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The Mistakes Romance Writers Make

June 17, 2009

Although I will never admit to owning classic pulp romance, my sister owned (literally) thousands of Mills and Boon, Silhouette, Georgette Heyer etc, so as you can imagine, one or two *might* have slipped amongst my high brow literary texts whilst at Uni. Romance is not a genre I would previously have comfortably classified my writing with, however, as with most things, you are thrust stories and characters and along the way, begin to explore what it has to offer. Romance takes on many forms from fantasy, speculative fiction, mystery and supernatural themes which are gaining popularity amongst the staid historical and regency romances. In saying that, it would seem that above all other types and styles, romance writers appear to employ some of the biggest mistakes or pitfalls a writer can fall under the spell of. I’ve pulled together, from my meager experience as a writer and more extensively; as a reader, the mistakes Romance tends to indulge in.

Edmund Blair Leighton painted
Genteel Romance

One of the most common mistakes romance writers tend to make (and I would hesitate to say its not just romance) is to have multiple third-person viewpoints within a paragraph. Not only does this make messy writing, but it confusing to the reader who will more than likely become agitated and put your story down. Limit the Point of Views to just the heroine and/or hero. If you are confused about who’s viewpoint to use within a story, ask “who’s story is this?” The answer will confirm to you whose viewpoint then to employ.

Adverb Abuse

Too often, adverbs are used by writers to explain dialogue.(said icily….shakily said…abruptly shouted..) Although it may give the emotion to the speaker, it’s a lazy way of telling rather than showing the reader what is happening in the scene. Use stronger verbs to reflect their emotions. Eg show a characters nervousness through the flickering of a candle beside them or their shaking hands, or them spilling a drink.

Cliché Abuse
“Milky Mounds”, “Heaving Manhood”… cringe worthy and completely outdated euphemisms. Also real people don’t talk in porn clichés, so try to keep dialogue natural and rolling . Avoid comparing women’s nipples to pencil erasers, any sort of fruit and don’t obsess over ‘rude’ parts. Readers ‘get it’ – they don’t need spoon feeding .

Steer clear of meaningless generic adjectives like ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly.’ Allow the reader to uncover details which will lead them to decide for themselves the impression you’re trying to create.

Nothing kills a scene quicker than including ill informed research within your text. If you are going to describe the beaches in south east England, you aught to know that most of them are pebbles, and not the expanses of golden sands Australian beaches boast. You don’t need to have traveled there personally to transport your readers into those spaces, but you do need to read and research major landmarks and details. In the same way, if your romance has an historical setting, including products or items that didn’t exist or were invented at the time, clothing styles from the wrong decade, or dialogue that’s too modern for the time; will suspend what little belief your audience had with your work and plunge them into doubt, searching for other things to nit pick about, instead of being carried away with your storyline.

Other quick bad romance inclusions (which somehow work in these stories, but not in real life)
Pregnancy wins the guy.
Threats of suicide will change the mind of someone who is planning to leave.
Doctor/ nurse/ dangerous situation romances throwing main characters together
Women being ‘forced’ or manipulated into marriage and then ends up falling in love with the guy.
Constant references to emotional/ physical abuse in childhood which somehow excuses all bad behaviour throughout the story but the person turns out to be the hero anyway.

Romance has come along way from “ripping open bodices to reveal heaving orbs”. If you are planning to write extensively within the romance arena, study the market. Romance covers most genres, from sci fi, to horror, to paranormal. Guess what? Although readers want to be whisked away on a fantasy trip, the average person also wants to be able to relate to the characters. Not every hero needs to be tall, dark and handsome and neither do the heroines be meek, mild, blond and have perfectly rounded buttocks. Check out who’s hot currently in the tabloids, what’s in demand within romance and find a niche market which suits your style. Regardless of what kind of romance you choose, basic good writing techniques aught not be discounted.

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Annie Evett is guilty on many occasions for the abuse of adverbs and is in counseling sessions to detach her from her strange obsession in reading complete fluff when she aught to be writing or researching. Catch her growing amount of websites and blogs here
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One Comment
  1. junebugger permalink
    June 18, 2009 4:01 pm

    I will never read a romance in the same light again after reading this article. Thanks for this great article!

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