LIke this picture of a failed sexy attempt, clumsy devices in romance stories can amuse rather than spark interest. Here are my romance writing pet peeves:
1) Awkward dialogue
Always ripe for unintended humor, anything that makes you wonder what actual couple on the planet would say lines like, “Are you an angel?” (Courtesy of George Lucas–my favorite cheesy line.)
The truth is that in real romance we don’t always say poetic things. Sometimes it’s the moment around the words that makes it romantic. Heck, sometimes there isn’t any dialogue at all. The more real we can be with our romance, the more it will resonate.
2) Contrived Situations
Back when I read romance novels in high school, even in my vapid stupor of awe, I noticed that some situations probably would never happen. My personal fantasy back then was getting snowed in and having to stay at the high school overnight. And then I would be stuck with my crush. Alas, it never happened. Really paranoid school administrators made sure it wouldn’t. However, writers routinely live out their fantasies. The heroine’s car stops on a snowy road and she hikes to a cabin, where the incredibly handsome resident offers to launder her clothes (nay, insists!) and she gratefully dons a blanket and sits by the fire with him to exchange fiery repartee. There would never be a situation where I would be interested in barging into a stranger’s home, using their laundry facilities and sitting around buck naked in a blanket. It’s way more challenging to make up something probable. Which is why it rarely happens.
3) Recycled Characters
I will admit right up front that I was a Barbara Cartland junkie as a teen. I didn’t care that it was the same Duke and the same fragile, violet-eyed heroine in every book. Or that the girl had the intellect of a pair of Beau Brummell tightly fitted breeches. However, eventually that does get old. Today we have a new breed of repetitive character. If I encounter one more feisty, independent, sassy heroine I’m going to…well, it’s inevitable but can we please step away from the feisty stereotype and find someone real? Besides, feisty usually just means some sarcastic broad who flails around in accidental danger like it’s oxygen and then acts all indignant when someone tries to help her out of her own mess.
4) I Love You/I Hate You
I understand the need for some drama and tension, but pulling apart obviously meant-for each other protagonists with the flimsiest excuse is somewhat insulting to my intelligence. There is the classic Spiderman reason for not getting together–“The ones I love will always get hurt!”. The misunderstanding reason–“What? You love me but I didn’t know because you speak Russian and I’m a vegetarian?” Or whatever. If they can’t be together, it should be a good reason. Make me truly worried about them.
And there you have it. I only picked four because if I choose all of them I might hit on something I’m guilty of, which would be a wee bit ironic. You might have your very own original romance pet peeves–if they are better than mine, let me know!