“I’m not reading any more romance novels!”
So I declared to my husband, after I disgustfully (if that wasn’t a word, it is now) quit reading a romance novel about 70% through.
I added, “And I’m done writing romance novels!” On top of getting frustrated with other authors’ books, I’d been struggling to rewrite my own romance novel, and continuing to hit brick walls.
A day of thought later, I realized that I didn’t really mean what I’d said. Not completely. I meant, there is a type of romance novel I no longer wanted to read or write.
You might be thinking, “What do you mean? Romance is romance. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. That’s the formula romance authors have always used, and will use until the end of time.”
No, that’s the formula romance authors used to use. I suppose some of the older romance authors still use it. It’s a good formula, because it allows for a lot of leeway during the unfolding of the plot. Things can get interesting. And, shock of shocks, be realistic even while being interesting.
But during the past few years, a new romance formula has popped up. I call it the “Frustrate the reader with unrealistic people and plots romance formula.”
Here’s how it goes: The man and woman have reasons they could never consider dating, or dating this particular person. Those reasons are sometimes stupid, sometimes valid. But the main characters are attracted to each other, and by some wild circumstance are thrown into each others’ world where they go between giving into the attraction and resisting it for all they’re worth.
That’s the first half of the story, and usually, I can deal with it. I’m willing to give a romance author I haven’t read before a chance to redeem herself (or, rarely, himself) and make a twist that gets me really engaged in the story.
But about halfway through the novel, it takes a turn that makes me want to get the main characters together in a room, grab their necks, and slam their heads together. They each begin to constantly make wrong assumptions about each other and each other’s actions. Often, the woman is convinced she can’t possibly be attractive enough for the man to actually want her.
If I had a dollar for every romance I’ve read where the female protagonist thinks this…
Regardless, for chapter after chapter the author drags the reader through the grueling unbelievable world of two people who refuse to communicate their true feelings, their fears, their dreams for a relationship with the other person to work out. Instead, they become more and more tangled in a web of misunderstandings.
This can be done in a comical way, and adroit romantic comedy authors accomplish it. But most of the time, this formula is annoying and frustrating, with much of it being unrealistic. I feel like the authors add misunderstanding after misunderstanding simply to add to their stories’ word counts. The never-ending, repetitive plot line certainly doesn’t add any interest to the story.
I’m done reading such books, and done writing such books. I want to read about realistic people with realistic problems, solving them in realistic ways. It should come as no surprise that, therefore, such is the kind of book I want to write.
Note that I didn’t say real. I said realistic. You can write a fantasy that has a lot of realism to it. What I mean is, I want to be able to relate to the people and the plot.
This “Frustrate The Reader Romance Formula”? I just. Can’t. Relate.