What this boy wants from a romance novel
For a change, I thought I'd post something for Smart Bitches Day which really concerns romance as a genre. To wit: how can you romance writers get more guys to read your stuff? I'm not a typical guy, so please imagine that my every comment is prefaced with, "For what it's worth . . . " I despise team sports, I dislike gory violence in movies (unless it's so far over the top that it's unmistakably fake), and I have no desire to hang out with other guys. I don't drink beer, get drunk, or smoke cigars. I really do like long walks on the beach, but that's because I love finding bits of washed-up skeletons and gooey dead things. So. For what it's worth: If I'm going to read a romance, I want it to be about romance. If I want a crime novel, I'll read a crime novel. If I want something historically accurate, I'll read Jane Austen. Give me a contemporary woman I can root for and I'm yours. Stephen, you're excepted from this because your book has a monster and that's cool. And Lilith, don't get mad at me. Nothing wrong with paranormals, but I'd rather be reading the written equivalent of Sex and the City. Next: the protagonists had better be likable, smart, and funny as hell. They should be people I would want to hang out with. Their witty dialog should be a joy to behold, and the world should sparkle because they're alive. Think Martin Blank and Debi Newberry in Grosse Point Blank, or Nina and Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply. Note that humor serves two roles: it is entertaining all by itself (and if you're not trying to entertain, what the hell are you trying to do?) and it makes us care for the characters. They've made us laugh, and so they become our friends. We want to see good things happen to them. If you're going to play the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl game, the 'loses' part had better not involve some stupid misunderstanding. Smart people don't have stupid misunderstandings. Never never never. Maybe they do in real life, but I don't want to read about a stupid misunderstanding, okay? Paragraph number eight, and I haven't said a single thing about sex. Why? Because it isn't necessary. Think about it. Grosse Point Blank? Airplane on the bed, sexual tension, no actual sex. Truly Madly Deeply? Rickman's dead, for heaven's sake. Ew. Sex and the City had no graphic sex, yet it titillated our prurient cravings and topped out our outrageous-o-meters. How? With language. If those writers can do it, you can do it, too. It's not that I have anything against graphic sex; it's just that so few people do it well. Also, as any student of Cheers will tell you, sex dissipates all tension between your male and female protags. True, Sex and the City is a good counter-example. Their writers created tension in the issue of relationship survival. (Do any of you remember McCall's magazine's regular column, Can This Marriage Be Saved?) If you're going to remove the sexual tension element, you had better replace it with something else. If you're going to include graphic sex, please, please don't get goofy about it. Sex is not an expression of love. Sex is an expression of lust. Some time ago, I wrote a post about what guys think about during sex. Damn it, I can't find it now, but here's the bottom line: what we think about isn't interesting. Lots of "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi," if you must know. So, hot tip: keep it in the gal's POV. Women may have the same problem as men, but I don't know that, so you can write whatever you like from the gal's POV and I won't know if you're bullshitting me. My wife might, but that's off topic. One last point: the HEA (happily ever after -- just wanted to let you know I'm not completely ignorant)? I'm not that hooked on it, or at least, I'd like to see a few liberties taken. Maybe they end up happily ever after with other people. Maybe they drift apart and realize they're not right for one another. Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but it seems to me that some degree of unpredictability in the ending is a good thing. There. I've done it. A genuine Smart Bitches post, and no spiders. D.