As we missed out on our bit of fun at the weekend….
I Found this article the other day: Tina’s Guide to Writing Romantica™ on the Ellora’s Cave Website. I’m assuming that it’s a guideline for what Ellora’s Cave want to see, but frankly, I’d rather gouge my eyes out than read some of these themes. It was sporked, most delightfully by Gehayi (and I tagged along, being sarky) so I said I’d post it. The Guide itself is in bold italics Gehayi’s comments are in purple, mine are in green (because i’m rude).
I love the conceit that she owns the term Romantica, too. The only Romantica I know that is trademarked is the font “Romantica”.
1. During “forced seductions”, redeeming the hero is crucial—nobody wants to read about a rapist.
Never mind the fact that if he’s forcing her to have sex, this does, in fact, make him a rapist.
And of course, redeeming him makes him a Nice Chap and he’s never ever going to do that again is he boys and girls? ” I promise, darling…”
Make sure that the heroine clearly wants the situation to occur by the time there is penetration.
This is one of the most pernicious notions about rape—that “no”doesn’t necessarily mean “no,” that women really want to be taken by force, and that if a guy is sufficiently determined, he can convert a woman’s “no” into a “yes.” It also carries a nasty corollary in real life–that if a woman gives in, rather than continuing to fight the man, this “clearly” means that “she wants the situation to occur” and it isn’t rape.
And that giving in (the safest way to come through actual rape as advised by experts) means LURVE.
Another corollary–and I’ve seen this one more and more frequently of late–is that if the heroine becomes physically aroused or orgasmic due to rape or molestation, this is another version of “wanting the situation to occur,” and means that it’s love rather than rape. After all, the argument runs, you wouldn’t respond that way to a rapist, would you?
The unpleasant fact is that actually, you might. Bodies are traitorous things. It’s possible for a rape victim to feel sickened, appalled and violated AND have her body react in a way that has nothing to do with her mental state.
Exactly. There are cases where men have been raped by women and the cock often does what the cock will often do. Doesn’t make it fun. Doesn’t make it right.
…And it DOESN’T make it love.
What gets me most particularly is that a woman wrote this anti-woman advice for–by and large–women writers, who would primarily be writing for women readers. Why encourage women to believe that these patently false notions, which damage women socially and legally, are true…and not only true, but romantic?
I’m all for fantasy, and hell, if a story has to have a rape fantasy–if that’s what floats your boat, then have a rape fantasy. Don’t make it into a seduction because she “was asking for it.”
2. Strong heroines are a must. Women are much more interested inwatching an independent female give a hero a run for his money and thensubmit than in reading about a weak creature who is a pathetic empty vessel waiting to be filled.
It may come as a great shock to some writers, but I couldn’t care less about a relationship that ends up with one of the loverssubmitting to the other. In fact, I find it sickening. When I see a strong, independent heroine voluntarily and easily eradicating whole chunks of her personality to become a sweet, demure, blissfully obedient Stepford Wife, I want to take the author and shake some sense into her.
You see, I have this weird notion that characters should be consistent and believable. And I’m a hell of a lot more interested in two real people who love each other despite all their headaches, arguments and personality clashes. That’s scads better than a couple who are so busy being something they aren’t that neither ever gets to know who the other person really is.
I am looking at this here from a historical fiction perspective, and frankly my dear, I don’t want my historical heroine to be kick-arse. I loved my Austen heroines for the fact that they are bright, intelligent, witty women who are quite capable of dissolving into panic and grief as the rest of us. They can whip a hero into contrition with a well aimed word, or a look.
As for submitting – no thank you. There’s no way that Lizzie submitted to Darcy, after all.
3. This is a take off on point 2: “brave resistance” = money forauthor; “petulant heroine” = negative reviews. There is a fine line between brave resistance, giving the alpha male a run for his money,etc. , and having the heroine be cruel, vicious, petulant, and unwilling to give the hero a break. Said heroines are trying to the nerves, induce gritting of the teeth, etc.
Right. Complete bitches never sell in romance, be they in books oron TV. Just ask fictional uber-bitches Scarlett O’Hara, Becky Sharp, Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan, Erika Kane. No one has ever been even vaguely interested in them…
Yep. All those bad reviews must have made Aaron Spelling cry all the way to the bank. *boo hoo*
4. Monogamy = good, faithlessness = bad. This “unspoken rule” is for protagonists only. The beauty of erotic romance is your secondary characters can get away with anything, so if a particularly kinky idea occurs to you, have the secondary characters indulge in it. But for protagonists…be careful! The hero and heroine cannot have sexual penetration with anyone else once they have met. If you allow that to happen, you will receive angry emails from women all over the world.
Oh no! Angry e-mails from all over the world! How could I possibly cope? *swoon*
I don’t have much patience with this idea.
I don’t have ANY. Unless this was written in the 1950′s or something. *checks date on article* ah. Nope.
I much prefer to have characters to act in ways that are consistent with their personalities. It makes for a much better story if the characters are free to choose to act in diverse ways, rather than obligated to behave in a way both false and stereotypical.
I much prefer to have characters behave in a way that’s REAL. People cheat. If a writer is worth his/her salt then they’d be able to include this antiquated “taboo” and still make a story work.
That said, you CAN get away with sexual touching in sci-fi so long as it’s done properly. In the Trek series, for instance, there is something called a “Consummation Feast” where the heroine is brought to orgasm by the hands and mouths of 5 or more warriors before she’s given to her mate for penetration. In the Oath series, there is the “linking”ritual which requires a male close to the hero to rub all over theheroine’s naked body while she’s orgasming. (You gotta love sci-fi!)
I’m going to guess, therefore, that the following sci-fi novels aren’t “proper.” They contain a lot more variations and generally involve the protagonists.
Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley. Only promiscuity is acceptable, and sex has nothing to do with love. When the Savage enters the Brave New World, his predilection toward romance and monogamy are seen as perversions.
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert Heinlein. Futures group marriage and pansexualism.
Memors of a Spacewoman (1962) by Naomi Mitchison. Interspecies sex on shore leave. Aliens who change sex.
Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany. Starship crews engage in, and are emotionally bonded by, group sex. There are also sexual relations with spirits of the dead.
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. LeGuin. Humanoid aliens move from genderless neutrals to one sex or the other a few days a month. Relationships range from vowing kemmer (which is the equivalent of monogamous marriage) to group orgies. All are acceptable, and accepted.
The World Inside (1971) by Robert Silverberg. Promiscuity is culturally enforced.
I’m busy gagging over here. Why is sci-fi singled out? What’s wrong with the heroine getting frotted and loving it and STILL running into the arms of her sickening hero and submitting to him? Hells bells, people this is 2007. *despairs*
5. Don’t always write perfect heroines. I can’t stress this enough.The occasional “babe” is okay, but they should be more of the exception to the rule than the rule itself. Write chubby heroines, passingly pretty heroines, average heroines, etc. , but not too many drop-dead gorgeous heroines. Remember that your readers include every race, every culture, every body type, etc. Never refer to body fat in a bad way, for instance. Call it “pleasingly fleshly” or something of that nature.
Although… I am overweight, and whilst I don’t agree with anyone being a size 10 when they should really be a size 16 (I have no clue what these sizes relate to in US terms) I don’t think that we should say that it’s ok to put an unecesary strain on your heart, either.
Actually, I agree with this one, at least in principle. I have to admit, though, that I’ve never seen a romance heroine who was plain or ugly. Generally, the heroine differs from the norm of her society, convincing her that she’s ugly, while in our eyes she’s stunninglybeautiful. This bores me. I’m tired of writers who try to have their cake and eat it too.
Mmmmm – cake
Also, I’ve never seen a fat heroine in a romance. In fact, I’ve never seen one, period. I don’t think that fat heroines exist–just heroines who wail about their fatness while the wind threatens to blow them away.
I have, in chick-fic, but as you say, it’s usually “FAT” like Bridget Jones or “Ugly” like Anne Hathaway. I rarely read anything where a woman is normal as in real life, but then I guess that’s the point, the myth is that all the fatties like me want to read about thin women and fantasize they are them.
6. Heroes are always tall, masculinely handsome (never pretty), muscular, and well-endowed.
Because all women like the same physical type, of course. All this instruction does is make me want to create a homely male dwarf protagonist with an average build whose problem with the ladies is thatthey want to find out if he’s a dwarf all over.
I’d read that, and I agree. What Bollocks. Women like pretty men too, you know. Or are we feeling threatened here?
It doesn’t matter who his heroine is…the hero is always yummy.
Because women are shallow?
WHY. Why why why why why why why? Oh…. I know. It’s because books with ugly heroes, like those stupid books with Rochester and Heathcliffe never EVER sold.
Best selling heroes are also slightly obsessive—women readers love territorial males who stake claims right off the bat and focus their energies on one woman.
Personally, I think that it would be fantastic if Western literature would stop presenting stalkerish behavior as romantic and desirable. People can be in love and not be obsessed, y’know.
7. Vamps, futuristic/sci-fi, and MaleDom bondage sell the best.
Which just goes to prove that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
Really? Someone had better tell Norah Roberts to break out the numchuks.
8. Always have a plot.
Blimey. A plot? Really? This woman is GOOD.
Preferably not a plot against the audience, however.
9. Use condoms wisely and if it fits the storyline,
Why? To prevent fictional STDs? And again, I’ve never seen aprotagonist use such a thing. The only time I’ve ever seen condoms inscience fiction or fantasy was in Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant,in which a manufacturer of “sonkies” is immersed in a vat of latexrubber and suffocates.
I’ve seen them in gay erotica and porn and chick lit.
not just to be “pc”—remember this is fantasy.
Again–never seen a condom used at all in fiction. I’m not sure why this advice is even being given.
To show she’s “down with the kids”?
10. Don’t worry excessively about grammar usage to the point where you are stifling creativity in the name of technicality.
We can has talk English much more goodly than you is thinking us does.
Grammer? We don’t need no steenken’ Grammer.
Do remember, however, to stay away from culturally specific words(bloke, porridge, flat, etc.) unless it’s necessary to the plot ( i.e.historical).
Heaven forfend that anyone get the idea that a foreign language and culture might in any way differ from those of twenty-first century America.
Yes – because all people in all countries use words like guy, oatmeal, apartment and LOVE to hear heroes and heroines – specially in England – use them. I know I do!!!
And of course, this does imply that Romance readers are incapable of gathering ANYTHING from context and none of them own a dictionary. Or a computer. Or a BRAIN…
Filed under: Spork