Monday, September 19, 2011

Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See - Part I

By editors Laura Kelly and Vicky Reed

This is a two part blog post, presented by Vicky Reed, Sweetheart Rose Editor, and Laura Kelly, Crimson Rose Editor. Vicky kicks things off with our first five pet peeves, and Laura will continue next week with the last five pet peeves and a bonus tip.  Are any of these in your manuscript?  You might be surprised.

1. The story is filled with happy coincidences that magically solve problems for the hero and heroine.

A good example of this is the romantic suspense where the hero and heroine are trapped. The hero dropped his gun into the elevator shaft to save the heroine from tumbling to her doom, the building is on fire, and a killer is on the loose. It looks like the end for our dauntless duo—but suddenly, a SWAT team arrives.

Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright, once said that if you have a gun above the mantelpiece in Act One, you’d better shoot it before the curtain falls. In other words, if you lock your hero in a building with a crazed killer, and set the basement on fire, tell your reader who the hero is, what he does, and why SWAT is keeping track of him—before they break in.

Write down the major plot points. Does everything flow logically from point A to point B? If not, then re-think your story line. 

2.  Writers who manipulate the plot to suit their ideas of what a nice scene would be, and it doesn’t logically follow the plot.

Usually this involves some clich├ęd love scene.  Maybe after being rescued your hero and heroine are caught in a torrential downpour and find shelter in a ramshackle tenement. It’s cold, they’re both soaked, wind is whistling through the bug-sized cracks but--despite the blue tinge to their anatomy--they stop to have sex.

Like like that Seinfield episode where George yells, “I have shrinkage,” events have to contain logic. Unless you’ve laid the groundwork to establish your hero is a superhuman sex machine, sub-zero temperatures are the opposite of a turn on.  So are sand, insects, reptiles, or rodents in the vicinity, and scenes where they haven’t bathed in days, but the minute they are alone and supposedly ‘safe,’ they have sex.

3.    Characters not acting in character.

In Linda Seger’s book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, she explains that every character is the result of how they grew up, their background and their core personalities. We are the sum of our parts. A person’s qualities in turn imply other qualities. A former policeman can be expected to know something about guns and the law. A heroine presented as a savvy businesswoman can’t go around making one bad decision after another.  Every action is filtered through experience and background. Once you create a person, you must remain true to who and what you have created.

4.  Characters who stomp, stalk, clench fists and glare at each other, exhibit no self-control and are victims of their emotions, including passion.

A character who stomps around with her fists clenched, glaring at the hero until the touch of his hand makes her hot for him is two-dimensional. A well-drawn heroine has emotions that are true to her background and core personality. Nobody has only one or two emotional reactions, and as we grow, we learn to exert control over our actions. It’s all a part of growing up.

5.  Writers who think bickering equals conflict.

Every word should push your story forward. Bickering is verbal quicksand. Once the snappy comebacks stop, is there anything preventing your hero and heroine from falling into each other’s arms except word count? Tell me why your hero and heroine can’t be joined, and then—put that gun on the mantelpiece.

That’s enough for today…come back next week for five more of our personal pet peeves…

Thanks and happy writing/revising!

22 comments:

Nightingale said...

Oops. I think I'm guilty of the stomping and fist clenching but usually on the hero's part with a secondary character.

Harlie Reader said...

Great post. I love the tips that yall have on this blog. Can't wait for next week's installment.

Harlie Reader said...

I totally agree with #2. Seriously? I need to get warm first and then maybe some sleep. I don't like reading it so I won't be writing it.

Joanne Stewart said...

Great post. Most of this annoys me to read, so I'm positive I don't write it. Like the cold thing where they suddenly stop to have sex when it makes no sense why they would. And I HATE when I'm reading a book where it's obvious that the way the character is acting is completely at the whim of the writer and not because it's natural for the character. that's one my biggest pet peeves too.

I'm positive I don't do most of this, but the fist clenching thing I'm going to have to check. lol

Mary Jean Adams said...

I've always hated sex on the beach scenes. Sand, salt water and bacteria seem more conducive to a good UTI than the big O.

Michele said...

Hooray! This is great. I've argued with people over cutting scenes like this from their manuscripts. The one I really hate is the one where they have sex when they are exhausted, wounded, been crossing a desert for days, etc. Yuck!

Kelly McCrady said...

Along with the "no sex on the beach, please--no, really" I have a pet peeve of characters who kiss shortly after one of them has vomited. I'm sorry--brushing teeth or rinsing mouth is not enough. If I'm feeling nauseated, the LAST thing I want to do is kiss, cuddle, or get it on.

I read a story to my daughter that cracks me up often--the hero is mistaken for a bear due to his fuzzy coat and hat. He eats a meal with them and uses a fork "that he happened to have in his pocket." Coincidence can be taken too far LOL.

Joyce Palmer said...

The one that bothers me the most is the bickering. I like my conflict to come from other sources rather than my couple fighting all the time. I'm not talking about a snip or two. Those can be funny. I've actually put books down because the constant fighting has gotten on my nerves. I can see why editors don't like this.

ChristineWarner said...

Loved all these peeves and couldn't agree more. I have to say that the bickering one is a big annoyance to me too. I like a bit of sassiness, but fighting over something stupid...is well...it's stupid and makes it easy to put the story down. Looking forward to next weeks peeves!

Barbara Weitz said...

Loved the post. There were some things that made me stop and re-evaluate my characters actions in my next project. Thanks for the insights.

Cara Marsi said...

This is a great post. I've probably been guilty of a few of these. I think sex on the beach can work, but you've got to have a blanket for them to lie down on. I have a problem with mostly historicals when the h/h are traveling through the woods, haven't bathed in days, stop to have sex, then get dressed and continue on, with still no bathing. I know scenes where the hero stumbles upon the heroine bathing in a stream are cliched, but I like to read them. At least the characters are clean.

Angi said...

OMG the acting out of character part drives me nuts. Example: transporting a woman back in time ISN'T goin to suddenly change her from a modern independent woman to a spineless twit who whines that she'll be bored when their man goes to work. REALLY?!?!

Sex on the beach is only good in From Here to Eternity and as a mixed drink, otherwise it's EXTREMELY uncomfortable (trust me on this one) as well as illegal in most places.

I could go on about the rest of the other pet peeves too ... but I won't LOL

I'm not an author but I'm the one you want BUYING your books ... make me happy and I promise you I'll tell every single person I know that your book is awesome. If it sucks or has too many issues ... guess what I'll suggest they not buy? Yes that's right ... YOUR book.

Angi said...

Cara in the historicals, as gross as we would consider it now, the not bathing part is actually more accurate.

Depending on the location and time period they DIDN'T bathe very often, at certain points in history people bathed about once a year.

Debra St. John said...

Great things to keep in mind.

These posts are fabulous...I love getting a peek at our editors' toughts!

DebraStJohnRomance

Carlene Bacchus said...

Great information! Patiently waiting on the rest.

Joanna Aislinn said...

Excellent post, Vicky. Off to check that one love scene again...

Tara Lynx said...

Great post!

#1 is a particular pet peeve of mine - deus-ex-machina solutions have ruined lots of books (and films) for me.

Kellie Kamryn said...

This kind of made me chuckle because haven't we as writers all been there when we just want something convenient?
I'm such a stickler for the "no-bathing" or "teeth-brushing" thing. I know there things we'd like to be romantic like getting it on at the beach but sand in intimate places for real? I can't help but cringe while I read that! LOL Great reminders!

Isabella Macotte said...

Great info. Am checking my latest manuscript to make sure I'm not guilty...

Tess Thieler said...

I love it when us writers receive such valuable insight from the editors. Thank you! I agree with everything I've read so far, except most of the sex on the beach comments. Yes, you NEED a blanket, but the highlight of my honeymoon was a midnight stroll to a deserted beach where we set the blanket in the "shade" of a palm tree beneath a near-full moon. *sigh* So yes, sotb can be a beautiful and breathtaking experience with the surf crashing nearby. ;)

StephB said...

Awesome tips! Thanks so much for sharing!
Smiles
Steph

Ea Bloom said...

Great Tips. It's easy to agree with these points when they are nicely put-across like this. I can say, though, that most of these bother me too as a reader, so hopefully I haven't fallen victim to the same in my writing :-)