Friday, May 23, 2014

Bad Romance

“Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance…”

Okay, so you can’t actually hear me belting out Lady Gaga but we’ve all been there. Maybe not singing that particular pop song but you know, “caught in a bad romance.” Yep, pretty brutal. Whether we are trapped in the agony between the bindings of a book or with your very own terminally wrong frog, you almost don’t know how bad a bad romance is until you’ve experienced a good one!

It’s true, sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. And sometimes you don’t realize how right Mr. Right is until you’ve been enlightened by Mr. Wrong.

Some of the best teaching tools come very simply from expirence. Did you read a great book? Did it inspire your creativity or your craft for the better? Maybe you read something just plain wretched… and perhaps learning what NOT to do was just as useful.

Consequently, the hallmarks that make a great romance novel are the very same things that make up the best love affairs. So since we are all learning… in life, in love, and in our exploration of stories, let’s talk about what makes a bad romance so we can avoid them like a cold, clammy first kiss.

Here’s my “Bad Romance” list …. The things that make me want to slap the author for getting my hopes up and wasting my precious time. Care to add?

-Barbie and Ken cardboard cutouts
Yeah, so lets be honest… Barbie and Ken are hot. They look good together. They’re poised and flawless. But they’re also all awkward angles and phony plastered smiles. There is nothing worse than reading two people on a page that are so stiff and generic they are basically plastic playthings that find each other attractive. Means diddly in the grand scheme of compatibility. Flaws can be beautiful. They can even make one person perfect for someone else. Embrace them. If your characters are perfect they are boring. No thank you.

-You bore me to tears but I love you
Do you remember falling in love? Now, I hate to burst too many bubbles but wasn’t it, dare I even say it… FUN? The flirting, dating, laughing, kissing, ahem… sometimes other fun things. (Wait until you’re married) But come on! Fun! No, more than fun. Falling in love is a stinkin’ blast! So if you are along for the ride on the page, you (and those two fools sinking in the love boat) better be enjoying something. I can’t tell you how many romance novels I’ve read where the characters are constantly miserable. The premise might be tough, there might be a lot to overcome, or A LOT of friction, distrust, hurt. But lighten up! Add some laughs. Love is not a drag.

-Your body is the only temple I worship
Since we’re keepin’ it real, let’s get this out of the way. We, all of us, come in packages. I truly believe that our uniquenesses (is that a word?) are the things that make us most lovely and appealing to that special someone. Of course personality is key! KEY! But attraction is also a key ingredient to romance and that includes the outside as well as the inside. I’m not the least bit offended when romance novels touch on physical attributes like weight or build. Paints a picture. Shows an appreciation for a thing of beauty God created. Curvy, slender, muscled, soft, busty, petite, skinny, bulky… there is no one single definition of beautiful. 
Shoot, am I going to pretend I didn’t notice my husband had a smokin’ hot bod when we were dating? Was I above temptation? Was I blind??? Heck no! Likewise, I’d probably have been a bit disconcerted if my future husband hadn’t had a clue what I looked like from the neck down. (Clothed, people, let’s keep it clean here.) ;) But sexual attraction is just one piece of the love equation. It can most definitely exist without having a single darn thing to do with that elusive L-word. If you’re gonna write a love story, or live in one, include the appreciation, sure… the pull, the desire, the things that get the engine burning hot, BUT make it about more than confusing lust for love. (Note: Not much of an issue in Christian fiction but mainstream romance is all about the lusty love confusion.)

-Banter with me, Baby!
If your dialogue is a bland exchange of information you are missing the boat. BIG time! Banter is where the romance blooms! If your characters (or you and your super hot date) aren’t talking, laughing, teasing, ENJOYING the whole getting to know you dance, what is the point??? Never underestimate the power of the banter.

-Kiss me you fool!
Last one… the kiss. The thing that distinguishes friends from lovers. Don’t scrimp on the smooches. Not on paper and DEFINITELY not in real life. Because, well… why would you want to.

What do you think? Ever gotten caught in a bad romance? What made it oh-so-bad… and not in a good way? ;)


Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers, one pretty little princess, and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.


Pepper said...

Your saucy Mama!
This is a fabulous post - ALL OF IT!
If romance is gonna cause a realistic emotion in us, let's make is real in fiction! (in a Godly sort of way, right?)

I don't know what I'd add to the list. Love the kissin', chattin',and lookin' list.

I think providing opportunities for vulnerability is one of the key ingredients which makes the characters less 'cardboard' - so that's a really important thing. And another aspect is 'organic relationship'. What I mean by this is that it doesn't feel contrived, but very realistic.


Jeanne Takenaka said...

LOVED this, Amy! Love "hearing" your voice too. :) Yes, I've read some bad romances, and yes I've read me some amazing romances.

One thing I really love is something you touched on, and that's when the heroine and hero can complete each other in some way. It's the perfect way of showing why they belong together. :)

I'm coming back to this post. Muy excelenté!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Yes! Pep, vulnerability is so so important!! And you are so right, if we want to "feel the love" a realistic approach is the only way to go. If your reading a love story and hope to be swept away, having that organic base for the relationship will help the reader relate and get sucked in. Very good tips!

Love ya!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Jeanne, Yes! I love finding a way for two peoples broken pieces fitting together to make them whole! Were all like that! That's a big part of what makes our flaws so beautiful to the right person! Ahh, love rocks!!! :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

VERY true! GREAT post!

Some books just leave you with a sense of awkwardness. The touching/kissing seems contrived, its like it was thrown in but without the necessary buildup. That buildup to increase tension is one of the most central parts.

Unknown said...

Love this. :-) So true. .

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for the reminder to keep it fun, Amy! I am saving this to remind me no matter how hard the circumstances, the readers deserve some fun mixed in!

My next hero is going to be tough. He's just getting out of prison with a huge, angry chip on his shoulder. Boy, does he need some fun. I think a spunky Irish heroine will do the trick! And some unruly orphans! Sounds about right!

P.S. Thank you for posting all those adorable pics on Facebook. Those cuties make me smile every day!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I've read some of those awkward love matches too, Jules. Mainly like the Barbie and Ken thing I mentioned... sure they look good together and are mutually attracted but so what... what ELSE draws them together! Why is there no ease or flow or the RIGHT kind of tension. Irks me, can you tell ;)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks Tina! So glad you came by! I'm especially glad my alley cats put up with my antics ;) I like to have some fun ruffling feathers.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Yeah, I start to miss the fun too, Sue! When is all starts to get swallowed up in the drama you can be sure the reader is missing it. Definitely a good reminder.

Love that my kiddos bring something other than premature grey hairs. Kidding! Thanks for being so sweet and supportive. They are a joy to me too!!

Ashley Clark said...

Can I just take a moment to say how much I love the cheesy romance novel cover you included? ;) Love this, Ames-- great suggestions!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Bit off-topic, but can I just say, I love reading your stuff. You have such a fun voice. :) As for bad romance... well, I'm lucky enough to have never had one. I married the first guy I dated. But I'm sure I've read a few.

The Barbie and Ken thing is so true. Fake, plastic romances just project ridiculousness to me. For instance, why is it that heroines in romance novels so often have oddly-coloured eyes? (violet, for example. I've never seen a pair of purple eyes in my life. Do they actually exist?) It's good for a laugh, which is probably not the effect the author is intentionally going for. ;)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Lol! Oh, Ashley... you have no idea how fun that cover was to search for. Seriously, google that! Hysterical! There was even a book with a mockingly ridiculous cover call "Beyond Heaving Bossoms." I almost included it until I saw a mildly offensive curse word in the sub title.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Karen, you are such a peach! Thank you! What a wonderful compliment. Totally made my day :)

Ha! Yes, I too have fallen prey to the eyes-so-blue-they-are-almost-violet thing. Exotic and impossible, indeed! Well, at least without contacts but very few heroines are known for their keen choice in contact shade. ;)

Daniel Whyte IV said...

Hey, you know the picture of you at the end of the article -- with that dagger, tent stake, top of a cast iron fence in your hand -- it makes you look dangerous. Don't poke your eye out. And, please, don't point it at me.


Preslaysa Williams said...

Great post! Humorous and oh-so true. Before I met and married The Man, I was caught in a bad romance in real life. What made it bad? A lack of heroic gestures from the ex, but I moved on :-)

That's why I love to read about heroes who are beyond heroic in romance. And, of course, my hubby serves as inspiration too.