Friday, January 21, 2011

Singing Lady Gaga, caught in a bad romance novel.


Maybe I’m just getting old (okay, there’s no maybe about it) but the last few paranormal romances I’ve read have really bugged me.

I’m not going to name names here—and I’m not bashing the paranormal genre. After all, one of the stories I’m working on is a paranormal romance. But I swear certain authors just took the Twilight characters, put a coat of varnish on them, and dropped them into their own novels. Hey, if it worked once, it’s bound to work again, right?

And okay, I can enjoy a Where-Have-The-Twilight-Characters-Popped-Up-Now book as well as anybody else. But there is one aspect of these novels that drives me crazy. I can buy paranormal beings and their assorted powers: vampires, werewolves, fairies, dragons, your basic undead sorts of guys and gals, whatever. The romance in these books, however, is too unbelievable. Here is the romance plot of these books in an ultra condensed version.

Guy walks in. Girl seems him. He’s hot. Really, really hot. Other girls are drooling but hot guy likes our heroine. In fact, he instantly loves her, which works out well, because she instantly and passionately loves him too. Why? We don’t know. Neither of these characters knows anything about the other except that they are eternally and irrevocably in love with each other. Oh, and at some point the girl learns that the guy has a dark, tormented side. This may or may not involve killing things. No matter, it’s love. They make-out a lot.

The guy buys the girl expensive gifts, watches her when she doesn’t know he’s there, and does other things that could classify him as a stalker. But it’s okay because he’s really, really hot.

Their love is so certain that a bad paranormal character wants to destroy the girl to hurt the guy. At this point in the book, I’m wondering why he cares since it's very easy for him to fall in love with near strangers.

Villain is conquered, but all is not well because guy and girl are sort of different species.


Maybe I’m just cynical in my old age, but that all-consuming-love-even-though-I-hardly-know-you just doesn’t seem believable to me.

I should probably go back and study Twilight and see why the love story worked for me in that book and doesn’t in the Almost-Twilight books.

Either that, or I need to incorporate that sort of love story into my paranormal romance. Come to think of it, the Almost-Twilight books have done pretty well . . . You and me, baby, we could write a bad romance.

27 comments:

Erin Edwards said...

Maybe the real question is not what's wrong with the ideas the Almost-Twilight books have about romance, but what is wrong with current popular perception of romance? If these beings overcome their differences after the the end of the book, how many of their marriages end in divorce? :)

Not that I don't think there is such a thing as "crush at first sight," but that's just a seedling. Some love then grows at the speed of an oak tree, and some love grows as fast as bamboo. It's all sturdy, but it has to grow. If it stays a seedling, it's too easy to step on it.

I started to get all sappy and continue the metaphors with what the love seedling needs to be fed and watered with for it to be healthy, but I stopped myself. :)

azang said...

The last time I checked out the romance section of the book store, I was astounded by the number of vampire books there. Almost all of them! Why, oh why...

Shari said...

This is why I'm not reading paranormal these days. I'm a bit bugged too.

Heather Hellmann said...

I agree! The thing that bothers me the most is how stalking is romanticised in some novels.

Kathryn said...

Hahaha. This post made me laugh out loud, thanks. I definitely agree. Those of us who've found our true love know it involves more than the initial attraction, no matter how strong the attraction.

Rebecca Irvine said...

Thanks for the Saturday morning laugh--so true it was funny.

Donna Weaver said...

I'm so glad you're just kidding about writing one of these bad romances.

You are, right?

For some reason, the romance genre just wants to look at that initial attraction (years ago a boss called it 'being in lust, not being in love') and assuming that that is what 'true love' is. Maybe they should be looking at the elderly couple who's been together half a century and see what that initial blush can turn into. It's a lot of work, learning about the other person and both parties being willing to change some.

But hard work isn't romantic.

/endrant

Small Review said...

I really don't like this trend in YA, for two reasons. First, it's not realistic and I'm just not buying it. I sort of lose a little respect for main characters who would throw her entire life away for a guy she just met. I wouldn't die for a guy I barely know. I don't care how hot or stalkerish he is (and, yeah, what's with the stalkers?)

The other reason: It's boring. I love a little romance in my books, but I don't want that to be the main focus. I want to see the couple have challenges they need to overcome with an actual plot arc that doesn't have to do with their undying love. It's through their working together through these challenges that their appreciation for one another (and personal growth) occurs. Then, and only after all that, do I want them to get together.

It's kind of boring when there's no actual plot outside of pages and pages of how much they love each other with some half-baked "problem" of why they can't be together. The characters don't tend to grow all that much either. Booooring.

susancolebank said...

I've given this tons of thought (aka, why Twilight worked).

It is literally the 80's Fabio romance for preteens and teens. It's the Johanna Lindsey book or the Julie Garwood book or the Jude Deveraux book or the Kathleen E. Woodiwiss book. They all had the tortured-alpha-male-who-falls-for-no-apparent-reason-for-the-damsel-in-constant-distress.

Those books did well for the same reason Twilight did well. The storytelling was extraordinary and made us care head-over-heels for these characters. I think the wannabes have storytelling skills that just aren't solid, y'know?

-Susan

Janette Rallison said...

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet had the sweetest romance in it. And the nice thing about it was that it felt real. The characters knew each other and genuinely cared about each other. I would totally go for Henry the nice boy in school rather than the hot vampire.

Janette Rallison said...

Oh, and no, I'm not purposely trying to write a bad romance. Whether I accidentally write one anyway is another story.

Connie Onnie said...

I have been in the same boat, I would hear people say they liked a paranormal book and I would try but never end up caring about the characters. So I decided to give them up, which made me sad because I have enjoyed them in the past. But a friend (who I trust) told me to try Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I was glad to see they are not all try and follow the Twilight recipe. I am sure I will enjoy yours even more.

Melanie Jacobson said...

This is so dead on.

Sarah M Eden said...

Can I get an "Amen, Sistah!"

Lauren said...

I hate vampires. I don't think that there is anything uplifting about them, and I hate how some authors do uplift them.
I hate how when you walk into the bookstore, most of the romance section is about vampires. The love in those books are not real. I agree with Donna Weaver when it's more lust than love.

Meredith said...

I'm pretty sure that the reason Twilight works (at least for me) is because it was one of the first paranormal romances (not written ever, but probably the first I ever read). And there's no denying that it really jump started a trend that will not die! Undead vampire pun. By now I'm bored of it. I suspect that if I had read a million other paranormal romances and then read Twilight, I would have thought if was lame. Sorry, Twilight!

BTW, I just found an awesome review of My Double Life on Forever Young Adult. They liked it, they really liked it! http://www.foreveryoungadult.com/2010/05/31/double-trouble/

Janette Rallison said...

Ha! Great review. I especially liked how they put a picture of Bea Arthur as the abuella. She was one of my favorite characters in the book.

Heather B. Moore said...

So what you're saying is that thinking someone is hot doesn't mean you love them? (lol)

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha. Love this post. It's so true. Especially the stalking. Creeeeepy. Let me just watch you and not say anything. Mwahahahaha.

And what's with the whole bad boys are sooooooo dreamy thing. Why can't they like the good guy who's not trying to kill anyone? Sigh.

Haley S. said...

I agree, it works for some books (like Twilight, Hush Hush, etc.) but even in those books they have a reason for loving each other. But those books bug me. If some guy was stalking me (even if he was really really hot) I'd be creeped out and file a restraining order on him. And I don't think I'd be the only one

Shanda said...

Janette,

Thank you for being so honest. Small Review pretty much said it perfectly for me, so I won't elaborate. I shy away from most YA since Twilight, though I have friends that won't read anything but YA. I heard such great things about Paranormalcy so I read it and loved it. Fun stuff! A tough, spunky teen girl who loves pink and yearns for normal teen life instead of trying to escape. It ended up being right up my alley.

I am ready to venture into YA a little further and I think I'll read your books next. :)

Shanda :)

Botterfly Girl said...

I know, I was at the bookstore and picked up a few books and 3 out of 5 had that exact story line description on the back.
It is true that the "twilight" idea just really works for that series and nothing.

Kristy said...

I'm wondering if this will really reach you. I love your work. I love that it's funny, warm and all your characters are imperfect and real. That being said, I've just finished writing a paranormal teen romance... Not so real and sometimes scary cold (but not vampire cold.)

Would you recommend your agent? (I'm not sure if that's an acceptable question from a stranger. I not only want to be published, I also want to learn appropriate author protocol.) Thanks again for your work; your books make me laugh out loud.

Janette Rallison said...

Just please tell me you don't do the I-love-you-with-eternal-passion-even-though-I-hardly-know-you sort of thing in your manuscript, and I'd be happy to recomend my agent. Otherwise, all bets are off. I can't read that book one more time.

He's George Nicholson with Sterling Lord.

Good luck!

Kristy said...

Wow, you not answered my question, but responded promptly. Thanks, someday I hope to be just like you. Only older. (I write about time travel, but I'm not a believer.)

Below is a bit from my query letter. Read only if you're curious.

Petra Baron, a high school senior, is waiting for someone to ask her to prom. Emory Ravenswood is trying to prevent the destruction of the newly translated King James Bible. Their worlds and hearts collide when Petra enters the fortune-teller’s tent at a Renaissance fair in Orange County, California and exits into the seventeenth century England. Centuries apart and yet drawn together in an ageless conflict between good and evil, can Petra and Emory survive the test of time?

A first in a series, Beyond the Fortune-teller’s Tent is an 80,000 word novel reminiscent of Caroline Cooney’s Time Travelers and Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices. Beyond the Fortune-teller’s Tent began as my daughter’s English assignment, a short story that captured my heart.

Jessie Clark said...

You are soo right! Your rightness even required an extra "o". I love paranormal romance and have noticed that problem over and over again. Along with a lack of communication. Making out apparently trumps all-if he's hot enough.

I can't wait for your paranormal romance! Also, if you ever get around to Little Vampire Women, I bought a copy as a joke, and would love your version much better ;)

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