ish. But nope, romance needs no layering is king in too many popular romance books. Something I’m glad there are writers out there fighting against. All books can have deep characters whether they are independent and strong or meek and shy. One thing I dislike is when meek characters are described as weak. That is a vicious stereotype that also needs to be stamped out. Which is why I love the Divergent series which takes a meek girl and builds her into a warrior from the bottom up. But while I was one of those who was actually okay with how the story ended I must say it is an annoying trope for ‘bad things’ to happen to strong females. Look at Abby Mills in the Fox series Sleepy Hollow. Start off meek or in your ‘lane’ it’s all good. Go outside and suffer! That needs to stop too, it happens to dudes way less often.
Now unto why Fifty Shades of Grey is indeed total tripe. Yes I do respect the fact that the author found her niche but I can still call it shitty. With respect.
1. She made no effort to create real characters. Anastasia Steel? Porn names have better personality than this name. Christian Grey? There are real life christians who are offended this is his name. I kid you not. Probably if colors came alive, grey/gray would hold a protest demanding a change of his last name to Bland. Now I liked the movie but that does not change the emptiness of what I have to call ‘story’.
2. Making light of child rape is disgusting. I don’t care about the sexual lifestyle Christian does with all that bondage shit because that aint my concern. No one’s doing that to me end of story, don’t care, don’t care. Anyone who wants to do it feel free, your life. But James’ decision to make Christian so flippant about being a teen submissive was just wrong. While I do not believe Anastasia was raped because she was a grown ass woman who could have walked away (though could she really, James made her pretty air headed). Christian was raped as a child by his mother’s friend then decided to adopt her sexual lifestyle and go seek a submissive of his own. Criminal Minds? Call the Law and Order: SVU and get that sick woman arrested. Oh wait, statute of limitations probably ran out on that. Shit!!
3. Christian did not rape Anastasia but he did abuse, manipulate and stalk her. There are so many examples from the movie. But man that belt scene. I know she gave consent but…oh man. My mother and I were horrified. Not right man, not right. Oh and females are property for you to dress up and parade around sir. I see how you have those ladies parading around your work place. I’m unto you Christian.
4. Do I really need to go on?
5. *Laughs* No.