I have a little trick I use whenever I start to lag behind on a novel. I start reading Harlequin Romances.
It’s not that I like them. Actually, I think they might cause brain damage. I’m also not a big fan of sex scenes in books. In fact, aside for a certain perk (that I’ll get into), I haven’t found one redeeming part to any of these books. I hate 12 pages of sex scenes. I hate weak virgin heroines and inexplicably mean heroes. I hate formulaic plot coincidences, hidden babies, sick parents and girls willing to prostitute themselves ‘for a good reason’. I hate hookers with hearts of gold, reformed bad boys, handsome billionaires, and any mention at all of ‘throbbing members’.
But they do come with one perk. ‘What’s that perk?’ you might ask. Simple; Harlequin Romances piss me off.
Personally, I think that every writer has an emotional period when their writing is strongest. Some writers write better when they’re happy, others when their anxious. Hemingway wrote better drunk and Steinbeck wrote better when he was intensely depressed. But me?
I write better when I’m furious.
As I’m reading these piles of drivel, I actually rework them in my head. See the below example;
The Hot Greek Billionaires Innocent Virgin Mistress Secret Baby Drama Super Romance Desire Special Edition
Alejandro Euless Eucalyptus Catamaran III stared at the plainly dressed woman who’d just arrived in his office, demanding that he not knock down the ‘Babies with Cancer’ ward he was planning on destroying in order to expand his conglomerate company. As a billionaire playboy, with no discernible career, and inexplicably giant piles of money (despite the complete collapse of the Greek financial market) he was not used to taking orders from anyone. Particularly plainly dressed women who showed up in his office unannounced…no matter how much they set his loins afire.
“Listen,” he glared down at the soft spoken blonde with a sardonic smile, watching her tremble “I’ve dealt with your type before. As a self made billionaire with an alcoholic step father and a whorish mother, I know that deep down, all women are whores. So I’ll make you a deal. Because no man wants someone more in their bed more than a woman with no idea what she’s doing, I’ll keep the ward if you agree to be my mistress for a month.”
Alexandra Virginia Angle Saint bit her lip as she looked down at the floor, unable to meet the man’s glittering eyes. Her breath caught in her throat at his shocking suggestion. Just as she was about to stammer our her hesitant answer…
A black combat boot came slamming through the door. It flattened the door to the ground and a smoking hot blond, wearing an eye patch and a lavender overcoat (this is how I always appear in my fantasies) came storming in, a bottle of Jack Daniels dangling from her hand.
“Ok, that’s about enough of this shit,” the new arrival snapped as the dust clear from where she had kicked in the door. “I’m Essa, and I’m here to fix your story.”
“Excuse me?” Alejandro stormed across the room, his eyes glittering with anger. “I’ll have you know I’m a Greek billionaire with…”
CRACK! Essa pimp slapped Alejandro with her pimping hand and he crumpled to the floor like a used tissue. She glared down at him.
“Can someone please fucking explain to me why it’s always cool for the hero to have a ton of baggage, but when the heroine has baggage, it’s a problem? When will women learn you can’t fix a broken man?”
Essa continued to glare at the man as he attempted to scamper away on his backside. “Look douchebag, you know what? This chick doesn’t need to accept your mistress offer because in real life, she’d just sue your douchey ass until you were fucking penniless.” The man started to speak and Essa put up a hand to cut him off. “And don’t start with how ‘rich and powerful’ you are. Here in America, we have a little something called contingency fees and I’m certain a whole army of ambulance chasers would be happy to sue you just for 30% of the profits.” Essa’s eyes bored holes in the now sputtering, helpless man. “Also, just because a woman likes sex does not make her a whore. It makes her a healthy individual with high self esteem and there is nothing fucking wrong with that.”
Essa spun around, finished with the man. “And you!” her wrathful, but incredibly beautiful gaze landed on Alexandra, “considering prostitution, despite the fact you’re a virgin.” Essa rolled her eyes as Alexandra continued to tremble. “Let me ask you a question…”
“Um, ok” Alexandra quaked in her boots under the awesomeness that was Essa.
“Would you still consider fucking this dude for money,” Essa snapped her fingers “if he looked like this?”
Alexandra looked over and where a once handsome Alejandro had been was a man who looked suspiciously like George Costanza from Seinfeld.
“Hell no!” Alexandra exclaimed.
Essa smiled in satisfaction. “That’s what I like to see. A little backbone in a woman.” Essa shook her head. “You know, you’re not entirely at fault for this. You’re just a carryover from the 80s, bred to be a cliché. But I think I know someone who could help you.”
Alexandra’s eyes widened uncertainly. “Is it another handsome billionaire? I’m getting a bit sick of those.”
“No, actually, it’s a woman…and she would fucking wreck this dude in a fight.” Both Essa and Alexandra tossed disdainful glares are the formerly handsome Greek billionaire, writhing on the floor. “She might not be able to give you an orgasm with just a look, but she could teach you how to make a flame thrower out of a fire extinguisher.”
Alexandra, tired of being the same old clichéd Madonna, finally grew a pair. “Ok, I think I’d like that.”
“Cool. We’re going to a bar called the Strangely Sober. The beer might suck. But the company can’t be beat.”
Essa and Alexandra disappeared, leaving Alejandro weeping on the floor.
Generally, I only have to get four or five pages into any Harlequin romances before I show up and start kicking ass. Then I move onto my own novels, making sure to kick a little more ass.
Honestly, I’ve been using this trick since I was a kid. However, if you’re an author who likes to write chicks with a backbone, there is no better place to start than at their polar opposite; i.e. the Harlequin romance heroine.
God, I feel bad for those chicks. It must suck so hard to not know how to rock out loud.