Yes, you’ve read it right. It’s a bold statement, especially for a romance author (me, in case you were wondering). Well, let me tell you a secret: I started writing romance because I hate romance. There. I said it.
I like reading, and I read a lot. Probably not as much as I would like to, even not as much as I should, I’ll admit that, but I do read a lot. And I read all genres, I’m not picky — I love any book that can stop time and make me feel something. That is, when that something isn’t frustration. And romance is the only genre that leaves me frustrated 98% of the time.
Now, there are two things that I think every story has to achieve to be a Good Story™: it has to be consistent and it has to be realistic.
Consistent, for me, is when characters follow a logic within the story. They are presented under a certain light, they have certain personalities, and they act according to that. Their decisions and reactions are in line with who the author presents them to be.
Realistic, for me, is when the plot is plausible. The events in the story feel natural like they could really happen in real life. This goes for any genre, even fantasy — whatever world the author creates has a set of rules, and those rules make sense.
Can you guess in which genre both of these things rarely happen? Yep. Romance.
Here’s a list I’ve come up with a few of the things that really enrage me when I read romance:
– She did NOT!
It’s when a character spends half of the book giving you all these reasons why she would never do that thing and then turns around and does that thing. Or when she has a certain personality but all of sudden reacts to something in a completely uncharacteristic way. Out of nowhere. With no explanation.
– This wouldn’t happen in real life…
It’s when the character is dumped by his girlfriend, loses his job, gets into a car accident, goes home to a house on fire, and finds out his mom has cancer. And then his dog dies.
Or when the character meets Mr. Perfect, works a job that allows her to have a social life at any time of the day, has inexplicable amounts of money to travel or pay for cabs, walks everywhere in heels, and stuffs her face with pasta and yet maintains a ‘long and slim figure’. And then wins the lottery.
– Me, me, me, ME!
It’s when everything in the story floats around that one character’s needs and wishes. If she has friends, it’s only to talk about her problems. If she has a family, it’s only to talk about her problems. If she has a fish, she tells the fish her problems. And she’s the only one who seems to have problems, and she can never solve them on her own. She desperately needs her friends or family or fish to tell her the most obvious things so the plot can move forward.
– Look, I know you don’t want to do this, I know you’ve repeatedly said this makes you uncomfortable, I know you don’t like this, but SURPRISE! I’m going to make you do this!
It’s when the main character has a Best Friend™ who in fact is an asshole that never listens to them and spends the entire book meddling in their lives without their consent, forcing them to do things they don’t want to do, judging their choices, and generally trying (and succeeding) to transform them into a different person. Because that’s the only way to be happy, apparently — by becoming someone else.
– What will I do now that I’m SINGLE??? And OVER THIRTY??? Might as well roll over and die ‘cause my life is over…
Welp. I don’t think I really need to explain this one.
– I have all these things I’m feeling that I should say to my significant other, but I won’t. Just because.
It’s when the whole conflict of the story is based on something that could be easily solved by TALKING TO EACH OTHER. Just. Talk. To. Each. Other.
– Twenty years ago, he invited my arch-nemesis to prom and that broke my heart. Now he’s back into my life, but how can I forgive him?
It’s when there’s so much unnecessary drama over something so insignificant that I’m just… why??? Do you even listen to yourself? It’s been twenty fucking years, get over it!
– Here’s a detailed anatomical description of a man’s body but using a lot of silly words.
All. The. Sex. I’m not against sex on the page, not at all. I actually quite like it when it serves a purpose within the context. This is where my problem is — it usually serves no purpose in the plot other than just… sex. Add to this the absolutely ridiculous word choices in these scenes and you lost me for good. A man’s ‘length’? ‘Shaft’? ‘Filling’ a woman? For fuck’s sake…
P.S.: I’m not talking about erotica here, I’m referring to books where sex is not the main theme.
This a non-exhaustive list, but I think it covers my most recurring pet peeves. Did you notice how none of these are tropes? I have zero problems with tropes. In fact, I’ve used some of the most traditional ones for my books.
Welcome to New York is a friends-to-lovers romance, pretty common.
Once in a Lifetime is enemies-to-lovers and a love triangle! Two overused tropes in the same story? Hell yes!
This is because I believe that what matters is not what story you tell, it’s how you tell it. It’s how relatable your characters are, how believable the situations you put them in are, how coherent their actions are. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is for me to read a character making decisions that do not match the personality the author gave them or try not to roll my eyes with so much serendipity.
Maybe I feel like this because I actually love romance, though. Maybe I’m so passionate about this genre that I just can’t bear to see it ill-executed. Maybe I see how much potential it has and can’t help but suffer when it doesn’t reach it.
And I’m not saying I’m better than those authors out there, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here — I’m just trying to write a Good Story™.
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