Oct 21 2007
Source: Karen Scott’s blog
Mrs. Giggles emailed me a snark of the Ellora’s Cave writing guidelines (scroll to the end of the document). We both agreed that the guidelines fall into the ridiculous realm at various points, particularly when Tina Engler proclaims: “Don't worry excessively about grammar usage to the point where you are stifling creativity in the name of technicality.” It’s a writing guide that deserves snarking. It’s full of ridiculous generalizations.
I will be the first to admit that snark is not in my natural repertoire such as it is in some bloggers. If I ever come across as humorous, it is largely by accident and hardly ever by design. I might have a few inspired moments but generally being funny is not my thing; unless of course, you witness my oft clumsy attempts to maneuver my body around on the physical plane. For example, if you attended RWA National, you would have seen me trip on the stairs to the lounge nearly every single time. See: Unintentional (and embarrassing) physical humor.
I throw out this proviso because I am about to be critical of someone else’s attempt at making fun. The rant entitled Sporkage: Guidelines is hosted at a review site run by authors of gay romances. I believe that the author, Erastes, is the one who penned most of the “spork” in the article.
The problem is that the rant is filled with inaccurate information and poorly crafted examples to support the thesis that romances today are too restrictive. The romance genre is not perfect and there needs to be legitimate critiques in order for the genre to become stronger and healthier. I think that there is a certain dependence in the genre, a certain reliance on shorthands relying on embedded reader information.
However, we already get so much insulting criticism from those who are ignorant of the genre; it’s almost beyond belief to see those who are claiming to represent the genre make such poor arguments. At one point, the authors invoke the name of Nora Roberts but spell it Norah Roberts. I began to wonder if the entire article was a satire and all the arguments were intentionally inaccurate. It seemed so inconceivable that they could not spell Nora’s name correctly.
There is a certain sense of superior disdain that permeates the article as if by writing gay romances, these authors are so much cooler and better than the mundane hacks that dominate the romance landscape. At one point, one of the authors state “People cheat. If a writer is worth his/her salt then they'd be able to include this antiquated "taboo" and still make a story work.” Obviously the implication is that those who don’t include infidelity scenes aren’t good writers or those who do and it doesn’t work for the readers because readers simply don’t like that sort of book, the author isn’t capable.
Erastes says in the comments:
I have to say that if this is what Ellora's Cave wants, then I certainly have no interest in writing for them. Why would I want to read the same book over and over again, but then I've said that about Romance, many times.
The complaint that all romances are the same, however, is a tired and weak argument portraying the one making the assertion as without imagination or knowledge of the genre. The romance genre is the broadest in scope of any genre as it can include shapeshifters, billionaires of industry, and, oh forget it. I can’t reiterate enough that anyone who includes the statement “all romances are the same” has zero credibility with me because it points to one who is not well read within the genre.
Let me address, though, a few specific points made by the authors at Speak Its Name.
The first complaint by the two is that Romantica, as a term, cannot be trademarked:
I love the conceit that she owns the term Romantica, too. The only Romantica I know that is trademarked is the font "Romantica–Ã‚ .
This argument is ironic because these authors portend to place emphasis on the need for historical accuracy but can’t be bothered to employ a simple Google search on trademarks. I love the conceit that the bloggers are talking about trademark law as if they knew something about it which, by the above sentence, shows that they do not. Without getting all technical – oh, what the heck, technical is in my repertoire. I love the technical, pedantic shit.
A trademark is
word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
According to the trademark database, Romantica
IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: DOWNLOADABLE ELECTRONIC PUBLICATIONS IN THE NATURE OF FICTION BOOKS AND NOVELS, NAMELY EROTIC ROMANCE. FIRST USE: 20001100. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20001100
IC 016. US 002 005 022 023 029 037 038 050. G & S: PRINTED ADULT FICTION IN THE NATURE OF EROTIC ROMANCE BOOKS, NOVELS AND PUBLICATIONS. FIRST USE: 20001100. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20001100
Just a few statements into the article and I am just wondering at the level of a) research abilities and b) knowledge of the authors.
Point 2 of the guidelines discussed :Strong heroines are a must. Women are much more interested in watching an independent female give a hero a run for his money and then submit than in reading about a weak creature who is a pathetic empty vessel waiting to be filled:
The poster says “I am looking at this here from a historical fiction perspective, and frankly my dear, I don't want my historical heroine to be kick-arse.”
What in the heck does “Strong heroines are a must, etc” has to do with the kick arse historical heroine? If you are going to complain about a guideline, make the complaint germane to the issue. I.e., the idea of submission is certainly a charged concept but “kick arse historical heroine” is practically a non sequitur at this point.
Point 3 is that romance readers don’t want bitchy heroines.
The authors state that of course bitchy heroines sell and cite for example: Scarlett O'Hara (non romance heroine), Becky Sharp (another anti romance heroine), Alexis Morell Carrington (um, TV character?), Colby Dexter Rowan (TV character), Erika Kane (TV character).
The problem, of course, is by failing to provide authentic romance examples to support their claims that romance readers love bitches (a very ambiguous term), the authors actually prove the point they are decrying which is that romance readers do not like the bitch heroine.
Personally, I do like a bitch heroine. I think Eve Dallas is a big bitch. I heart Eve Dallas. As do many other romance readers.
Point 4: Monogamy = good, faithlessness = bad. This "unspoken rule" is for protagonists only.
One of the authors comments I much prefer to have characters behave in a way that's REAL. People cheat. If a writer is worth his/her salt then they'd be able to include this antiquated "taboo" and still make a story work.
Notice to all you authors out there that don’t include this antiquated “taboo”. You suck. I love how fidelity is deemed to be antiquated. Just call me old fashioned then because I actually prefer my romance novel protagonists to be able to a) keep their zipper zipped and b) be faithful. I know, it’s so pedant of me, but I did state earlier how much I enjoying the pedantic things in life.
What's wrong with the heroine getting frotted and loving it and STILL running into the arms of her sickening hero and submitting to him? Hells bells, people this is 2007. *despairs* says another author.
Yeah, fidelity and honor. It’s so 1800s.
Point 5: It doesn't matter who his heroine is– the hero is always yummy.
Responds the author: WHY. Why why why why why why why? Oh– . I know. It's because books with ugly heroes, like those stupid books with Rochester and Heathcliffe never EVER sold.
Of course, because Rochester and Heathcliffe aren’t the embodiment of the tall, dark and bad to know heroes that have dominated the romance landscape since romance rose to genre prominence.
9. Use condoms wisely and if it fits the storyline. . .
Why? To prevent fictional STDs? And again, I've never seen a protagonist use such a thing. The only time I've ever seen condoms in science fiction or fantasy was in Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant,in which a manufacturer of "sonkies" is immersed in a vat of latex rubber and suffocates.
I've seen them in gay erotica and porn and chick lit. . . .Again–"never seen a condom used at all in fiction. I'm not sure why this advice is even being given.
I have to say that maybe I’m just reading a different type of book (it’s called contemporary romance) than the authors are reading. These days, if a romance contemporary does not include a condom scene, I am wondering when I am going to hear the “I’m clean” talk or the “I’m worried about pregnancy” talk. It’s another point of high irony that on the one hand these authors want realism, i.e., cheating characters and on the other, can’t understand why condoms would ever be included to protect a “fictional STD”.
Anyone whose read romances can relate a book with a classic condom scene: Susan Johnson’s historicals are replete with the sponge and the french letters; Open Season by Linda Howard; more recently Charlene Teglia’s Wild Wild West incorporates many a great condom scene.
The whole article reads like a critique from someone who has never read a genre romance. No condoms? Fidelity is old-fashioned? Norah Roberts? If you are going to criticize romance conventions and say that readers within the genre want more, you can’t use books outside the romance genre to prove your point. It only serves to prove the point to which you object.