Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Author as Bartender or How NOT to Mix a Wall-Banger

A writer must be many things in the writing of a book – storyteller, psychoanalyst, matchmaker, scholar, treasure hunter, tour guide – you get the picture. It is only recently that I have come to think that sometimes in this business a writer has to be a really savvy bartender.

Drinks tend to come in trends. For a while “sex on the beach” was THE “in” drink. Then daiquiris of every flavor became all the rage. Next came margaritas in every size, color and flavor under the sun. A good bartender anticipates these trends and introduces their patrons to the drinks they think will suit them. A really great bartender comes up with a new and different drink before the patrons even know that is exactly what they wanted.

The publishing world is much the same. Trends and genres wax and wane. I still say if someone can come up with an Amish vampire YA model who runs a detective agency they have got it made! So as a writer each of us has a choice. We can read up on the latest trends and try to jump on the band wagon or we can march to the beat of our own drummer and have to walk the whole route to publication. Wear comfortable shoes. And be prepared to step in some potholes, get rained on and to have to find a spot to rest every now and again.

But here is a way we might be able to help each other along that long and dusty dirt road. We’ve probably all read books that we literally or figuratively wanted to throw against the wall – hence the title WALL- BANGER. My question for you is – WHAT MAKES A BOOK A WALL-BANGER FOR YOU?

Some writers believe that women read a romance because we want to be the heroine. We want her to be just like us, but with better hair, nice clothes and a hotter guy chasing after us. Some believe we read them because we want to live a life completely different from our own. We don’t want to read about ourselves. We want to read about the wild and crazy woman we would be if things like jobs, husbands, and kids didn’t get in the way. Do we want to read about the nice, sweet girl next door or do we want to read about her best friend who is always in trouble and having a ball?

For me, a romance that ends with either the hero or heroine dying is definitely a wall-banger. I don’t mind an unlikable hero or heroine IF they have some redeeming quality and grow into a likable person by the end of the book. A much touted historical romance not long ago presented me with a hero and heroine I couldn’t stand. I kept reading and hoping and while neither of them became people I would want to invite to a dinner party, by the end of the book I was screaming at the hero that he could do better! Not good!

So dish, ladies! What is a deal breaker in a romance novel in your eyes? What makes you want to walk all the way back to Walmart and demand your money back? What makes you want to call the author in the night and say “What were you thinking?” What is your standard for a great romance? And what is the thing that will have you dropping that sucker in a Salvation Army box faster than Aunt Ethel’s annual fruitcake?
And just out of idle curiosity, does anyone have strong objections to a Regency heroine who has large snakes as pets? Just asking.

24 comments:

Callie James said...

Large snakes? Um, no.

LOL!

I read a mystery a few years ago that I chucked across the room because the author introduced the bad guy, an entirely new character, in the last three pages. Well, for me the whole point of a mystery is to figure out who did it. Don't introduce this guy to me in the last three pages. Another I tossed in the trash because I spent pages with the heroine (another mystery) during her black-moment-of-need, and at the very last second she pulled a revolver out of her ankle holster and shot the bad guy. A revolver we didn't know about until that very moment. So I was like ... um, no. She would have used this about an hour ago. It made me think she was a complete idiot. I felt like one as well because I'd invested so much time reading this idiot's story. Unfortunately, this was a book from one of my favorite authors and I didn't pick up another one of her books for a couple of years.

So I guess my biggest frustration stems from lazy writing. It's almost as though the author writes the heroine/hero into such a hole they don't know how to get them out.

Just my two cents.

Callie James said...

Oh, and when I say "idiot's story," I am not referring to the author but the heroine who would allow herself to be tortured and threatened for over an hour without pulling out that convenient little revolver from her holster. Hello?

Just clarifying.

Jeanie said...

I don't enjoy an excess of angst. You know what I mean, page after page of tortured love, agony and drama. I read criminal cases all day long. I want hot, happy romance. Sure, I want conflict, but I don't want an excess of angst. Dark, gloomy suffering. Yuck! I also hate rape scenes. Ahem, if the girl says no, it means NO. If a guy forces himself on a girl, even out of 'love' or uncontrollable 'passion' or a feeling of ownership/entitlement, it's a turn off. He's not a hero in my book.

As for the snake question, I would say no too. Makes me think of the circus or a sideshow. But that's just me. Others may be more open-minded about our reptilian neighbors.

Callie James said...

I'm with you Jeanie on the angst and also on the hero that's too forceful.

No thanks. Major turnoff.

Jeanie said...

Oh, and if the hero or heroine dies at the end of the book . . . it's not a romance it's a Nicholas Sparks book! Uh uh. I'm all about the HEA. If I want sad, I'll watch Lifetime.

Jeanie said...

No, I won't. I hate sad movies too. Okay, I'm going to shut up now.

M.V.Freeman said...

A wall banger? I think that's a neat way of looking at it.

Here are my wall-bangers:
*Weak hero (He can be weak in the beginning, but he better find a pair before the end).
*I don't like sad endings.
*Good doesn't win/Or success isn't reached, I believe they call this a "tragedy". NO. I don't like them. I always feel cheated.
* No character growth, i.e. they don't find a sense of humor, compassion, or change their mind over whatever the problem is.

See, I have lots of little wallbangers, but I will say this, I'll give it the old college try and read anything and try it. Much like trying a new recipe, just because I mix it up, it smells good, doesn't mean it tastes good--- but sometimes it does.

Great post!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Wallbangers? Anachronisms. Poor research. Heroes or heroines who are just Too Stupid To Live. Alpha men who never lighten up--having a set and shoving them in someone's face are two different things (and I happen to adore Alphas as a rule.)

And the list goes on . . .

Carla Swafford said...

When I read a book that claims to be a romance and it has an unhappy ending, not only do I throw it against the wall, I pick it up and tear it in half. Then throw it in the garbage. Yep, I hate them.

Dare waste my time...ha!

Another is a hunky, warrior-type hero who is dumb as a box of rocks. "Me want you. Sex now." I came across one the other day. Ticked me off. Thankfully it was an anthology and the other ones were good.

Or a nagging heroine. "If you don't do what I want, when I want it, then I do something too stupid to live. Wah!" Thankfully I don't see those as much as I use to.

Snakes in a Regency. It would be different. Quirky.

Kat Jones said...

A wall-banger... It takes a lot for me to throw a book down in disgust. And, even then, I finish it (even the REALLY bad one I read about two years ago that was the perfect example of what NOT to do - it was horrible!!!).

Mostly, a deal-breaker for me is when the story doesn't deliver what is promised (I typically pick up books based on my mood). If you promise me a romance on the cover - deliever.

Louisa Cornell said...

Callie,

You have hit on one of my pet peeves as well. Lazy writing. Especially if the book was pretty good to that point and suddenly the author just "phones it in."

I've read books before where the book ended and it seems that the author tacked another 30 pages or so on because she needed the word count or something.

Louisa Cornell said...

Jeanie,

I so agree with you on the not so happily ever after type book. That is DEFINITELY not a romance. Life is tough enough without reading something "true to life" for enjoyment. That is NOT my idea of enjoyment.

Louisa Cornell said...

M.V.

LOVE that recipe analogy!

And I had to laugh at your weak hero objection. I want my hero to have a pair from the start or to at least know he has them!

And hey, having a lot of reasons to call a book a wall-banger is not being picky. It's having standards! I like it!

Louisa Cornell said...

Love your list Gwynlyn !!

And I too am a stickler for accurate research. If writing GOOD historical romance was easy everyone would be doing it.

I happen to like reading research books and discovering exactly what dishes would be served in the first remove, second remove etc.

And I have to agree that while I LOVE an alpha male I have read a hero or two who abused the privilege!

Louisa Cornell said...

Carla !

Now YOU are a woman who knows how to express displeasure! But you are absolutely right. If I pay good money for a book I want it to deliver and if it doesn't it ticks me off.

It would be different if I didn't know how many great writers there are out there, writers like Carla Swafford, who should have been published long ago and yet some of the stuff that is published as romance these days just "ain't cuttin' it!"

Love your description of the "box of rocks" hero. What a complete turn-off!

And don't get me started about heroines that are whiners and too stupid too live. SHUDDER!

Hey, and at least ONE of you isn't totally opposed to a snake. Thanks!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Kat !

I remember that book. LOL You're right. It was HORRENDOUS! I did admire you though for sticking with it to the end. Some books you need to receive a medal for finishing!

I think you have hit the nail on the head. There is an unspoken promise when you pick up a romance novel. And it is the author's responsibility to deliver on that promise.

Lisa said...

I hate books that are billed as romances that have absolutely no sex--especially if the book has implied and hinted and built up to it. And then... nothing.

Jeanie said...

Louisa, what if the heroine's FATHER is the guy with the snakes doing research on snake venom? A real absent-minded professor type. His daughter is his assistant and she ADORES him . . . but she hates snakes. The snakes she tolerates for her dad's sake. She knows how to handle them, but she doesn't LIKE them. Maybe even has a case of the full blown heebies every time she has to handle one. I think most readers could connect with a daughter that loves her daddy enough to put up with reptiles for him, especially if she secretly had an aversion that she overcomes because she loves her father. I mean, that's true bravery, right?

Carla Swafford said...

Awwww! Lousia, *blush* you're such a sweetheart. Thanks.

Christine said...

I don't like romances that treat women with disrespect. Last year I read a book that was recommended to me based on the author. I was researching lines and trying to formulate the direction of my own writing and where it fit. Any rate, without going into details, I was so disgusted by the hero's use of the heroine I will NEVER read another one of this author's books again. I wasn't put off by the sexual content, but by the lack of respect for the heroine's recent violent encounter with a stalker. I wanted to burn the book.

Cari Hislop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cari Hislop said...

One regency romance made me so mad it inspired me. The hero was supposedly a rake hell, but really he was just a slut which is NOT the same thing. Unless you enjoy reading redeeming another rake romances like I do, you might not care, but for some unknown reason I do. A Rake is invariably a slut, but having studied real men who earned this title they were in league of their own...they were called rakes because they raked through hell. They were BAD! Call me naive, but I don't think being a slut makes anyone BAD. So reading that stupid book made me so mad and irritated that I decided to write my own version, which I did. Whether my version is any good is another story, but at least I put that rage to good use! :)

As a reader I need to be introduced to the hero and heroine by the end of the first two chapters. I have read some so called romances where one or the other remained unknown for endless chapters. Hate that!

I also hate pointless subplots that take the reader away from "the romance" between the hero and heroine. You know these sub plots are only there to pad out the number of pages because you could take them out and they wouldn't be missed.

As for snakes in a Regency...
I've never read one where the heroine had something to do with snakes. As you know, there were numerous lay people of the day who were fascinated by the emerging natural sciences including strange animals. Thinking of all the weird people who actually lived in the early 1800's...owning a pet snake is sane compared to the man who had his dead wife stuffed and propped in a chair in his living room for years...or the eccentric who had to wear, eat be surrounded by the colour green.

If you had a character who LOVED animals and she happened across a snake charmer or some small circus showing exotic animals in horrid conditions and the only one she could rescue was a snake...she'd rescue it wouldn't she. All sorts of funny things could happen!!! Imagine the snake getting free the day the the hero comes to call. He's sitting in her drawing room being some cool Alpha male...and she sees it under the sofa near his boot...so she pulls the man up off the sofa and jumps into his arms to kiss him so he won't see the snake... All sorts of interesting things could happen while she tries to keep her snake a secret!!!!
I think the snake idea is great. Go for it!!! :)

Cari Hislop said...

I hate pointless subplots that take the reader away from "the romance" between the hero and heroine. You know these sub plots are only there to pad out the number of pages because you could take them out and they wouldn't be missed.

As for snakes in a Regency...
I've never read one where the heroine had something to do with snakes. As you know, there were numerous lay people of the day who were fascinated by the emerging natural sciences including strange animals. Thinking of all the weird people who actually lived in the early 1800's...owning a pet snake is sane compared to the man who had his dead wife stuffed and propped in a chair in his living room for years...or the eccentric who had to wear, eat be surrounded by the colour green.

If you had a character who LOVED animals and she happened across a snake charmer or some small circus showing exotic animals in horrid conditions and the only one she could rescue was a snake...she'd rescue it wouldn't she. All sorts of funny things could happen!!! Imagine the snake getting free the day the the hero comes to call. He's sitting in her drawing room being some cool Alpha male...and she sees it under the sofa near his boot...so she pulls the man up off the sofa and jumps into his arms to kiss him so he won't see the snake... All sorts of interesting things could happen while she tries to keep her snake a secret!!!!
I think the snake idea is great. Go for it!!! :)

Cari Hislop said...

Sorry about the triple posting...the thing kept telling me my post was too long so I chopped it down...and now it won't let me delete the second chopped version.