Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
EDIT: If you like this journal entry, check out The Sarcastic Guide to Writing ebook www.amazon.com/The-Sarcastic-G… for exclusive content on world-building, character, and dialogue!

I feel compelled to point out that I don’t like the Romance genre at all, namely because I find too many of the protagonists to be bitchy, unrealistic hypocrite shrews.  Shipping is serious business for fandoms, but not so much for me: I could care less that Harry got together with Ginny and not Hermione.  That’s not to say I don’t have and don’t write romantic relationships, but I definitely examine it from a Hero’s Journey POV and really, really try to stay away from the tried-and-true Harlequin cliche’s.  I just thought a disclaimer was in order, since so much of the following is A) the meat and potatoes of the Romance genre, B) subjective, and C) full of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios.
Also: Twilight WILL be skewered in the following passages.

1.  Beware the Unfair Sex. Let me go ahead and set up a scenario for you: Bailey and Sam are together, married, maybe with some kids, but Sam is feeling wistful, increasingly unfulfilled and unhappy about the relationship.  Oh, Bailey’s nice enough, but drab, a milquetoast: just not the kind of companion that sets the world on fire.  Then Sam finds Dana, and oh!  Rainbows and unicorns frolic every time Dana appears!  Sam falls into Dana’s arms, delirious with joy, and damn the consequences!  Who’s the bad guy in this?  Well, it depends.  Who’s the woman, Sam or Bailey?  I can just about guarantee you that if Sam is a woman, her journey will be cheered by chick-lit feminists the world over, for breaking loose and chasing her heart’s dreams.  But if Sam is a guy, he’s a cheating bastard leaving his poor, loyal Bailey and cheating on her.  The Unfair Sex is a very specific kind of Double Standard; it occurs when one gender (usually the woman) is allowed to perform certain actions and get away with it, but if the other gender tries it, they’ll collect negative dividends.  This trope is unfortunately prevalent in real life; just try gender flipping the Twilight Moms and see how many 40-year-old men would be lambasted as perverts on the 9 o’clock news (especially if you gender flip Bella and Edward!).  Fiction, especially romance, tends to ignore the fact that infidelity is just as emotionally harmful for men as it is for women.  The Unfair Sex is the reason I can’t read romance, because I see women lie, cheat, and physically abuse their male counterparts without the kind of repercussion a man would get for doing the same.  Case in point: in Graceling by Kristin Cashore, the female protagonist loses her temper and smacks the crap out of her love interest’s face.  This is excused, hand-waved by feminine wiles, the girl’s admirable passion, and praise for curbing her plot-driving supernatural ability to kill people by just smacking him instead.  If the guy did that ... oh, man, if the guy did that ...we’d just ... we’d never hear the end of it  Make sure that if your hero or heroine is in a relationship, they attempt to curb their hypocrisy.  Or make sure that you, the author, are not saying in your head “It’s okay, because she’s a girl!  It’s okay, because he’s a guy!”  Abuse is abuse, jerkasses are jerkasses, and cheating is cheating.

2.  Healthy relationships aren’t made of two people whose self-worth depends on the other’s approval and immediate presence. In fact, if you have this kind of relationship, you’re probably headed for the rocks.  “I’m nothing without you!” is scary shit, that thin line between love and hate, and the kind of thing stalking and crimes of passion are made of.  Seriously, ask
any therapist about their biggest crazies, and odds are it’s someone who defined their self-worth this way.  Clingy partners tend to be so because they have self-confidence issues, see themselves undeserving of a happy relationship, and as such are paranoid about it ending.  These are the kind of people that blow up over nothing in real life, like “We’re you looking at her? Were you looking!?” And yet, a lot of romance is written this way!  That if (let’s face facts: most romance is written by women for women) the girl just finds the right guy, she can overcome all her crippling self-doubts and have her Gonna Fly Now Montage!  I mean, this hardly needs to be said, but you know Twilight does this.  In real life, social relationships are an admittedly large part of the chemical and biological needs of happiness and fulfillment, but there are other things like careers, philanthropy, or various “life dreams” that a person might also need to achieve satisfaction.  Shallow relationships are usually shallow because they break this rule: the characters in question have nothing else going for them but their relationship.  Which begs the question “What does so-and-so see in this person!?” Make sure your character is capable of being a decent person on their own before you bring in a Love Interest to solve all their problems.  Unless, of course, you’re writing romance, which does that anyway.

3. Arbitrary break-ups need not be arbitrary. Remember Friends?  No?  Good, me neither.  Because Ross and Rachel may well be single-handedly responsible for my hatred of stupid romances, or at least a good part of it.  I hated the “Will they?  Won’t they?”,  I hated the “We’re breaking up!  For real this time!”, and the “We were on a break!” that all boiled down to one thing: neither of them were capable of communicating.  Real love and long-lasting relationships are built on communication.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because with half the households in America now considered dysfunctional, there are a lot of folks growing up thinking that emotional abuse and drunken screaming is normal.  The Mister Perfect in a lot of romances isn’t perfect enough to read your mind, and that’s where the relationship gets into trouble.  (Not because of anything the woman did, like being batshit crazy unreasonable, see Rule #1.)  In fact, most of the guys in romances remind me of the Romanticorp robot in Futurama, where it says “My two biggest turn-ons are commitment and changing myself.” (And it still doesn’t save romance guys from the arbitrary break-up!)  Lack of communication is responsible for a lot of unnecessary conflict in a story, kind of the same unnecessary conflict Too Dumb To Live brings to horror movies.  People get stupid and we’re supposed to gasp and care.  If someone cheats or smacks you around, that’s a deal-breaker.  If someone tripped over your cat and didn’t apologize to it or inadvertently insulted your mother, that’s not.  

4.  Beauty shouldn’t always equal goodness, you know. This has to be addressed, just because of the overwhelming “facades-are-everything” message that Hollywood, advertising, and a good chunk of literature express.  (I dare you to look up Cracked.com’s Dating Advice from the Disney Princesses; I DARE you.)  I personally ascribe to Johnny Depp’s quote from Sleepy Hollow: “Evil wears many faces, and none so  dangerous as the face of virtue.”  When looks become the sole reason for a relationship (Man, do I even have to invoke the most egregious example here?), you may as well dip your toes, because you’re somewhere shallow.  A lot of times I find myself reading books with hot guys or girls and wondering “Would the hero/heroine have looked twice at this guy/girl if he/she were hunchbacked and covered in boils?”  I can admit that ugly isn’t fun, but it just seems that looks are pushed too far in the other direction.  That it’s not enough for someone to be inoffensive to the eyes, they’d better be a freaking adonis.  The opposite of this, when authors try to make an overweight housewife desirable, tends to move into Mary Sue or Anti-Sue territory if they’re behaving like the Unfair Sex.  (A hot chick would still be the Unfair Sex, but we’d forgive her for it, right, guys?) A perfectly pleasant homely looking person is really hard to find!  Again, look to Rule# 2 to avoid this pitfall as best you can; it’s not like we’ll all start wanting to read and write about the uggos and fatties getting their true loves.  (Indignant as I can get over this, I know I wouldn’t!)

5.  The relationship should parallel the main journey of the hero. Remember the last blog entry, where the hero’s goals have to be clear and so on?  The romantic journey should serve as the reward for the hero overcoming his inner and outer obstacles.  The girl didn’t want to be with the guy when he was a drunkard, but now that he’s gone through AA, he respects himself and her, and they fall in love.  (Or something.)  A lot of stories don’t do this; that the relationship is everything, it is the journey, and well ... you know where you end up. (Coughcoughtwilightcoughcough.) The movie Rocky is actually a good example of this done right, because Rocky overcomes physical and inner challenges to reach his goals, but his ultimate reward and satisfaction is Adrian’s presence in his life.  (For that matter, Shaun of the Dead does a great job of showing how the girl is the Hero’s Elixir, his ultimate reward for his zombie ordeal.)  A relationship should add to the character, show us a side we haven’t seen before.  A good chunk of fanfiction is this concept alone, usually sadly and hilariously executed.  This should also be true of the Love Interest, who, I’ve noticed, tends to be a cardboard jigsaw piece that, held correctly, neatly fits into the main character’s flaws to make a wonderful, wonderful whole.  Except that it’s flat and stupid and we all know it won’t last.  The relationship should last because we’ve seen the hero become someone different and worthwhile, both having earned and being worthy of the relationship.
  • Listening to: D N Angel Intro (Full)
  • Reading: Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey
  • Watching: Shaun of the Dead
  • Playing: Robot Unicorn Attack
Add a Comment:
 
:iconthewhitejewel:
TheWhiteJewel Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013
THANK YOU. I am a firm lover of romance but not without these 5 rules. You've no idea how many times I have yelled at the screen when watching chick flicks or whatever or gritted my teeth while reading a lurid book. WHERE IS THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. 

Also, I've never really like character who were just there to be "Love Interest". Characters who are in a relationship should still be a character in their right. Which is a shame because I don't see it as often as I should. If there is no development or that much interaction between them how am I supposed to care whatever the outcome of their relationship is? Why are they even together in the first place? What will keep them together beyond "they're hot" or "they were the first to approach me romantically"?


Reply
:iconfullmetalzergrush:
FullmetalZergRush Featured By Owner May 10, 2012
Great journal! :] The romance if any story should be realistic and congruent, almost like the treat of the story, in my opinion. It is best used as a side story. It's never appealing to a big audience as the main plot, unless the target audience is...stupid. Also, we should always let the "lovers" argue. Doesn't have to be big, but not petty, maybe not even pronounced, but the relationships where they get along hunky-dory all the time are not only lame, but very unrealistic. I just had a revelation from the one I'm working on now and looking back. Even best friends have spats. That almost strengthens the bond, doesn't it?
Reply
:iconcassiethomas:
CassieThomas Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
I love #3. I cannot COUNT the number of times I've been participating in one of the myriad forms of fiction that now exist and wanted to scream out loud 'JUST FREAKING SAY WHAT YOU MEAN!'

I love your articles, too. So many 'advice' articles and essays here on dA have one or more of four problems that make them hard to glean anything from:

a) not fully describing the problem, only touching on the surface

b) being needlessly harsh and condescending, leaving a bad taste in my mouth even if I know they make a valid point

c) only criticizing, without offering any real help on how to avoid the problems they mention

d) complaining about things they don't like with no real solid reasons why these things are bad

Your articles avoid all this and actually offer helpful tips, which is so, so refreshing.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2010
Thanks! I'm really glad to hear when people find the articles helpful; sometimes I feel like I'm just talking out my ass. But I know what you mean about a lot of blogs just complaining. I'm glad not to be counted among them.
Reply
:iconcassiethomas:
CassieThomas Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
:>
Reply
:iconpalin11:
Palin11 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2010
Quote: "....the Love Interest, who, I’ve noticed, tends to be a cardboard jigsaw piece that, held correctly, neatly fits into the main character’s flaws to make a wonderful, wonderful whole. Except that it’s flat and stupid and we all know it won’t last. The relationship should last because we’ve seen the hero become someone different and worthwhile, both having earned and being worthy of the relationship."

Sheesh, it has to be this way, duh! How else could we get a new love interest for every sequel! Okay, that's my complaint about the romances in about any other genre.

But, thank you, this is an awesome article and a great guide for anyone thinking about writing a story. Romance or not.
Reply
:iconcuzzacurry:
CuzzaCurry Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2010  Student Digital Artist
I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU!!

Indeed, scary shit lol
Reply
:iconall-these-kiwis:
All-These-Kiwis Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2010
Why didn't you make deviations out of this so I can fav it? These are all very useful guides, buy the way<3
Reply
:iconnikaleles:
Nikaleles Featured By Owner May 25, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
OH MAN. I ttly love you for these.
Reply
:iconlostforeveragain:
lostforeveragain Featured By Owner May 18, 2010
I know you've heard this over and over again, plus I'm a bit late commenting, but I'm so happy to see #1 up there and so beautifully explained. My mother tries to get me to watch these romantic comedies with her and when I tell her I hate them she doesn't get why. The girls are complete bitches and the guys are the ones appologizing in the end! It's infuriating.
Reply
:iconravenwind137:
Ravenwind137 Featured By Owner May 1, 2010
Couldn't have said it better myself. It's why whenever, I find a good fanfic, (or even just a good novel, nowadays) I have to jawdrop in awe.

Seriously, there are a number of stories I can think of off the top of my head that would have been so much better if the author had just taken the five minutes it took me to read this.

Its sad that while this may seem obvious, yet people continue to fall for stories that go against the guidelines mentioned above.

Nice work :)
Reply
:iconkeaze:
Keaze Featured By Owner May 1, 2010
I agree with most of these, especially #2 and #3. #2 is the reason I don't like romance as a genre (although I love it as an element in stories). I just don't enjoy seeing characters whose only purpose is to fall in love with eachother. Whose whole personality is completely dependent on the other one and without their loved one, they're an empty, boring shell *coughbellaswancough*. If I can't care for the character, I won't care for their relationship status either.
#3 is just...it just fills me with hate and irritation. Did you get together? Do you like it? Then why the hell do you need to break up five times over nothing? If they don't like being together, they shouldn't hook up in the first place. Are their break-ups supposed to create some kind of tension? Because it's not working.
Reply
:icondarkn2ght:
darkn2ght Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2010
i agree that beauty doesn't=goodness 0[]o/!!!! i have a friend who is really beautiful and smart and to all aspects, perfect. pity we all know she's a two face if ever there was one...i think u should add beauty doesn't equal to perfection either. am thinking of giving my female character flaws. at least, they will sound more believable! XD
Reply
:iconcho-zero:
cho-zero Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
OMG. You're awesome! Thanks for your insight!
Reply
:iconlit-twitter:
Lit-Twitter Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2010
Chirp, hilarious and frank points. It's been twittered. :)
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2010
Oh, wow. Thanks!
Reply
:iconwadifahtook:
wadifahtook Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2010
Not just romance, but also views on children tend to creep me the fuck out in the US. Real-life views too, not just what ends up in print. Also, marriage and virginity. All those themes boil together in a wonderful stew of creepiness and insecurity.
Reply
:iconredmagesalyre:
Redmagesalyre Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2010
I wish there was a button to "like" or "fave" a journal. Would definately come in handy for these.
Reply
:iconmajnouna:
Majnouna Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2010  Professional General Artist
These should be news articles so they can be faved :D
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2010
I am intrigued! How would we do that?
Reply
:iconmajnouna:
Majnouna Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2010  Professional General Artist
Oh, you've never posted a news article? Go to any article and at the upper right you'll see a "Post a news article" button. and just fill in the boxes with your contents :D You can even post a link to each journal as a news article, this way it can be faved but people will land on your journal for the full text.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2010
Woohoo! Thanks for the tip. I've got everything up now, so the articles can be faved by my minions.
I mean fans!
Reply
:iconmajnouna:
Majnouna Featured By Owner May 2, 2010  Professional General Artist
Saw them, wicked!
Reply
:iconwolvenicecube:
wolvenicecube Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010
perhaps if you make enough of these you ought to publish them :D
Reply
:iconfurrama:
Furrama Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010   Digital Artist
You really should make these deviations so I can fave them- they are wonderful to sit down and read.
Reply
:iconweird-oddball-girl:
Weird-Oddball-Girl Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
You've really hit the nail on #1. I especially hate it when that kind of shit is handwaved by, as you call them, chick-lit feminists. I thought feminists were for EQUALITY, not "women-can-treat-men-like-shit-and-not-get-in-trouble-for-it-lol". :no: Quite franky, it just makes feminists look like jerks and women-empowerment look mean, and that's definately NOT what we want.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010
I've noticed that a lot of feminists definitely think the second definition is in the dictionary.
Reply
:iconkriraen:
Kriraen Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
I love these! They're as entertaining to read as they are helpful.
Reply
:iconomniwitch:
OmniWitch Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010  Professional Writer
Bleh, romance. Gimme a baby eating witch and acid sneezing shark-mutant instead.

(although, 27 dresses and She's the Man are really funny movies)
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
Hey, I like a lot of the old fairy tales and I'm a sucker for Labyrinth and Princess Bride, which are romances.
Reply
:iconomniwitch:
OmniWitch Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010  Professional Writer
They don't count. They have other important plot elements, like dead people who play jazz and goblin kings in tights.

Did you ever read Peter & Max? If not, it might be up your ally. Two characters (the protagonist and his wife) smuggle each other into towns vi giant pumpkins.
Reply
:iconnobirobi:
NobiRobi Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
These journals are just amazing :3 Thank you much for this one especially!

Do you mind if I show some of them to my danish teacher?(teaches literature, he has forced bad book after bad book upon my class, mostly bad teen-romance novels)
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
Sure, go ahead. Let me know what he says!
Reply
:iconalectryomachy:
alectryomachy Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
The Unfair Sex is a point that needs to be recognized more often. I'm sick of the bullshit that's associated with hitting a woman. Even taking into consideration that men are usually built stronger than women, that doesn't mean all women are weaklings. After all, if a bodybuilder puts his guard down around a beautiful, slender woman, she doesn't need to match his muscles to be able to kill him. A large knife in the back in the correct place can kill faster than a beating ever could.

I'm also sick of slutty characters being allowed to get away with their actions because they're beautiful. If they're pretty, they're "misunderstood" but if they're ugly they're just whores that no one cares about. lolwut.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
One of my brother's biggest points during our conversation about deconstructing romance is how so many men appear to rape a woman into liking it and them. I think that's definitely on par with the "hot girls get away with stuff" on the man side of The Unfair Sex. I mean, how much more anti-male AND anti-female can you get? And these are the bread and butter of romance!
Reply
:iconalectryomachy:
alectryomachy Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010
I know! The "no means yes" followed by immediate symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome is SO annoying. I want to strangle the people who write this shit.
Reply
:iconfelineflames:
felineflames Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
Oh man, you brought up the Unfair Sex. THANK YOU! Woman don't get extra violence allowance points because we were previously somewhat oppressed, people! If I have to hear one more argument that Lady Hero can (and SHOULD!) beat the tar out of a guy because All Men are Pigs/Rapists/Pure Evil, I will go insane. Especially when that same Lady Hero usually finds Mr. Shining Adonis and turns back into a swooning, vapid weenie at the end. The hypocrisy! It burns us, Precious!

Also, I just looked up the Cracked.com thing, and wow. Hilarious, but at the same time really disturbing because it's so true. lol
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
Yeah, the Disney Princess thing was like "MY childhooooooooood!"
And the argument that women are allowed to be as bad as their oppressors makes no sense to me, real life or literature. I mean, it's not helping anyone in the long run, and it's not behaving in a very heroic fashion either. I think have a particular hatred for the "I don't need anyone to help me!" woman who then swoons and admits "Oh, I need someone to help me. Especially if he's cute." Stupid!
Reply
:iconsnaphance93:
Snaphance93 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Student Digital Artist
Ugh, Graceling... Had to put it down after the first hundred pages. The concept of graces was interesting enough, but the heroine... Blargh.

And by the way, "We’re you looking"?

But once again, a lovely journal. I fully agree with you on all those points. And now I look forward to see what the next journal is about :P
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2010
Stormwing, if you're not careful, you might become my grammar nemesis. Either that or someone I'll need to typo-check for me when my next manuscript is done.
Graceling was kind of okay; the ending really saved it. Sort of. But I definitely had some hypocrite romance tropes in my head while I was reading it, because my brother had recommended a book that deconstructs romances and we'd just had a long conversation about it.
Reply
:iconfablepaint:
FablePaint Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Professional Filmographer
dude, you did it! Thanks!!
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010
Tell me I did good with the Futurama reference. Droemar did good?
Reply
:iconfablepaint:
FablePaint Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Droemar did good *tosses stale biscuit at*
Oh, and here is a super awesome amazing cartoon that I just know you will ADORE :D :D :D
[link]
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010
Now I'm really confused. But I only have one question.
Do we ever get to see the lion girl ride her horse?
Reply
:iconfablepaint:
FablePaint Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010  Professional Filmographer
You know, it was so bad I couldn't get past the second episode. And then I had to really, really fight the urge to shut it off.
This coming from someone who watches bad cartoons all the time for shits and giggles.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010
LOL! THANK YOU! I was like "Uh, does she like this, and if I badmouth it am I gonna get in trouble or ...?" I didn't make it past the second advertisement slot on Hulu.
I watch bad cartoons for teh evuls all the time, too. Tell me you've seen the rapping dog on Titanic: The Animated Movie.
Reply
:iconfablepaint:
FablePaint Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Yes, I've watched a lot of that one. But I still argue Lionhearts is worse. T:TAM is just weird. Lionhearts is blander than a desalted mushy saltine.
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2010
I think I checked out when the Mom was like "Teach your son there's more to life than his guitar!" I mean, most parents would be thrilled that their kid had that kind of self-discipline and passion. Music scholarship at 13, anyone? But no, they decided he didn't fit some kind of mold ... Family Unfriendly Aesop.
I think Betty White from Golden Girls was the makeup artist.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
ah, glory! right in one again! :clap: or... five, as it may be. ;)
Reply
:icondroemar:
Droemar Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2010
Aw, pshaw .. I'm right in way more than that! Like, I dunno .. somewhere in the vicinity of always? ;)
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:icondroemar: More from Droemar


Featured in Collections

Journals by SavageFrog

Writing Info by AlexJudge

writing help by hellhoundoom


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
April 24, 2010
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
3,217
Favourites
43 (who?)
Comments
63
×