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Breaking The Rules

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Comments

When I started writing Sugar Free, I read a lot about writing. Since I have no formal education in fiction writing or any kind of writing for that matter, I searched for articles online, read books and industry publications in order to have a modicum of reasonable assumptions and know what the basic rules are.

What I found was that the rules that are imposed onto a romance novel writer are not reasonable, so this blog post is about how I break them. Most of them.

Rule #1

Heroine and hero should ‘dislike’ each other at the beginning

Well, despite the fact that I did not particularly like my own husband when I met him, this is a stupid and unrealistic rule. I opted for indifference and apathy. Which is far more likely and realistic. How many times in your life did you start dating someone whom you ‘disliked’ when you met him. I didn’t think so.

My hero is a bit pompous, but it comes with the territory of what he does. My heroine is dismissive of him, but we are far from calling it hate and she full on admits that he is attractive and that it takes an effort not to give in, I do realize that that you might think this is a par for the course, but if I were to strictly follow the rules, this is not how it should go.

Rule #2

It’s ok to switch points of view – head hop – in order to let the reader know what is going on

For the love of all that is holy and dear in the world of fiction writing, it is NOT OK TO HEAD HOP. If you cannot tell a story from one point of view, then give up writing right now. This whole, she likes him but won’t tell him and he likes her, but thinks she does not like him and reader sitting in suspense and trepidation as to when the two of them will get a clue makes me want to gauge my eyes out with sharp objects. Pick a point of view and stick with it. Mostly, pick a heroine’s point of view and tell a story from her side. No head hopping. Part of a great story is the fact that we do not know what the other person is really thinking or feeling until they say it in dialogue or do something that POV character observes.

Confession: There are two scenes in my book where I switch to generic narrative and describe a scene that does not have a heroine in it. But you do not get into anyone’s head nor are they too common to be annoying. I, also, will probably rewrite it to remove them all together, but there were two key parts of the story I am not sure how to convey without it. We’ll see.

Rule #3

There should be a happily-ever-after ending

In historical romance novels, maybe. But, boys and girls, this is 2012. And if you are, like me, writing a contemporary romance novel, I really freakin’ do not want to see an engagement two weeks into dating. Really? Do you actually know people that get engaged two weeks into dating. It’s not sweet, it’s stupid! It’s idiotic, it’s unrealistic and NOBODY can relate to it. Which brings me back to gauging my eyes out with sharp objects.

In the interest of not bastardizing the genre completely, let’s settle on happy-for-now. I.e. all the conflict is behind them and they are free to have a relationship and enjoy each other’s company.

Rule #4 (My least favourite one and the one I break in spades and gladly)

After they meet, your hero and heroine should only have eyes for each other

Maybe it’s just me, but this contradicts rule #1. Seriously, how many women do you know that hold the torch for the guy they dislike? Who came up with this shit? They say life is stranger than fiction, but this takes the cake. And the reasoning is, if you break this rule, then you cannot guarantee happily-ever-after for all characters in your book. So? It’s not supposed to be all peaches and caviar for everyone. Modern day women do not necessarily want to be woed by the romance. They want to relate to the characters and be entertained. Perhaps, sometimes in their life, they met a guy that they liked and he went on a date or slept with someone after they met. Hey, guess what, this shit happens all the time. So, it has also found its way into my book.

Rule #5

The heroine must be a miserable fuck (at least in love) and the hero should be flawless and unconditionally forgiving

(less of a strict rule than a personal observation of the genre)

Well, Paula Abdul may have said that opposites attract, but flawless heroes make me want to drown puppies in gasoline. And don’t even get me started with unconditional forgiveness. NO! In Sugar Free, they are both miserable fucks, who call each other on their bullshit. Cause that is what normal people do. Cause that is what God intended for 30 something singletons to feel like. At least the God in my book.

So, there you have it boys and girls. You can tell me to go away as you like your romance novel genre the way it is, unrealistic, overtly sugary so that you can forget your own troubles and experience a happy ending. But imagine how much better you will feel when things work out in a story you can relate to, with characters that act like humans and not some automatons generated by the genre.

What do you think?

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