How Not To Write: in Romance

If you want me to abandon your book mid-read, please have nothing happen.

bored coupleHave you ever read a novel that would have made a good short story or novella, but instead was fluffed out to make it “book length”?  I have. (Of course I have – I’m the one ranting about it.)  It was a sweet 50 page love story that had been stretched to 150 pages.  The author only gave us two or three conversations between the main characters, but she told us what they ate for EVERY meal.  It was like a chocolate bar with twenty extra wrappers. The nugget of chocolate was good, but by the time you got to it, you didn’t care anymore.

excited-writerRomance novels need just as much plot as other novels.  They need to do more than like each other, do nothing, and end up together at the end.  If you’re on page 100 of a 200 page novel, and there’s no reason for your couple not to be together, either add 100 more pages worth of plot to keep them apart (for real reasons, please, not dumb ones) or end it and make it a novella. If you must tell me about their food, include a recipe and a scratch and sniff sticker.

Images courtesy of: www.crestedbuttelodging.com (bored couple), silverliningsfilmjournal.com (excited writer)

How Not To Write: in Fantasy

Tumblr_static_the-hobbit-bilbo-bagginsIf you want me to abandon your book mid-read, please make the names something I have to work to pronounce and throw them at me all at once.

Have you ever picked up a book and on the first page you read that “Mdonkotherm the Great Aflunderer is traveling to Isnodergum for the Jxazpouoiany Festival”? Back on the shelf it goes: I want to read a story, not learn a foreign language.

Can you use big new names you’ve invented?  Sure.  But you have to introduce me slowly.  First, introduce me to Mdonkotherm and make me like him.  Use only words that I know.  Then tell me he’s an Aflunderer and explain what that is and why it matters.  Then get on with the story.  Why am I reading about Mdonkotherm?  What’s his goal?  Why should I care?  Once I’m hooked, THEN you can tell me about Isnodergum and the Jxazpouoiany Festival.

Frodo-Sam-image-frodo-and-sam-36091705-1920-796Take Tolkein for an example of how to do it right.  In the beginning we meet Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Gandalf: all names that I can pronounce without much effort.  The names are simple and when we begin to learn the more complex names of people and places later in the book, we’re already hooked and we can handle it.

Don’t dump your world’s new language on me, teach it to me.

How Not to Write: Romance

Edmund Blair LeightonIf you want me to abandon your book mid-read, please have nothing happen.

Have you ever read a book that would have made a good short story or novella, but instead was fluffed out to make it “book length”? I have (of course I have, I’m the one ranting about it, right?) It was a sweet 50 page love story that had been stretched to 150 pages. The author only gave us two or three conversations between the main characters, but she told us what they ate for EVERY meal. They met, they liked each other, got to know each other a little, there was a conflict about him staying in town, and it was resolved. Nice neat story. The extra fluff ruined it for me.
Romance novels need just as much plot as other novels. SOMETHING has to happen. The characters need to do something, say something, go somewhere, earn something, lose something…I don’t really care what they do, but they need to do more than like each other, do nothing, and end up together at the end. If I’m on page 100 of a 200 page novel, and there’s no reason for your couple not to be together, you either need to add 100 more pages of plot to keep them apart (for real reasons, not dumb ones, please) or end it and make it a novella.

What do you do when you’re 50 pages from the end of a book and you realize the plot is exhausted?

Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton