Writing Discussion

Romance is yucky

Yesterday, writer-blogger Jen Burke of Jen’s Bookshelf wrote a post about how she hates to write battle scenes. At the end of it, she asked readers to talk about what scenes they hate to write.

I thought about it and I realized I couldn’t come up with any specific kind of scene I hate writing. Usually, if I have an idea for a scene and I don’t want to write it, I simply don’t write it. If I’m not enthused about writing it, it’s sure not going to be any fun for a reader to read, and that’s a great way to lose the reader. (For the record, Jen’s dislike of writing battle scenes seems to stem not from a lack of enthusiasm but from her lack of confidence in her ability to write them credibly.)

So there’s no category of scene that I hate writing, apparently. But genres, well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

I passionately detest writing romance. I used to read the genre, but I became bored by it, so I no longer do. I don’t mind that people write it, I certainly don’t mind if people want to read it, but I do NOT want to write it. And I’m not saying that I don’t like writing romantic storylines or romantic scenes. I have no problem at all with including a romance within the context of my story – in fact, chances are good that I will if the plot seems open to it. But I can’t stand writing a story that exists solely for the purpose of putting two characters together romantically.

Recently, I participated in a screenwriting contest that required us to write short screenplays to a prompt within a randomly selected genre. In my first round, I drew the genre Romance. Blech! I had eight days to create a romance story of 12 pages or less. I forced myself to put aside my natural tendency to puke at the idea of writing romance and churned the thing out.

It was a pretty decent script. Sufficiently decent that I advanced to the next round, where I drew the Fantasy genre, much more to my liking. And that round produced what is arguably my best work, which took me to the final round, where I was given Science Fiction. That script (written within a deadline of 24 hours! Yikes!) went on to place seventh in the competition, the second honorable mention.

And none of it would have happened if I had allowed my aversion to romance to stop me from producing good work. I’m not sure what the moral is there, but I’m pretty sure there is one.

People who have read the first script have pronounced it to be a pleasurable read, but I can’t even bear to look at it. Just thinking about it makes me embarrassed. I suspect that my deeply negative feelings about the genre reflect a belief that writing something that is solely a romance makes me emotionally vulnerable in a way that is too much of a risk for me. But the fact that I have no qualms about putting romance into a larger story tells me that I’m not entirely unable to cope with emotional vulnerability, so I’ll call it good for now.

What about you? Is there a genre that you hate writing (or reading) so much that the very thought of doing so makes you want to claw out your brain?



19 thoughts on “Romance is yucky

  1. Haha. I don’t know why this strikes me as funny.

    Either way, I can’t think of one particular genre that makes me want to claw my brain out. I’m not big on police/detective work and lawyer-y stuff. Too technical for me, actually. I much prefer writing thriller/suspense novels with, yes, a bit of romance. πŸ˜‰

    Posted by Emerald Barnes | August 26, 2011, 2:07 pm
  2. I have genres that I wouldn’t attempt to write, but that’s more because I don’t think I could do them justice than because I hate them. I did try and write a Mills and Boon romance years ago, but I had to stop because it was obvious to me that my heart wasn’t in it. I was trying to write to a formula and it showed. The lesson I learned there was that if you don’t believe in the story don’t bother trying to write it.

    Posted by Sarah Pearson | August 26, 2011, 4:18 pm
  3. Great topic! I’ve never really thought about it before, but now that you ask the question I would have to say romance. With my YA novel I tried writing a scene that involved just a kiss, and it was so difficult, so embarrassing, and the end result was shallow and lifeless. I definitely will need some help in that department of writing, eventually. I’ve never tried to write fantasy. I love Terry Goodkind, I think he’s considered fantasy sort of, but I haven’t read much fantasy otherwise, so I’d probably struggle there, too.

    I love the fact that you participated in a screenwriting contest! That must have taken a lot of courage πŸ™‚

    I am hoping to form a critique group with other writers from the campaign, mainly focusing on short stories or short clips of WIP. If you’re interested please let me know! My email is kimberlyzook(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you for commenting on my blog!

    Posted by Kim | August 27, 2011, 1:02 am
    • You know, even though I’ve got little experience in screenwriting, entering the contest wasn’t hard for me – it was almost a lark. (I definitely did it during a phase of strong confidence.) But the crazy deadlines made it a total rush, so there was no time to be scared once it began. Fortunately!

      I’m definitely interested in a critique group! I’ll email you. πŸ™‚

      Posted by Leanne D Baldwin | August 27, 2011, 2:04 am
  4. Hello, I’m here from the Campaign to say hi. We are in the same Dystopian group and I look forward to visiting more.

    I’m not sure I’d be all that great at contemporary, even though I have sort of an idea for one in my brain. πŸ™‚

    Posted by Kimberly | August 28, 2011, 6:00 pm
  5. That is AWESOME that you were able to put your feelings about the romance genre aside and write a script that was able to help you advance through the contest! Clearly you truly CAN do anything if you put your mind to it (or maybe I should say, if you put your mind to something else, like how much you wanted to win that contest! Lol…)

    As for me? I’m not much of a romance reader, either. I have written stuff, though, that was a little heavier on the romantic side; (however, I’d hesitate to actually put them in the romance category except for one short story… I’ve also never really been that into mysteries/legal thrillers. As one of your commenters above said, too much freaking work! I’d have to line up interviews with cops, lawyers, etc. etc. Yipes! Anyhoo, I’m a big fan of writing (and reading) what you love and what you’re passionate about and if romance ain’t it, well, there is nothing wrong with you avoiding the genre in both your reading and your writing.

    Posted by Crystal | August 29, 2011, 8:12 am
    • I agree, Crystal – one should write only what one really enjoys. With reading, it’s likely that a writer should be more wide-ranging, for the sake of education and professional development, but there’s no doubt that she should read extensively in whatever genre(s) she tends to write.

      I used to be an insatiable reader of mysteries, detective stories, police procedurals, and legal thrillers. I’m not sure if I OD’d on them or if I finally just had gotten everything out of those genres that I could. One thing is certain: I’ve never been able to write a mystery worth a darn.

      Posted by Leanne D Baldwin | August 31, 2011, 1:26 pm
  6. I like romance, but I’m selective about the types of romance books that I read. The formulaic Mills and Boon stuff isn’t for me, and contemporary romance/Chick-lit type stuff makes me want to gag. I wrote a LOT of that kind of thing in high school and college, but these days I really can’t stomach the thought of writing anything of that nature.

    I don’t like writing stories set in contemporary worlds — they’re too boring for me. I love it when stories play out against a whimsical, fantastical background, and I absolutely adore world-building. I still like romance, but I prefer romantic subplots, rather than stories about romance. I’m currently working on a steampunk murder mystery that is set in 1880s San Francisco (which involves a love triangle in the background), and a fantasy novel that currently is without a romance subplot (this is a first for me). I’ve got an erotic romance on the backburner, but even that is set in a world inspired by ancient Mediterranean societies, and tackles some larger themes than, you know, bodice-ripping and whatnot.

    Posted by jamilajamison | August 29, 2011, 3:38 pm
    • You’re whetting my desire to read what you’re working on, Jamila!

      Your view of stories set in contemporary worlds being boring is interesting to me, perhaps because I tend to write fantasy set in the contemporary world. For me, the fun is exploring the juxtaposition of the ordinary against the fantastic, the real against the magical.

      As for the romance, I do enjoy including it as a subplot. I don’t even mind it being a significant focus, as long as it’s not all about, as you say, the bodice-ripping.

      Posted by Leanne D Baldwin | August 31, 2011, 1:56 pm
  7. As a soldier in the writing campaign, I salute you. I too don’t think of myself as a romance writer, but my brother once recommended a romance book, and, being bold, I read it. I liked how the perspective switched, chapter by chapter, between the male and female lead. This allowed the reader to appreciate how the two characters thought differently and to understand when they misinterpreted each other. I liked the format so well that I’m doing the same thing for my next project, which is YA fantasy. It is fun to see the world (and the same scenes) through two wildly different perspectives.

    Best wishes on your writing.

    Posted by Alan Marling (@AEMarling) | August 30, 2011, 5:47 pm
    • Welcome, Alan! What an interesting takeaway you got from your foray into reading romance! I agree that switching POV between two characters with very different perspectives makes for interesting reading, and writing. What a challenge it is for a writer to keep putting himself into different heads.

      One WIP that I’m co-writing (which is currently on a burner so far back I’m not even sure its still on the stove) is written from multiple perspectives, and I’ve found that one character takes significantly more energy to write than any of the others. He’s intensely angry, aggressive, and sarcastic – and fun as hell to write – but it’s astonishing how much he wipes me out.

      Posted by Leanne D Baldwin | August 31, 2011, 2:01 pm
  8. Hi,
    I’m a fellow campaigner and I don’t think I could write science fiction or a war story. I like to be entertained when I read or go to the movies so that is what I avoid.

    Posted by bridgetstraub | August 30, 2011, 9:44 pm
  9. Good to meet you, Leanne. I’m so glad the Platform-Building Campaign has brought so many cool writers and blogs to my attention!

    I don’t read romance, as a rule, because I find it boring. I’ve read some of the “between the numbers” stuff by Janet Evanovich which definitely strays into the romance realm, but the stories are entertaining in other ways. I’ve also read one book by Nora Roberts, “Montana Sky,” which my wife recommended to me. It was just a great story, and the romance elements were relevant to the story line. I understand she (Nora) has also written a fantasy trilogy that I might enjoy. Haven’t gotten to those yet.

    I have no interest in writing romance myself, although like Jamilla, I think having a romance subplot is worthwhile. In fact, my WIP includes a subplot about a relationship developing between the MC and the female lead of the story, so romantic elements do exist. Fortunately, my wife and my sister-in-law have been giving me tips on how to ratchet up the romantic tension without going too far!

    Posted by Daniel R. Marvello | September 5, 2011, 12:50 pm
  10. Hello, another fellow campaigner from the fantasy genre here.

    I’m right there with you on romance. I have no problem adding a bit to my stories if it fits, but as the point of it, oh no. I’m not much for crime/legal thrillers either. Although I like a good puzzle, the genre just doesn’t hold my interest. I’m much more about solving a problem than figuring out what went wrong. And being a writer who writes character driven fiction, I’m not easily impressed by something driven by circumstances more than the characters.

    Posted by Amanda B. England (@Tekaran_Lady) | September 5, 2011, 4:42 pm

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