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I have a problem. Well, I have a host of problems, but we’re just going to discuss this one particular problem right now.

I use to think that, if I tried and failed at a career in writing fantasy/sci-fi novels, that I could make a decent living as a romance novelist. I spent an entire summer of my early college career reading romance novels. I was moving out of my dorm and someone left a box of books on the front desk marked FREE. So you know I was all up on that like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball. Inside however, to my ultimate disappointment, was a bunch of trashy romance novels.

Of course I became irrationally angry that the free stuff wasn’t what I wanted and walked off to continue the moving process.  Later that night however, my roomate was already gone, and I was bored and a little lonely. So I went back down and the books hadn’t been moved. I decided that freeness and curiosity could forgive the deed I was about to commit and I grabbed two.

The first book was small so I read through it like a breeze. There was a line in it that was literally something like “Damn, I’m in love.” I kid you not. In order to show the audience the character had fallen in love, the character literally just said it…to no one. I can forgive it, if it is a confession to someone else, but just to say it soliloquy style? Only Shakespeare can do that, and you’re not Shakespeare romance novelist whose name I can’t remember.

I believe the next one I read was a Sandra Brown book. Here’s the thing with Sandra Brown novels; if you find the right one, like I believe I read a lot of her murder mystery ones then it can be entertaining as all get out, but you only need to read one in your entire life. The plot, the protagonists, and the ending are all the same. She’s fond of making the female lead a virgin for some reason, and as part of the happily ever after someone is pregnant. That’s it. That’s every Sandra Brown novel.

I reached my limit when I was on a trip by myself and had to stay in a hotel. I went to CVS (a pharmacy/convenience store for anyone outside of america) and bought this trilogy. It was written by a well known romance novelist, whose name I can’t remember, and it was an attempt on my part to merge my favorite genre with my least favorite. It was a fantasy romance trilogy that takes place across parallel universes. Ours and one where magic and vampires exist.

You want to know how good those were? They were the last three romance novels I ever read, ever.  I’ve read some pretty good romance things written by amateurs on fictionpress.com as well as some fanfictions about characters I like, but it makes up such a small portion of my copious reading career. I mean even when I was a teenager and should have been into that sort of stuff, I just wasn’t. I need a complete story, one not centered around some “epic” love story.

In any case, after my brushes with romance stories, I thought I could definitely join one of those crap factories that produce senseless harlequin after harlequin. You know the ones with Fabio or some equivalent long haired dream boat with flowing locks and a ripped shirt on the cover.

Here’s my problem though. I suck. S-U-C-K at writing romance. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. I once wrote a short story in psychology class about a man who died from a heart attack because his car got stuck on the side of the road, and while he was walking to the nearest gas station it began to rain and the man was hydrophobic. (we had to write a story about a phobia on our vocabulary list, this was when I was a teenager, and yes I know something is wrong with me) That is my wheelhouse. The slightly deranged or extremely deranged. The broken, the bad, the angst. I do that reasonably well I think. I can’t for the life of me get this whole sex scene/warm romantic moment thing down.

I tried to write a sweet drabble for my friend the other day, and it ended up being about how the romance between these two characters had failed. What the hell? I don’t know why. My mind must have some physical aversion to this strand of writing.

And I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and realize even my daydreams about being with people I have crushes on, end terribly. Much like Sandra Brown I end up pregnant at the end, but alone. Usually because of some asshole thing my love interest has done that I simply could not forgive. I suppose this has something to do with my personal views on love, but I choose to believe it has something to do with an alien invasion. Because denial rocks!

This is a good thing though, this revelation. I started writing again so that I could improve and you have to replace your weakest link if you’re going to make a strong chain right? Despite my disparaging opinion about love and romance writing, I think a good story, a complete story, needs that element in it. If you’re going to show the berth of life and human existence you have to include all of its elements; from the seediest and the low to the redemptive and the glorious, and that gamut includes icky love stuff too.

List of things I’ve written where the story went awry:

  1. Story began: about a man and a woman who lost their mother and were trying to cope the best way they knew how. Story ended: Ghost story where the two relive over and over the night of their death after the man went crazy dug up their dead mother, then drove them off the side of a bridge.
  2. Story began: mundane story about a suburban man going to work dreaming of escaping his horribly mundane existence. Story ended: Man having a totally neutral conversation about his suspicion that his neighbors punctured his tires because he ran over their garden gnome, then he casually mentions how he murdered his wife and buried her in her parents’ backyard while they were on vacation. Out of respect of course.
  3. Story began: wrote a fanfic some years back about a video game I liked to play that was rated E for everyone. Taking place during the moments you don’t see played out for you on screen. Story ended: The story didn’t end because I never finished writing it, but it was going in an odd direction. There was a chapter where one of the characters, being worshiped as a deity, was made to walk naked to the town fountain, where she was communally bathed by everyone there.

That’s just a taste, of the things that I remember. I believe I started this entry off with I have problems, it’s your fault if you read to the end and expected a different result.

Who’s the crazy one now?,

J.R.H.

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