Thursday, December 17, 2015

A plea for romance writers... or any writers, for that matter

I've been reading for a while now. A few decades or more, in fact. Lately, especially with the rise of self-publishing (although the Big Five produce books of the same quality), I've discovered that many books are being published before they're ready.

Take this one I'm currently going through, a novel I promised I'd review for Amazon. It's an FF&P romance. Like all too many FF&P romances I've read, it lacks, well, FF&P (fantasy, futuristic & paranormal) as well as romance.

By "lacking FF&P" I mean that the world-building stinks. In this, the author has come up with an alien civilization that is, for all intents and purposes, that of Earth with the addition of a few ray guns and cool ships. People on this other world even speak English, eat Earth food, tell their time by Terran standards, etc. etc. No imagination required!

By "lacking romance," I mean that the h/h may exchange long gazes and shivers may run up the heroine's spine when she thinks of the hero, but that's it. There's no reason for it. In this book they had sex—the blandest sex scene I've ever read. There's no emotion, no sensual clues... Just tab A into slot B, and really, not much of that. (Thank goodness.) I think this book handled it in one paragraph, but that paragraph is supposed to form the basis for the entire novel.

In this case also, being an FF&P book, there's psi involved. The h/h touch and—ZAPPO!—instant bonding. Now, I used this in my book as well. In the Three Worlds series, Londo and Lina both have psychic gifts, but I set up reasons why they should be attracted to each other, gave them a few times to tease and touch and test and share some intimate revelations before ZAPPO! took place. After that, I reinforced it.

But all too many FF&P books use this Instant Zappo as the basis for the entire relationship. They are soul mates, or fated to be mated, or their pheromones combine in just the right mix, or an ancient prophecy has declared that... FF&P is the worst offender, but other genres also manage this without using psi.

Let me digress. I love "classic" Wonder Woman, by which I mean the WW who stood for striving for peace, helping the disenfranchised, etc. etc. But she also had abilities due to Amazon Training. When I was a kid reading the adventures of Wonder Girl, she always talked about how she had to go off and practice her Amazon Training. She didn't just appear one day, fully powered, without doing anything to deserve those powers.

One of the big things I disliked about the post-Crisis Wonder Woman was that she received her powers on a silver platter. Never had to do a thing to have them. Bleah!

And take the new Star Trek. (Please!) Jim Kirk gets to be a big-shot captain because he's got machismo. Big balls. He bluffs his way to the top and gets things done in some way I can't really understand. Sparkly explosions and flares distract me from wondering why.

Contrast and compare to Classic Jim Kirk, who had to study hard all his life and make it to the top of his class through work and yes, big balls. He knew every last circuit in the Enterprise, and learned how to deal with alien races. New Kirk has not learned any of that. How does he do his job? He certainly hasn't done his job of making me want to see new ST movies.

So writers: I want you to add a few more layers to these books before you send them off. Figure out who your characters are. I'm tired of seeing gorgeous, rich, powerful guys as the hero and gorgeous women as the heroine, both of whom have no depth to them. Looks and money aren't enough for me. Give me some oomph! Make them work to be who and where they are!

If the h/h get together and it's love at first sight, have them both revel in it. Let me FEEL it. If their relationship starts small and builds, let me delight in that. Show me the steps it takes to create a Romance for the Ages.

Margie Lawson has a workshop that has writers using colored highlighters to make sure they utilize setting, emotions, physical responses, sharp dialogue, and plot. Use all your colors, authors. PLEASE. I'm begging you.

If you can't spare the time to do so, please include one word into the description you use to sell your book: "bland." That way I will steer far from it and save money. Thanks!

Have you read any books like this? What's your impression of them? Do you like your characters to be multi-layered? How "way out" do you like your fantasy/sci fi?

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