Monthly Archives: February 2013

Rules of (Fictional) Romance


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Valentine’s Day
might be over, but as every single girl knows real romance lasts all year. Or
at least as long as the Kindle battery remains charged.

Though I certainly
recognized when I was writing Unforeseen
that I had slipped in a romantic subplot, I was a bit surprised on
the day of its release to find it listed under the Gothic romance category on
Amazon. Brushing aside the fact that it’s not overly Gothic, there was the
absurd idea that I
had somehow
written a romance. We’re talking about the girl who as a preteen preferred the
death and gore of war stories to the lip-smacking drama of Sweet Valley High
. We’re talking about the woman who walked by the
romance section of Borders for years, giving the bodice ripping covers the same
condescending glare of repugnance that other readers save for comic books and
vampire novels. We’re talking about a sometimes bitterly single chick who has
bought herself Valentine’s Day gifts for the past three years. Now I’m writing
romance?

Since the book was
released, I’ve made some giant leaps into the world of romance reading. (It’s
all research, of course. I’m just doing my due diligence as a supposed author
of the genre.) I moved from reading only paranormal romance, to
holy-I-hope-that’s-not-normal romance (thank you, Fifty Shades
), to wow-I-wish-that-were-normal romance via the Outlander
series. After all this hard work,
I’ve come to some conclusions. One, I don’t write romance. I dabble in romance
while I’m writing other plotlines. Two, fictional romance has its own rules,
and they are not found in your grandma’s guide to dating etiquette. But they do
make for some spicy reading!

Here are the top five
rules to fictional romance.

Rule 1: Nobody’s easy. In
real life if you knew a woman who jumped into bed with a guy she met just hours
ago, you’d likely call your friends and whisper a few choice words about her, ‘easy’
being the most fit to print. In fictional romance, fast and furious is the way
to fall for a man. Don’t know his full name? Not sure what species he is?
Pretty sure he might have been stalking you? Perfect. Mysterious is
mind-blowing. It’s almost as good as a gun to your head, which leads us to…

Rule 2: Imminent death is
the best aphrodisiac.
If one or more person isn’t slated to die in the next
scene, what’s the sense in even having sex? In fact if bombs aren’t exploding,
enemies aren’t approaching, or illness is not about to suck the last breath
from your lover’s lips, than clearly now is not the time to be making love. Don’t
fret, though, if lover number one is safe for the time being, there’s always
lover number two, because…

Rule 3: One man is never
enough.
This makes sense, I suppose. Men spend endless hours planted on the
couch watching their favorite sports teams battle it out. Why? Because everyone
likes some competition. It’s that natural, survival-of-the-fittest instinct boiling to the surface, and it’s not only men who have it. Good fictional romance is the female
version of the Super Bowl. The two hottest teams are the male suitors, and the
heroine is the Vince Lombardi trophy—seriously, we’re relegated to trophy
status in nearly every one of these books, yet we keep devouring them. That’s
awful, but then every girl loves a (fictional) bad boy. In fact…

Rule 4: The badder, the
better.
In the world of the romance novel, you know you’ve found Mr. Right, if
everyone around you thinks he’s Mr. Wrong. Because clearly the people who have
known and cared about you your whole life are bound to be wrong when it comes
to one of the most crucial choices you have to make in life. If he’s a
criminal, he had good motive. If he’s cold and emotionless, it’s because he had
a hard childhood. It’s all okay, though, because…

Rule 5: People can change.
In reality, no woman ought to get it in her head that she can fix, train, or
otherwise change a man in order to mold him into perfection. In books, it’s not
only possible, it’s downright predictable! The tough guy will soften. The bad
guy will show his true, honorable colors. And the heroine who went through all
the crappy in-between stages to get him there, will live happily ever after
with her newly created Prince Charming.

And despite the fact those
of us reading these books in the real world know that this is not how it does,
or even should work, we still find ourselves reading these romances and
sighing, not in exasperation, as we should be, but in admiration of the
fictional men who’ve stolen our hearts and any common sense we ever had.

Damn, I wish I really
could write romance.

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Do-over? Yessss, please.


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Silence. Nothingness. A
sucking void.

No, it’s not what happens
after I make yet another lame attempt to be funny in front of my too-cool
preteens. (Okay, it is what happens, but it’s not today’s topic.) It’s a
description of what has become of my blog since the new year began. I could
tell you it’s because I made a conscious decision to stop blogging so that I’d
have more time to spend on my other writing. I could tell you I’ve finally
begun that YA book I’ve been plotting in my head for three months. I could tell
you it’s because I’ve been so into my new exercise and diet routine that I
haven’t had a non-squatting or sit-upping moment to spare. I could tell you I
was busy doing some…um…thing much more exciting. I’d be lying or, in
that last case, fantasizing.

Reality is that the new year
didn’t get off to a bang. Heck, the old year didn’t even end on a bang, though
I bluffed my way through twelve rather chipper holiday blogs in hopes of
fooling a few people, including myself. So I wasn’t sure how to start blogging
again. The “Happy New Year and all the promise it holds” blog would have rung a
bit shallow knowing the battles some of the people closest to me would be
facing this year. But how do you follow up twelve Christmas blogs and ignore
New Years? The easiest answer is you don’t.

So, I didn’t. I didn’t
blog. I didn’t really even write. I edited and revised, but recreating is an
entirely different ballgame from creating. Creating takes a special kind of mental alertness. It
requires the ability to push everything else out of your thoughts to allow new
ideas, scenes, and characters to creep in. Stress devours mental alertness like
a New Year’s dieter fresh off the wagon devours carbs. Even if, in the last
month, I had managed to wipe my mind of the mundane, nothing good would have
filled that void. It was much healthier to get caught up on correcting,
meticulously work my way through my DVR’s queue, and read a few thousand pages
of a romance series. (I’m verra

pleased Mrs. Gabaldon never learned to worry about word count.)

That said, there’s a time
to ignore reality, a time to curse at reality, and a time to face reality. It’s
officially time to pull up my big girl panties, hide the television remote and
Kindle, and deal. Unfortunately, I can’t change how the New Year started, nor
can I completely control what the rest of the year will bring. I can’t stop
worrying or sympathizing, either. I can, however, have a do-over in how I deal
it, thanks to that slithering reptile that usually send shivers down my spine.
Today, as the Chinese ring in a New Year, I’m thanking the snake for a chance
to start fresh, not just with the blog, but with my outlook for 2013.

Every year, every day,
every moment comes with the potential for stress, or sickness, or any other
number of disasters. It also comes with promise for all the best things in
life: new love, new family, new friendships, and new lessons learned from both
the sweet and sour experiences we’ll face. So I’m shedding the skin of the last
few months and parading that promise with as much pomp as I can muster in the
aftermath of a blizzard. (Wine and Triscuits will have to do until the plowers at my condo figure out where to put all of nature’s finest.)

So raise a glass to the snake. It’s not often life hands
us a do over; when it does, sss-seize the opportunity!

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