I’ve wondered a bit if the #MeToo movement has changed our vision of the romantic hero. I don’t think abusive men have ever been the norm in romance novels, but they’ve made their appearances. And the arrogant alpha male is certainly a common trope.
Our love affair with alpha males
I personally still like many alpha traits. I grew up reading Harlequin Presents, and they often featured larger than life heroes – think princes, sheikhs, CEOs, shipping magnates… So that still feels pretty standard for me when I think of romance novel heroes.
I try to avoid watching long form t.v. — by “long form” I mean any drama whose continuing story spans one, two, three, or more seasons (like Lost or Game of Thrones), vs. “episodic” shows, which contain a (largely) standalone story within each episode (like Law & Order or ER).
Long form shows have become very popular in recent years, as streaming services look to increase their hours viewed stats.
The problem is, it’s very hard for writers to offer an effective story arc if they don’t know how long their show will run. And even if they know how they want everything to pan out, with so many episodes to write, there’s gonna be some filler. So, you end up with endless and unending (ok, those are the same) plot. Complicated, often pointless (IMHO) plot.
So I avoid them, in general.
Remember the opening scene of Romancing the Stone? Remember Kathleen Turner as wildly successful romance novelist Joan Wilder, typing the final lines of her latest manuscript, and weeping at her own words?
Then she reels off that last page, bundles the pages together, and pops open a bottle of champagne (literally) before handing the book to her agent/editor.
Wow! She typed her last line, and she was done!!
Does that mean she didn’t write a draft? Does that mean she just wrote the whole novel from beginning to end, with no revisions??
Unfortunately, for most of us real-life writers, typing the last word of the story is far from the end.
Nope. For most of us, finishing a novel looks a lot different than it did for Joan.
When I was young, I read all of these Harlequin Presents romance novels set in all of these exotic locations — Italy! Greece! London! Sydney! Occasionally some other places!
How delicious to be a wealthy romantic novelist who could travel the world at her leisure, I thought. And, in her spare moments abroad, research future bestsellers.
Alas, at some point, I realized not all romance authors are Barbara Cartland. And many schlub away writing stories about places they haven’t yet had the chance to visit.
So what’s the trick to writing a location authentically, if you’ve never laid eyes on it? And is this even possible?
It’s summertime (where I live, anyway), so the ‘perfect’ time to watch a frothy, fluffy romance – like Netflix’s A Perfect Pairing, which is well-qualified as summertime viewing:
- It’s about wine and wineries (and sheep!)
- It stars a former Nickelodeon child actor, Victoria Justice – What is it about former child actors and light romance?
- It’s a Netflix Original – I would say most Netflix romances fall squarely into the ‘light’ category
Before I begin my critique, let me just clarify that I am in fact talking about the Netflix film, A Perfect Pairing, and not the Hallmark romance of the same name that also came out this year. Wouldn’t want anyone to be confused.
Romance readers (and viewers) have a love/hate relationship with the concept of instalove (a.k.a. love at first sight); some view it as supremely romantic, while others view it as shallow and unrealistic.
I agree that pure instalove — when the leads have no real interaction at all, yet they declare love and make commitments to one another — is hard to pull off.
Have you ever watched a romantic movie and at the end, when one character declares their love to the other, instead of swooning, you cringed and covered your eyes?
I have. Just the other day.
The movie? The Proposal.
Yes, the Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds film, circa 2009.
Actually, I first saw it years ago, and had vaguely negative feelings about it. But, I think that first viewing was on a plane or something, and I didn’t give it my full attention. So I thought I’d give it another shot.
I am a huge fan of Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game – the book, that is.
It’s one of the best romances I’ve ever read, mostly because it manages to sustain romantic tension from beginning to end – an extremely rare feat, in my experience.
The movie, on the other hand…
I’ve read that Netflix’s Single all the Way is the first gay holiday romance movie. (On Netflix? In the world?? I’m not sure.) Whatever, this is yet another example of Netflix choosing not to push the envelope.
The movie is tepid. There’s nothing here to offend, because there’s basically nothing here at all.
The gays deserve better than this.
If I hadn’t started writing during my commute, I don’t think I would have finished a single novel.
I mentioned my problems with procrastination in my post, My origin story, Part 2: Becoming a romance writer. It was only when I linked writing with the ingrained habit of commuting that I was able to sustain a writing habit.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate of writing while commuting — for those who can incorporate it into their lives.
So, partly to encourage others to try writing during their commute, and partly as an homage to my lost commute, I’ve created this 2-part video series on commuter writing.