Things To Avoid When Writing Romance Novels
This article was kindly contributed by Alexis Feynman, who reads far more romance novels than I do (which is to say, any). The following is a list of tropes that are horrendously overused and/or laden with unfortunate implications.
Character Archtypes - Male
The Perfect Man: This is a man who can do no wrong. He's handsome (often ruggedly), always has a handle on things, and is deliriously in love with the female protagonist. It doesn't matter who he is. He could be a vampire who can't go out in the sun and craves the heroine's blood constantly, but he keeps himself in check like a gentleman because he's so perfect. If he ever made a mistake, it was letting her slip through his fingers the first time they met.
This Man Is So Perfect Even His Flaws Are Perfect: Unlike The Perfect Man, this guy has "weaknesses." Like, he's too protective of the heroine and will launch on a campaign of bloody death if she is threatened/kidnapped/hurt.
The "Perfect" Man: This guy just straight up ain't perfect. He lies to the heroine, manipulates her, and pulls all kinds of abusive stunts on her up to and including rape, but it's all handwaved with the excuse that "he's doing what's best for her" or "it's not really that bad," or else all his crimes are absolved after a couple of pages of argument.
The Brooder: This man is angry. Something horrible happened to him, and even though it was probably decades ago he's never gotten over it. Not only do his issues make him angry, but a beautiful woman has just walked into his life who makes him forget about all those issues, and that makes him even angrier.
Captain Strong: This guy is tough. Tougheytoughtoughtough. You will know this because he will remind the reader over and over again how amazingly tough and coldhearded and what a badass killer he is. It's probably a cover and he's secretly The Brooder.
The Rapist: Does your mouth say "no?" Well, how can it when it's been crushed under his firm, hot lips? This guy knows that what the heroine wants is a dose of good lovin' and that all of her protests are just tokens, and as the scene plays out he will naturally be proven right. By the next morning she'll probably be thanking him for showing her such a good time.
The Magical Rapist: Does live, physical-assault rape make you squeamish? If so, try this guy. He won't physically touch the woman - he might even be the type who will stop when she says "no" - but he has no qualms about turning her on using his amazing psychic skills (possibly even going so far as to give her mind-blowing orgasms in her sleep), convinced that he's doing her a favor while he does it.
Character Archtypes - Female
Woman of Ice: This woman is independent, self-reliant, and tough as nails. At least, until the right guy comes along and suddenly all of her enemies are too powerful to overcome and she must rely on him to save her. In other words, she melts.
Woman Of Glass: This woman looks independent, self-reliant, and tough as nails, but in reality she just doesn't have the good sense not to put herself into dangerous situations. She is known for walking into dark alleys at night to meet with vampires she doesn't know, persistently demanding answers from romantic leads who have already told her to shut up and go away, and generally not knowing where to quit. This inevitably results in her getting into some kind of trouble and needing the hero to bail her out.
Replacement Goldfish: Long ago, the hero had a girlfriend. He lost her, but he's never really gotten over her. Enter the heroine! Either she's just like the old girlfriend (she might even be her reincarnation), or she's totally different but just happens to be the magical balm that he needs to heal all his old wounds.
No You Can't: The heroine spends the first two-thirds of the book trying to get into the hero's pants, and he spends that time telling her why that's not a good idea - because he's a vampire, because of racial or class differences, because one or the other is betrothed, whatevs. Whether their relationship is actually a bad idea or not is irrelevant, because it is considered one until the hero suddenly figures out that it's not so bad after all. Bonus points if the "problem" he was going on about all book turns out to be completely irrelevant.
Our Love Will Destroy The World: Turns out that Mr. No has a good reason to fight his budding romance - someone REALLY high up has a problem with the protagonists getting together. This person might be the hero's superior, a powerful demon, or God himself, but they do not want these two to get together and will go to literally earth-shattering lengths to destroy their relationship.
I Hate You Sexy Beast: The two main characters hate each other. They might even be sworn enemies. But despite this - or maybe because of it - they are secretly super-attracted to each other, a fact which will result in them falling in love (and having lots of hate fights, hate makeouts, hate sex...) By the end of the story their bitter hate will have turned to sweet, passionate loving, without a hint of their former antagonism.
Supernaturally Sexy: One or more of the main characters is some kind of nonhuman, which completely ramps up the sexy factor. Maybe he's an alluring vampire or a passion-hot werewolf - or maybe she's a deliciously frigid frost giant or a beautiful were-alpaca - but for whatever reason, the simple fact that the character is supernatural makes them all the more alluring. On the flipside, if one of the characters is mortal and the other is not, the non-mortal character might be more attracted to the mortal character for the simple fact that they are mortal. Either way, people are getting fetishized based on their species. (It is, however, allowable for a natural trait or ability of that character's species to be a turn-on.)
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