A Writer on Reading

you know you are a writer when

**WARNING: This is going to seem rant-ish, and I even jokingly claim it at the end, but it isn’t, really. It’s just observation notes taken after a lot of reading over the past few months.**

Reading Writing and Questioning Writers

For the past few months I’ve been reading more than normal. Copious reading. At the moment, I have 16 checked-out novels in two handle bags at my bedside, ready to be devoured by my eyes, mind, and heart.

What I’m learning based on what I’m reading is that there is a definite pattern going on in the world of romance novel writing. Patterns I intend to avoid . . . I hope!

It’s been said that cliche anything is a no-no, and I have to agree. I would also add that writing anything that is a dead give-away to your age bracket is another no-no. It bugs me to read lines someone in their mid 60’s would say and have it be spoken by a character in their mid 20’s. Does a mid-20 even get the connotation, I wonder?

Of the myriad books I’ve read with time, quite a few have leaned on the silly cliche and colloquialism filler to bulk up their work, or worse, to add their idea of humor to the story. Again, this can’t be a good thing because it’s so hard to read much less enjoy. Paragraph after paragraph of trite and downright embarrassing out-dated slang phrases that are cloying.

Like a bat out of hell and right up my alley; winner take all and like white on rice are . . . dumb. I can’t think of more off the top of my head, but I think you see the point.

When I read these types of lines, my mind conjures up squishy women with short hair who wear matching stretch knit apparel and are seated in a lazy boy knitting something, in the kitchen baking cupcakes, or at Denny’s dining with their crew . . . while laughing aloud at every cliche phrase uttered in response to everything else that is said. They are the only people who speak this way and laugh at hearing such talk — no one else thinks it’s funny.

Which, again, takes me out of the story about two lovers in their 20s trying to get it on. So, it’s up to me to avoid adding this type of filler to my own work (which I do already, and won’t be hopping on this bandwagon any time soon).

The word fuck and all its verb and tense forms

It’s excessive, vulgar, and tasteless and doesn’t belong.

People will argue that because it’s commonplace that it belongs in novels. Not in mine. HOWEVER! I will concede on one point: using it to (ask for or insinuate) the act of. In some cases (few, maybe) it’s downright sexy, I have to admit 😀

Still, I’ve begun to think that a majority of the romance novelists stick to Regency because there is little chance of the dashing, young hero uttering that particular expletive, though I’ve read it once or twice here and there.

If Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum had their say, it would be that Regency is a play-it-safe genre. Cussing just wasn’t the norm back in the day. The leads can have unprotected sex time and again without fear of transmitted diseases. And, there were guys back then, but the hero is all man and knows how to treat a woman — without fear of being deemed sexist.

It’s how most every woman secretly WANTS a man (not a guy) to be yet wouldn’t admit it on a stack of bibles or in the face of God, much less to their buds. (right? :D)

The bitch heroine

deminine flower*Sigh*

(can’t help myself here, so bear with me)

If I’ve read one novel where the female lead is this antagonistic, ballzy, smart-mouthed bitch with male appendage, muscles to spare, and the attitude of a bully times ten, then I’ve read at least a thousand.

Since I don’t like in-your-face bitches, it isn’t likely they’ll ever be a lead in any of my stories, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use them as the antagonist, which, to me, is what they should be used as and nothing more.

A girl with that bad of an attitude, no manners, a shameless potty mouth, and Batman’s outlook on life does not make for a femme fatale any more than she can come off as a desirable catch he’d like to take home to momma.

Enough with the ballzy women already. It’s trite and excessive to the imagination. It gives me zero incentive to root for her, much less like or even relate to her character. Trying to like the class bully with the embedded screw-faced if looks could kill expression who could kick the toughest guy in school’s ass is like asking me to forget about every bully bitch who ever terrorized me back in the day.

I’d rather have her die a horrible death in my own novels than make her the heroine who gets the hot guy. Sorry! And, there’s being cautious, self-reliant, and assertive without being caustic, manly, and annoying.

Along the same lines: leading women who dress frumpy, don’t wear make-up, work as mechanics, spit, scratch their ass in public, don’t shave, and might bathe once a week.

Right. One can clearly see where they would definitely be candidates for the love-interest of the hottest guy in town to want to bed. (sarcasm intended)

Falling back on the Cinderella plot (or, should I say ploy?) isn’t original. Neither is the ugly duckling becomes a swan in hunk’s eyes. It’s over-done, burnt to a crisp tough steak no one wants to eat now, so let’s put our thinking caps back on and try again, shall we?

Classy is sassy, bitch is ditch.

(you can read more about this subject here)

More Filler

Lastly, it’s condescending and off-putting to see that you spent tons and loads of hours doing research and want to blatantly point that out to me in each paragraph of ever chapter. Especially if you’re not going to write it in plain English or give us dumb people a hint as to what it is or why it is you’re adding it to the story.

I’m always up for learning new things, but . . .

Seriously, I tried to read a contemporary about an art dealer, and the author attempted humor through her knowledge of artwork, museum decor, etc. Ever hear of anyone who got so angry that they threw a book across the room? I was tempted, but it isn’t my book, so I had to resist.

I think the main lesson I’m learning from all this reading is FORMULA.

This is what the reader wants, likes, knows, reads, etc. It’s how everyone else writes, so . . .

This is not writing from the heart, it’s following a set path that OTHER writers have laid out, and that isn’t talent, it’s copy. Which means it’s up to me to write a story that is fresh, original, different, and without all the pat responses I’ve become so attune to that I can actually see them coming in a published novel by a (here it comes) New York Times Best Selling Author! 

LOL

(next — Rant Part Deux) 😀

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About RaineBalkera

Aspiring Author of Romance
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7 Responses to A Writer on Reading

  1. wscottling says:

    I agree with you about the bitchy heroine. One can be an empowered (for lack of a better word) woman without being a bitch from hell.

    One of my pet peeves with romance novels is authors who feel the need to describe (in detail) every bit of clothing that everyone in the novel is wearing. I mean, do we honestly need to know? Why? It doesn’t further the story in any way and it doesn’t give any insight to the character to know what they’re wearing in every. single. scene. grrrr. I read a book last night where the author thought it clever to have her characters wear t-shirts that “proclaimed” inane things — like “Eat at Charlies!” or “Uncle Bill’s! Best Beef Ever!”. Awful, just awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RaiBal says:

      Ahhh! I’m laughing at the t-shirt slogans thing! This is what I mean by cloying and stupid. I’m learning 😀 As for outfits, I would agree about excessive description but not about the reason for it being in a story. A clever author will make it seamless, and it’s something I’m working hard to improve in my writing. Knowing what the guy or girl looks like it one thing, but how they appear in certain articles of clothing can be crucial to the flow, trust me. There is a right and a wrong way, and some authors just don’t seem to get it. Thanks for dropping by, and I’m glad to be back!

      Like

      • wscottling says:

        I don’t mind authors describing clothing when it adds to the story. I mean sometimes ya gotta do it, but when every single outfit is described in minute detail whenever a character walks into the room, it gets tedious. It adds nothing. I mean does the reader really need to know that the main character dresses smartly in business like attire whenever she’s introduced to the scene? Or that she has curly red hair? I think we’d get it the first dozen times. Those are the kinds of things that irk me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • RaiBal says:

          Right. Redundancy is a boo-boo that I might be inclined to believe occurred more often back in the day (1930-1980) maybe. But, I know some authors do fall back on this (filler) and you’re absolutely right – it’s irritating. I sometimes repeat an eye color or body feature a few chapters in but only because it’s what one of the main leads was initially attracted by, so it makes sense (to me) to have that character point it out once or twice, just not every single time. Describing attire, for me, is difficult. Almost as difficult as conveying a mood or emotion. But, if she enters the room in a bright red kimono with a gold embroidered dragon down her back, I think the reader might like to hear a few more details 😉

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          • wscottling says:

            I wrote something about this in a blog post called “so I read a book” about a book called “The Friday Night Knitter’s Club” (or something like that) which all of my friends adored. It’s kind of a contemporary romance but kind of not. And the author just couldn’t shut up about the main character’s curly red hair (or her friend’s silver straight hair for that matter). If you read the critiques on goodreads,com, you’ll see I wasn’t the only one put off by that. It just ruined the whole book.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Some very good points! Especially about the vulgar language. When used sparingly it can have an impact, but in every other sentence? Not so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • RaiBal says:

      Exactly, Mishka. I’m currently reading a ‘New York Times Best Seller’ that has the lead guy uttering some form of that word – no lie – in every, single sentence. Every one. I can’t take much more!

      Like

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