Tuesday, October 25, 2011


How to Write Romance Novels

Women like you have two dreams in this world. The first is a pair of ferocious boots that say "Sarah Michelle Gellar speaking crossly to a Sudanese rebel." The second is a successful, secret career as a romance novelist. That first dream of yours kind of creeps me out, but the second one is something I can help with. It turns out that writing romance novels is very, very easy as long as you follow the rules. In my role as friend to women, I'm going to tell you about those rules, and illustrate how I followed those rules with actual, incredible prose.

To start, you need to introduce your heroine. She needs to be relatable, so don't give her too many qualities.

Jassity Baggley had yearned to be invited to a dirigible party since she was a little girl. Her friends were all still into yacht parties, but they were assholes. Jassity knew that dirigibles cost more to purchase and maintain. So yes, she was impressed. If she thought she was done being impressed, she was in for a shock. But she didn't think that, and so wasn't shocked at all when industrial titan Jonathan Slate came out to greet everyone. He was very impressive.

OK, that's out of the way and you can get to the real point of interest: the heroine's love object. He needs to seem cool but not intimidating, familiar but not clichéd. Unlike the heroine, he should have a LOT of qualities. One quality he should have is a name that begins with a really hard consonant (like Cramleigh) or a ‘J.’ Acoustic research has shown that these sounds reverberate in a woman's hollow places, producing a pleasant, boomy sensation. Kind of like she has a baby yodeling inside of her.

Let's see how I accomplish all that.

Jonathan Slate was the paid-in-full dirigible's owner. He was tall and unconventional, with hair that hung from his body like curls of licorice that had been wiped with expensive olive oil. He seemed smarter and wilier and more willful and just plain sexier than anyone who stood near him. He was a real Penn Jillette type, just the way women like. [Author's note: note the 'J' in Jillette!]

He was talking to the Dalai Lama, who was eating shrimp cocktail by the handful. "What a shrimp pig," Jassity Baggley thought. She wasn't surprised when Jonathan Slate left the tiny saffron man to come to talk to her.

He said, "Hello."

His breath smelled like fine boulders from Europe. She remembered something she had read in a newsletter they send to rich people. "You brush your teeth with San Pellegrino."

"Yes. It was a little present I gave myself when I graduated from being a millionaire to being a billionaire. You know, it's funny. When I think about the actual money I handled when I was but a mere millionaire, it feels... I don't know... soiled somehow, like... "

She finished his sentence for him. "...like it came from inside the body of a chicken."

"My God, that's it exactly." He was feeling the curdle of love.

Things are heating up! You want to remind your readers of their bodies. You can do that by referring to the character's senses. Usually there are around five. I chose smell. Every scene I write, somebody is smelling something. If you write a romance novel, you should pick another sense or I'll sue you. You could use hearing maybe.

They were having breakfast in the center of his triple Olympic swimming pool. Yes, in the middle of the pool. But they stayed completely dry! How did they do that? Probably a platform or something. An invisible platform.

Breakfast was mimosas and boiled eggs. But not just regular eggs: These were ostrich eggs, lain by ostriches that were genetically engineered to lay eggs the size of hen eggs. Because no one needs that much egg. It's not healthy. There was a chorus of voices coming from the other side of the compound wall.

"Who are all those people?" Jassity Baggley asked.

Jonathan Slate laughed. "Oh those? Just a horde of Joe Q. Scratchtickets that want me to unionize some of my industries."

"I thought I smelled people who were supposed to be picking up shovels." She shuddered. "I feel like I'm going to throw up. It's not these delicious eggs, don't worry ha ha ha it's organized labor. How do you stand it? All those morlocks grasping for your beautiful privilege?"

He was silent, seemingly caught in a dream. "I'm, I'm sorry. It's just that for a moment — and I know this is going to sound like a cheesy pickup line you must get all the time — you just reminded me of someone.

"Her name is Ayn Rand. You look like her too, like a withered sparrow made of righteous anger, whose eyes have known the pain of being dragged down by fatter, but inferior sparrows."

"Oh, Jonathan Slate, that's..." Their heads leaned together to kiss, their lips tumbling through space like magenta oysters searching, eternally searching...

We have now reached the most important turning point, where most first-timers make a mistake. You might be tempted to have your couple do it now. I am about to write in all caps to make sure you pay attention. IT'S CRUCIAL THAT YOUR COUPLE BE PREVENTED FROM DOING IT. That's because women love it when people almost do it. I'm not generalizing, it's from biology.

Before the questing oysters that I described their lips as could meet in amazing bliss, there was a loud boom. BOOM! A huge cloud of dust and a river of people showed that the protesters had blown through the wall and were coming at them, a horde of slobs in sweatpants and t-shirts that said "beer," with slackened mouths, wide open and stained with Cheetos.

Jassity Baggley was almost scared, until she remembered how strong and right and deserving she and Jonathan Slate were. Without speaking they both stood up, and smashed their champagne glasses on the table to make crude, Tiffany crystal daggers. The first wave of waddling Lech Walesas had collapsed on the pool, forgetting that they never learned to swim. Their so-called brothers walked on their waterlogged corpses to reach Jassity Baggley and Jonathan Slate, both of whom began kicking and slashing.

Then, a bear of some sort tackled Jassity Baggley. That is not a metaphor, it was an actual bear.

OK, let's dissect what happened there. We see where they almost do it. But because of reasons, I wanted them to do it shortly thereafter. Usually, you should let your characters know each for three fortnights before they get to exploring each other’s foldy places (for historical reasons, the basic unit of time for romance novelists is the fortnight). Any sooner than that, and you risk readers thinking your heroine is some kind of maniac. If your hero saves her from danger like organized labor, you can shave one fortnight off of that. If he's as handsome as Penn Jillette and has full equity in a dirigible, you’re down to a ha'fortnight. I figured a bear was scary and musky enough to bring us down to two days (sorry the math gets really screwy in base 14.)

That's a pretty good rule of thumb. It’s important enough that I’m adding this graphic to make it completely clear.

We’ve arranged things so that our heroine can sleep with her hero without putting off the reader. Now, it’s time for that sex scene. You need to include that sex scene no matter how weird it makes you feel that your mom and your cousins will read it.

They were playing chess on the floor of the game room, totally, outrageously nude. Right in front of the butler. So? Some people get naked in front of their dogs. The chessboard was made of exotic woods hewed from the trees of filthy countries. Aromas wafting from the wood invaded Jassity Baggley's nostrils. The "two c's" — curry and cholera. Luxury is funny that way.

"Checkmate," Jonathan Slate said. Jassity Baggley swept the chessboard off the low Moroccan table. Jonathan Slate knew she wasn't mad about losing, but that she was ready to make love three times.

He began to kiss Jassity Baggley's sensibly compact body, which was like a spring encased in velvety rubber or something. "You know, a woman's body is a lot like society. Some parts are merely functional," here he kissed her elbow. "Others perform unglamorous but essential roles," here he kissed her side, just above her kidneys (that was the part he was talking about). "And a few — a very few — are blessed with the most sublime pleasure in return for the most vital of work."

And then they started. Humping I mean. Right there in the game room, in front of the butler and everything, like a breed of super cavemen who were beholden to the rules of a different, stranger God.

Chris Braiotta performs in and co-produces The Union Square Round Table, an alternative comedy night in Boston. His writing has appeared in Boston's Weekly Dig, The Chicago Sun-Times, and most recently the Boston Phoenix.

145 Comments / Post A Comment


Oh, my. I wonder if my coworkers can hear that hard "j" reverberating through my body cavity?


You have made a very good point. I hope authors will get to read this 3 credit bureaus names


I find this actual, incredible prose to be actually incredible.


@punkahontas: I and my sensibly compact body wholeheartedly agree.


I am feeling the curdle of love.


This is fantastic, although there is nary a mention of heaving bosoms anywhere in this story! If bosoms aren't heaving, it's just not doing it for me.


@momentisaflower And not even one member, turgid, tumescent, throbbing, or otherwise.


@Yahtzii If this was a vague reference to 10 Things I Hate About You, then you are my anonymous online bestie. If not, then maybe I've seen that movie too many times.


@BeebsLaRue It was a bratwurst.

Wookiee Hole

@Yahtzii Aren't we the optimist.

hahahaha, ja.

One of my back-up careers is to write a romance novel of my own -- a nerdtastic scienceriffic physics one. The main characters are Alotta Potential and Rex Capacitor; her hair flows behind her like bubble chamber tracks; and he feels a love burning for her like a thousand stars going supernova type Ic. It's going to be INTENSE.

I'm going to call it "The Heart's Potential: Coupled Harmonic Motion in the Time of the Higgs Boson." Maybe.


@ietapi Can there be a B plot about his younger sister, Frances Luxe, who only uses her first initial and middle name, and her obsession with time travel?

hahahaha, ja.

@laurel: Yes! And she has wacky misadventures, and then there will be a sequel about how she sows her wild oats and finds love in the mysterious foreign stranger Martino Del'Orrean. And THEN there will be a prequel about their ancestors and it will be set in bodice-ripping times, and then Michael Bay will make explosiony movies out of them all. I'll give you a cut of the profits as soon as he sends me the first check.


this reminds me of the twilight sex scene a coworker and i wrote when we were frustrated with the lack of sexy time in those terrible, terrible books. lets just say it involves bella, edward AND jacob and there's lots and lots of sexy werewolf hair.


@honeybadger Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter...


@honeybadger my girlfriends and I took a trip this year and decided to read a romance novel aloud...we tackled one from the dollar bin at the discount book store. Nary a sexy time to be found! All build up and no members, no bosoms, no mounds, no bulges. I now know we should have commissioned you for a re-write


@Wondajules i might be able to dig it up if you hairpinners want to read it!


@honeybadger oh I definitely do!

Wookiee Hole

@Wondajules Was it one of those Christian romance novels? I really hate them.


@honeybadger Yes please!


@iceberg its too long to paste here, so here it is:

enjoy! ;)

Wookiee Hole

@honeybadger Hooray! ridiculous!


@honeybadger I am so excited! I feel as though I should wait until post-work to read twilight smut...you have just given me something to look forward to. And @Wookiee Hole, it was a Christian romance novel. But even after marriage it was all "waves of an unknown origin rushed over her body as he held her in the marriage embrace." I mean, WTF is that??


@Wondajules "The marriage embrace"? That is up there with "special hug" and "adult touching" in terms of euphemisms that should never appear in a romance novel. I mean, seriously, the it's specially engineered to cause spontaneous desertification or something.


If I ever write an online dating profile, I am stealing half your lines and applying them to myself.

No photo, just the following description:

My breath smells like fine boulders from Europe.
My hair looks like licorice wiped with expensive olive oil.
My body is like a spring encased in velvety rubber.

And I shall watch the marriage proposals roll in.


@Kristen Don't forget "My lips are like a magenta oysters tumbling through space."


@Kristen and that you are comfortable with doing it in front of the butler. (standards and all)


@gfrancie But not, like, a footman. Gross.


@Yahtzii well that is like doing it in front of a cat. cats judge you.


Have any of you ever read the romance novels that Fabio "wrote" in the mid-90's? Reading them is something like getting your phd in decoding pornographic euphemisms.

Roaring Girl

@christonacracker OMG PIRATE. One of the many awful romance novels on my mom's bookshelf that I decided I needed to read when I was eleven or so, but arguably the very worst of the lot. The rest were Johanna Lindsay, so they were pretty much indistinguishable from each other.


@christonacracker YES! I own one of those Fabio romances. My roommate and her boyfriend knew I was going through family issues and they bought me bad romance novels to make me feel better (I love good romance novels truly, but I love bad ones a lot). One featured a character called Captain Morgan, and the other featured Fabio posing on the cover of his own book. We had a good laugh reading parts out loud, but you know, the last 3rd of the book was actually decent. Like, a B- quality where the rest was D+ cliched schlock.

The book I had was Rogue, I think.


That's fantastic. If you can do it, and if Mia Thermopolis can do it, then I can do it!


@figwiggin I so wish I could give you more than one thumbs up for the Mia Thermopolis mention.


@thebestjasmine She's my hero 'cuz I'm an Amelia/Mia too. If I ever write a book as good as Ransom My Heart, I will be complete. (If a fictional character can get her book published in real life, so can I!)

Ten Thousand Buckets

@figwiggin I read Ransom My Heart in a day and it was all I could do to not bust a gut laughing. She actually used the "is that a dagger or are you happy to see me" bit!


Reading this made me feel this strange, intense urge to have the line "whose eyes have known the pain of being dragged down by fatter, but inferior sparrows" as a shared inside joke with somebody. Ahhh, I just want to spend half the day drinking and see some sparrows and cackle about how they're fat and inferior and then maybe pee just a tiny bit but not so much that I feel self-conscious about it.

Wookiee Hole

@insouciantlover Like, not enough that you need to change undies, but enough that you should probably dab at it with some toilet paper.


I love everything about this.


I'm going to assume that we're all smart ladies who know that romance novels are actually fucking awesome (and many are well-written), so I'll save the screed and go straight to writing the secret baby sequel: The Boulder-Scented Billionaire's Conveniently Yet Scandalously Hidden Lovechild.


@Yahtzii Commenting to admit (with pride) that I am also a Smart Lady Who Knows That Romance Novels are Actually Fucking Awesome (SLWKTRNAAFA). And that I would totally read a book by that title.


@wee_ramekin I read that shit ALL. THE. TIME, and even trashier. I recently reread one in which an insane vampire got it on (in great detail, of course) with a ghost. And then another one in which two people got in on in a haunted house. A while ago, I read a particularly bad one in which a vampire hunter and an angel fucked like eagles.

Uh, to be clear, those are not the well-written ones.

Bro-lo El Cunado

@Yahtzii I am like 90% sure that I worked on the vampire hunter/angel one. AHHHHH! This post is giving me horrible work flashbacks!


@Yahtzii Also, I'm sure you know this, but for those who don't, we are in good company.


@elcunado It was awful. There was also a lot of graphic violence, because nothing goes with angelfucking quite like gruesome murders. The word "abattoir" was used at least four times.


@wee_ramekin Oh girl I am there every day and I even have my own trashy book blog. :X


@wee_ramekin Thank you! I had totally forgotten about this website and now I must know what they think of Moning's Fever series.


@Yahtzii Totally. A harmless guilty pleasure. A throbbing heaving turgid guilty pleasure. Although I'll do you one worse - I read fanfiction! That seems more embarrassing somehow.


@Yahtzii " vampire hunter and an angel fucked like eagles." This begs the question: how do eagles fuck?


@lobsterhug They're actually talking about it on the homepage AS WE TYPE!


@momentisaflower This may just be one of those things you hear on the playground, but I was under the impression it involved flying very high up and then free-fall-fucking. That was the way it was in the book. Totally hot, right?


@momentisaflower I read fanfiction, too! I'm over the embarassment, though, given that so much of the fanfic I read is better-written than what Amazon's shilling daily.


@Yahtzii This is reminding me of the angel/human sex scene in 'Angels In America'. Doesn't seem quite as dangerous as eagle fucking though.


@evilmilkpudding It really is true. I used to be really active in the X-Files fanfic community which was one of the biggest and is still quite active, and I swear to god some of the stuff that writers produced was so high quality it could have been published. I know a few of them were professional writers who wrote fanfic for fun. Of course the majority of fanfiction is so awful it's funny (especially on fanfiction.net) but if you know where to look you can find some truly great stuff. What's your fandom of choice? Nerds unite!


@wee_ramekin Has anyone else ever caught that ridiculous Steve Gutenberg/Shelley Long movie on late night TV where she plays a romance novelist with a PhD in Ugro-Finnic linguistics who makes over her cancer survivor brother into a romantic hero stud (Gutenberg, obviously)? And she stages elaborate scenes to meet genre conventions to make some career woman fall in love with him. Ridiculousness aside, I think it's also fairly accurate in that many (most?) romance authors are insanely over-educated. Apparently there is a ton of scholarly research within the industry to create the perfect product. I, for one, would LOVE to read those studies. I wonder if they also find that 87% of women experience a J reverberation in their hollow places.


@Bitca? Um, no, I have not seen this, but it sounds AWESOME.


@wee_ramekin Google and IMDB tell me it's called "Don't Tell Her It's Me" and I have to say, my description is way better than the plot synopsis on IMDB, but I really should have mentioned the accent. AND THE MULLET. (http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2090769664/tt0099450)

"Gus is a fat cartoonist that recently won a battle against cancer, which explains his baldness. But he is also lonely. Therefore, his caring sister tries to set him up with suitable woman. But to do so, she must turn him into an irresistible man. When he falls in love with Emily, Gus takes the identity of a mysterious biker from New Zealand."


@wee_ramekin I also just realized it was originally called "The Boyfriend School" and Kyle McLachlan is in it. This movie is just pure magic. Artfully stubbled magic.

Wookiee Hole

@Yahtzii OMG OMG OMG I know what book you're talking about! And they get married and gave phantom vampire babies? I love that book.

Wookiee Hole

@Bitca? This movie sounds wonderful and I must view it.

I love your handle. Oh, Xandererrrrr!

Wookiee Hole

@momentisaflower Fanfiction, you foul temptress. It seems like I manage to read semi-normal, grown-uppy things like magazines and books and blogs, and then I discover a new fandom and YOU PULL ME BACK IN.


@Yahtzii Oh oh ohhhh, the Nalini Singh ones with all the arcangels?! I love those! So repetitive and silly. The sex scenes aren't even that good which, he's a deity? You think it'd be more exciting.


@Wookiee Hole Thanks! I'm glad the months I spent lurking and carefully choosing a name to debut on the hairpin paid off. So much weight off my shoulders right now. Then again, I just spent way too much time researching The Boyfriend School. That burst of self-esteem was remarkably short-lived.


@wee_ramekin Smart bitches don’t misspell “effects” (first post on there: "the after affects (???) it had on me"). Just saying. Maybe you are just trashy women reading trashy books.

I felt kind of icky for calling another woman trashy, but COME ON!! ROMANCE NOVELS?!!! This makes me even sadder than the fact that this hilarious piece was written by a dude.

Minus 10 internets to the lot of you. And minus 50 IQsees.

I don't care how ironic you're all trying to come off...this is just plain wrong.


@originalsettler Ironic? Girl, you'll have to pry my Jennifer Crusie books from my cold dead hands.


@originalsettler Excuse me? Ironic? Are you a troll specially crafted to make me spit nails? There is absolutely nothing ironic about my love of romance novels. Who the fuck are you, the Taste Police? What, exactly, is so "wrong" about romance novels? Have you ever read one? Have you read one in the last 20 years? It astonishes me that it makes you feel "icky" about calling another woman trashy, yet you feel completely okay insulting an entire genre that is geared toward women, written largely by women, and beloved by millions of women across the globe.

Also, that typo was in a letter that somebody wrote to Sarah. She was quoting it. I'm sorry it offended your delicate sensibilities and apparently validated your theory that we're all dumb trashy broads.

ETA: Oh shit, only one comment in the comment history. SMELLS TROLLY! I'll leave this up in case somebody else is having evil judgey thoughts.


@Yahtzii I too have a trashy book blog! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!


@Yahtzii Co-sign! Minus 20 internets for un-Hairpin-like behavior.


@Yahtzii re: eagle-fucking That is how the George Washington song says it's done, and I'm pretty sure the George Washington song is accurate.


@originalsettler Pffffft. Smart bitches also don't use the word "IQsees", but if they did, they'd spell it properly according to contemporary spelling conventions ("IQsies"). Furthermore, smart bitches tend not to attempt to judge an entire genre of books and their readers by one spelling mistake, nor do they believe that their taste in books should act as a watermark for other smart women.

But I guess that would make me and my fellow romance readers smart, and you just a bitch.


@tortietabbie romance club dot tumblr dot com! I was going to write a self-righteous post about this very thread but that person is most definitely trollin' our asses up.


@Yahtzii romance recap dot wordpress dot com! I spoil things a lot more than you do, ha.


@Wookiee Hole Ohhhh my god fanfiction for reals. SUCH a timesuck. On the other hand, one time I was reading something, and the sounds the couple was making in the throes of passion were described as "unintelligible whaling," which gives me this image of like a bunch of crusty 18th century New Englanders mumbling around in a boat and which never fails to crack me up.


@SarcasticFringehead I don't even want to know how many hours of my life I've lost to fanfiction. I haven't branched out to too many fandoms, but on the flip side I've been reading X-Files fanfiction for over *12 years*. Dear god that's a long time. That said, there is still new writing coming out that's really fantastic, and enough old stuff to reread and still fully enjoy, so I guess it's understandable that it's so addictive. Not to mention I can get new stuff 24 hours a day and that makes it all the more like crack. Right? Right.


@SarcasticFringehead Also, "a bunch of crusty 18th century New Englanders mumbling around in a boat and which never fails to crack me up." is bloody brilliant. I would also read that.


@Wookiee Hole I'm the same way! I'll go a few months reading actual novels before I start craving the characters in my fandom and go back to spending hours on my favorite fanfiction sites. Been happening for almost 10 years now, so I don't think I'll break the habit anytime soon. Also, I realize that I'm way late here and no one will read this, but I had to chime in!


@AshaShangri Read! What fandom(s) are you into?


@momentisaflower I'm mostly a Harry Potter fangirl, but I'll occasionally wander into other fandoms. My first fandom was beyond embarassing- *NSYNC RPF with self-insert Mary Sues (I was 12), so I have no shame in admitting my love of HP fanfiction. What are your fandom(s)?


@AshaShangri Aint no shame in a fangirls game(although *NSYNC RPF is pretty hysterical). My first fandom was X-Files and my OTP will always and forever be Mulder and Scully. I was into the West Wing and Battlestar for awhile, but never really stuck with those. The past year or so I've been into Law and Order SVU. There isn't even that much high quality stuff in that fandom, but I'm such a sucker for Heterosexual cop pairings with unrequited love, tons of sexual tension, and lots of personal angst. Find me a romance novel with that theme and I am there.


@AshaShangri H/P FANGIRLS FTW!!!!!! Who once had a fic rec LJ? THIS GIRL :D.

Alexandra Martell

"He was tall and unconventional, with hair that hung from his body like curls of licorice that had been wiped with expensive olive oil."

is the best thing I've read all month.

Katie Scarlett

@aliemartell I laughed really hard at that line and was sure that it was probably the highlight of this piece... but then I got to, "What a shrimp pig," and I really almost lost it.

If you only read one collection of excerpts from a fake romance novel all year, make it this one.

Alibi Jones

"I'm not generalizing, it's from biology."


@Alibi Jones Argh! I was going to write that that part made me laugh SO HARD, but you beat me to it.

Oh well. Jinx!

Alibi Jones

@jenergy It's so great! I wanted to write something more about it but anything I said just took away from its perfection.


Now I'm feeling self-conscious about the fact that I'm eating Cheetos for lunch. But the vending machine gave me two! Two glorious bags of Jalapeño Cheetos for the price of one!

wasabi peas

@melis are they the puffs or the crunchy kind? i had a bag of popcorn and a beer for lunch so i'm in no position to throw stones.


This makes me want to go dig out all those Judith McNaught romances I was stuck reading when I was preggers and stuck on bed rest.


@SuperMargie NOOOOOO Judith McNaught makes me want to claw my face off! I am no good at turning off my inner feminist disapprover voice.


oh my god
"So? Some people get naked in front of their dogs."
i'm laughing like a goddamn idiot. i actually snorted and other people heard.


I secretly really like a lot of Nora Roberts books and I read all her J.D. Robb murder mystery/romance books because I want to be a tough-as-nails cop with whiskey-coloured eyes with a hot megabillionaire husband who speaks with "the hills of Ireland" in his voice, okay?!


@cosmia Oh man my mom loves Nora Roberts but I can't get into her YET we both love JD Robb. roarke! So dreamy!

Oh, squiggles

@cosmia OMG, yes! I love Peabody, and Mavis, and everyone!


@cosmia I knoooow, me TOO!! But The sex scenes leave me feeling a) totally inadequate and b) like, c'mon, nobody gets sex that good. Right? Please?


@cosmia ROARKE. roarke and eve are like the ultimate power couple. discovering each others ~emotional scars~ one epic sex act at a time. Such fun!


This is it. This is the day I get fired for busting a gut laughing at my desk.

...I have no regrets.


Chris Braiotta: Friend to Women

Also, obviously more attractive than everyone standing next to him.

Bro-lo El Cunado

As someone who has to work on these books every. single. day, let me say this: I hate these books. With a passion.

Also, every vampire sex scene is the same, but they are not nearly as predictable (and predictably terrible) as werewolf sex scenes.


@elcunado Is that because with werewolf sex scenes you pretty much know what's going to happen (tab A into slot B, no wolfing out because ew bestialityishness), but with vampire sex scenes literally anything can happen depending on the *super original* backstory the author has dreamed up for her vampires? That's my theory, anyway.

I mean, a vampire has super-strength (and stamina) AND maybe magical powers! Sometimes they live in castles or caves. They could bite you anywhere! I read a novel where the vamp-dude bit his mortal lady on her mortal lady-parts and she had a pig-length orgasm - like full-on blacked-out screaming orgasm for like 30 minutes. And also apparently during that time, he went about his business in the usual way, and when she came to and expressed concern about his not getting off, said these actual words, "I did, and you nearly castrated me with your pleasure."

And then I threw up a bit, so in conclusion: these books are terrible and very awesome.


@elcunado @MoxyCrimeFighter Y'all two are confusing me with your avatars.

Bro-lo El Cunado

@MoxyCrimeFighter Oh, with werewolf sex, there's always some rule about doing it doggy style to "mate" and sometimes there's biting.

The vampire sex scenes are incredibly similar, actually, in that there's always a difference between just fucking and mating/bonding.

I guess these books are awesome if you don't have to read them for you job. But I do. And I loathe them.


@MoxyCrimeFighter Pig-length orgasm! Yay!


@elcunado Ahhh, dang, I forgot to mention the lame winky-wink doggy-style allusions. Lion of shame :-(.


@jenergy I once mentioned to my mom that pigs orgasm for 30 minutes and she went, "Really?!" and then tipped her head to the side to contemplate this with a look on her face like, "Why, I would very much enjoy an orgasm that lasted as long as a typical sitcom episode including commercials."

Also, it was Christmas morning while we were all opening presents.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@elcunado I....I think I want your job?


@MoxyCrimeFighter Okay, I've never read a werewolf-central novel, but I love them dearly, and is it really true that no one gets Furry while having sex with a werewolf?
Are you SERIOUS.
Why would you even have sex with one if you're not symbolically accepting their curse/gift/TAIL?
Not even contributing to the conversation, just upset forever.


@Inkcrafter I must admit, I am by no means an expert in paranormal romances, as many of them are too stupid to slog through, and there's a glut of them on the market - to my recollection, though, I've never run across one where the characters had sex while one was human and one wolfed out. I think I've read some where they've gotten it on while both in wolf/direwolf form, and one where the guy admitted to partially turning during because his human lady liked it rough but then he accidentally killed her whoopsy!

For what the Germans call "wolfensexin" to happen, it would probably depend on what kind of "turned" creature we're talkin' here. Full-on wolf would be bestiality, Teen Wolf would be weird but maybe acceptable? I don't know, I'm not a Michael J. Fox fan.


True story: I read three romance novels a month ago, right in a row, because I had a new e-reader and the only point of having one is to read things on the metro you don't want people to see you reading, things that are dirty and shameful. I had only read one category romance in my life before and that was when I was twelve and incapable of buying pornography.

Anyway, that is not the point. The point: all three of these randomly selected romances had protagonists with missing hands/arms. The one where it was the lady with the missing arm was pretty okay! The other two, the ones with the armless men, were terrible terrible terrible.

So -- romance writers, if you cut off someone's hand in your book, because I guess that is the "thing" in romances now, please make it the lady and not the gentleman.


This is wicked awesome. Even more awesome is making Jonathan and Jassity from a different historical period so you can include lots of "forsooths" and "my lords" and "naethelesses."

Or, you know, make one of them a vampire or a ghost.


I almost submitted a story treatment to Harlequin once for their sci fi line. All I had was a time traveling alien that gets an earth lady to fall in love with him. Oh and he looked very Depeche Mode circa 1986.


@cloudburst did you call it HAIRCUT 5000 AD


"like a breed of super cavemen who were beholden to the rules of a different, stranger God"

I don't know who you are, Chris Braiotta (except that you do comedy stuff and live in Boston, I guess), but you are totally brilliant.


@chirdia That's pretty much all there is to know, except for the fact that I have five bodies and can fold a horse.


I had a professor once whose graduate students badgered him into teaching a Romance Novels class--he ended up doing it on the condition that the only way to pass the class was to write a novel, submit it to Harlequin, and have it published. Two students succeeded, working together, and now make bank doing it for a living. Apparently according to Harlequin rules the heroine can't be a redhead? Among other things.


@figwiggin: Why not a redhead? Doesn't stereotype paint them as all feisty and lusty and such?


@Bittersweet I'm trying to remember exactly, but I think it was because not enough readers would identify with a redhead? Or because romance novel stereotypes dictated that redheads are always rivals? Note that this may not actually be the case anymore, as trying to Google it brings up repeated instances of a Harlequin historical called "The Ranger and the Redhead."


@figwiggin I want this class to be a reality show. I would watch the crap out of that. And they could debate hair colors and turgid versus tumescent.


I once dated (and remain good friends with) a dude whose stepmother is a pretty well-known paranormal romance novelist, and let me tell you, it adds a whole new dimension to the "tell me about your family" conversation when you can then read pages and pages of her ideas about kinky dominatrix exorcist sex.


I have nothing to add to this conversation except that I read the word "butler" as "butter". Multiple times. Actually every time it appeared. It makes a lot more sense now that I realize my mistake, but I was really enjoying the idea of a stick of traumatized Land'O'Lakes weeping quietly at the spectacle of their lovemaking.


@winslow I smell a spin-off!


For about a year and a half after law school / the bar exam, I read regency romance novels, and only regency novels, at a stunning pace while the rest of my brain recuperated. I have about 250 archived on my Kindle, not even kidding. Good thing they mostly cost less than a trip to Starbucks!


@Alixana This is how I discovered the joys of YA. I'm pretty sure law school actually broke my brain.


@Alixana: Names, please? I'm dying for a good regency romance. Jane Austen only takes you so far.

Das Awesome

@Alixana I actually gasped when I read this because I will have been licensed a year next week and most of my reading material since I threw my BarBri books in a box while weeping has been the assorted works of Georgette Heyer. I think I reread "Frederica" four times the week after the bar. Clearly there is something about the post-bar exam 'pinner mind that needs regency nourishment.


All my ferocious boots say "Sarah Michelle Gellar if she were a fierce french Victorian drag queen named Mimi LeBon who was beating a Sudanese rebel over the head with a brolly". I enjoy them very much.


I actually haven't read this yet but I wanted to come down and comment they MY MOM WROTE AND PUBLISHED ROMANCE NOVELS when I was in elementary and middle school! She always wanted to be a writer and I guess they were the easiest to pull off while staying home with two kids. When I was 12 this embarrassed me to no end (especially when stupid JJ Pruicksma found out and told everyone my mom wrote DIRTY DIRTY PORN BOOKS). Oh the teasing...

Now I think it's awesome.... although I still won't read them.


To appeal to me, romances always have to be in love-triangle form, preferably with one "angle" being a Broken Boy who is too proud/fucked up/tortured to confess his love for the heroine. Bonus points if he's a vampire. Bonus bonus points if she ultimately chooses not to be w/ him AHHHH I CAN'T TAKE IT.
I actually enjoyed Laurell K. Hamilton's books for awhile...before they got just utterly ridiculous.


@dragoness *squeal* Favorite genres! Okay okay, I'll do mine!

My favorite genre is the friends who realize that they're in love, but go through so much torture and denial during this revelation because they don't want to jeopardize the friendship.

Does this parallel my real life? Why, yes. Yes, it does. Does your favorite genre parallel your life in some way? I would be willing to bet so! Except in the books, there is always a happy ending, while in real life, not so much (at least, for me)...

Heeeeee! I love this whole thread. I am such a romance novel junkie.


@wee_ramekin Mine is where you do a werewolf when s/he is being a werewolf but apparently that never happens!

Chesty LaRue

@wee_ramekin I like the one where the plucky heroine is mistaken for a shy and retiring secretary-type by the macho male character, and after much fighting and sexism, the realize they're in love and live scrappily ever after.
I only read old romance novels, though, like a box from my grandma, a box from my ex-boyfriend's grandma's auction sale... Are they still like this? I hope so.


@dragoness Also, this book by Tori Carrington might be exactly what you're looking for. Looking through their books (it's a wife/husband team), it looks like they have written more than one with a love-triangle dynamic...


@dragoness I read all of those books! I got involved in somekindof weird folie-a-deu with a friend and we would text each other at all hours with news of what was happening in the books. Obsessed! However, clearly Laurell did not read the informative and genre-saving piece above about how not to make every book a pointless and boring orgy ... which sadly eventually they were *cringe*


Scratchtickets! Bloody amazing.


I'm sorry, but this article was anti-union, and I just can't be having that. I'm off to write a sexy pro-union romance. It'll be HOT. The Union's Chief Negotiator will be doing the feisty Vice-President after tense negotiations lead to the biggest pay raise since the eighties. *fans herself vigorously*


Funniest thing I've read in some time.

Also, I'll be writing romance novels in my spare time from now on.

Lamar Anderson

"...whose eyes have known the pain of being dragged down by fatter, but inferior sparrows"!!!

Jon Custer

One time my friend gave me Birdsong to read and I extracted just the adjectives and adverbs from one of the early love/sex scenes, for comedy. I think you could just take that and sort of fill in the spaces with something about sultry pirates and BOOM, romance novel. Also works with vampires.


I love this piece of writing so much, I want to clasp it to my heaving bosom and swoon.

Homa Sapiens

The idea of some dweeby dude telling women how to structure their entertainment isn't sitting real well with me.

Clarke Barry@twitter

30 years or so ago I read an interview with the late Louis L'Amour. In it he talked of writing some romances, and that (from deep memory here) "It was great money if you can stand it." Being born for adventure I hied meself off to the nearest used paperpack store and bought a paper sack full of them and read every one. Then I sent off to the major publishers for the guidelines which in those days were printed on actual paper colored, no less, depending upon the line.

They were incredibly detailed and very strict as to what could and could not be said (again depending upon the line) and as to length.

Anyway, I gave it a try and sold every one I wrote -- which was a small number. It was by so doing I learned how spot on Mr. L'Amour was.

This column, though, makes me think maybe I should take a whack at it again. I think it may have been long enough. ;)


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