Writing to a Formula? No Thanks!

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerI stopped reading a book today. I set it aside and vowed not to read anymore. Just like that. Why? Because I saw where it was going. Not only that, I realized that it was something I wasn’t going to enjoy.

Anyone who has read my books knows that I don’t write to the standard romance formula: boy meets girl, boy kisses girl, boy & girl fight, boy hates girl, then they figure out they’re in love, but won’t talk about it and fall in love despite themselves.

I don’t like that plot line. Isn’t the whole point of a romance for the couple to fall in love and be happy? I read books like this one and I wonder how they are going to get along later and how soon after the wedding will they get divorced? I give it six months to a year.

In my romance and romantic suspense novels, the characters meet, feel that spark of attraction and move heaven and earth to get together. They may be foiled by circumstances, driven apart by conflict—but it’s external, not between them. I use adversity to bring them closer, to face their problems together.

Having a couple fight through two thirds (or more) of a novel doesn’t interest me. Having some roué sweep an unwilling ingenue off her feet isn’t seductive, it’s insulting. This scenario is most often used in historical romance novels. I find it offensive. In my historical romance, the hero does get a little ahead of himself, but his intended puts the brakes on. Realizing that it’s not the time to consummate their love, he respects her innocence and fears rather than playing on them. He doesn’t want to, and I’m sure it’s pure torture for him, but he loves her enough to stop.

In my contemporary writing, the pace of the romance varies, depending upon the characters. Sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes it’s only a matter of days, before they get together. They come together by mutual desire and lust, neither one of them forcing the other into bed. And they don’t fight afterward. Usually, they enjoy it so much, they do it again!

Granted, I have tried the other formula for a novel. It doesn’t work well for me. I can’t stand to see my characters miserable. That’s not to say that my characters don’t argue or have misunderstandings, but they resolve their differences. They talk about it and get their feelings aired. I know not all couples do this, but my husband and I do. We try not to argue, though we do exchange heated comments from time to time. Then we take our neutral corners and discuss something when we can be more calm and cool headed. It’s worked for over 30 years, so I guess we’re doing something right.

Getting back to the book I mentioned above—the reason I got so annoyed with it was that the male lead had just trashed the hopes and dreams of the young woman. She goes outside, weeping piteously. He hears her and goes outside to see what’s wrong. (Huh?) He just destroyed her emotionally and he doesn’t know why she’s crying? (Dumb ass)

Next, he—who has just devastated her—gives her comfort, his arms and lips seeking hers—and all that crap. She—whose life has been destroyed by this hedonistic, self-centered, egoist—falls into his arms. He’s just ruined her last hope of getting control of her life, and she’s drawn to him, kissing him in passion. (Oh, yes, she’s a virgin.) She’s allowing this total bastard to ravage her. I got to the point where he bared her breasts and stopped reading.

Really? She hates him. He’s taken possession of her home, is turning her and her little brother out without a cent and she’s letting him do the nasty in the garden at night? I couldn’t stand it. If I believed in burning books, this would be the first one in. I’m not offended by the sex. If you’ve read my books, you certainly know that. I’m offended by the abject stupidity of the characters.

He’s a jerk with his own agenda. She’s a helpless little twit. I want to box their ears and shake them until they get some sense—or their brains scramble. I don’t care which.

I know this formula is an accepted plot line for many a romance novel. I want to assure my readers that you’ll never see it from me. And if you do, you have my permission to shake me until my brains scramble, because I’ll obviously have lost all my sense.

© Dellani Oakes 2014

To Buy Dellani’s Non-Formulaic Novels


6 thoughts on “Writing to a Formula? No Thanks!

  1. Welcome to the club, Dellani. It’s a small club, we who yawn at the trite drivel that passes as popular contemporary fiction today.

    I once edited a book for pay that I would not have read otherwise. The story premise was good; but the execution was poor, and no effort on my part could improve it because the author’s beta readers (composed mostly of family and friends) all loved it the way it was. The author had no desire to lift the genre above the drivel that’s out there; they identified their market, wrote to it, and argued with me that they were just writing to fill a niche the market.

    The sad thing is, this author’s first book is doing better than any of mine right now. All of which leaves me wondering why I bother wasting my time trying to please myself and write the best book I can when the consumer doesn’t care about quality, only cheesy sex scenes between characters who don’t even act in a believable fashion. To think I’ve been giving too much credit to a discerning consumer who doesn’t exist.

    • J. Conrad, just goes to show that there are a lot of ignorant, not very discerning readers out there.

    • Lisa, thank you for being a reader who objects. I find it so irritating that we are, as romance authors, supposed to follow that.

  2. I so agree, and isn’t that the formula that we all hate so much? I’m not into the love at first sight, when does that ever happen? If someone really upset you, wouldn’t you really just want to sock them in the mouth if they even thought about talking to you again?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s