I heard someone refer to romance as "fluff" again this week. Actually, it's been a loooong time since I've heard that term. Maybe I've been talking to a different sort of people in the last several years. Or maybe I've merely chosen to ignore what is right in front of my face.

Either way, it surprised me to hear it. Especially from someone who reads it

So the question is, what makes it fluff? Is it really the happy ending? Does the fact that the story ends with a satisfying, emotional conclusion make the story airy? soft? How about the sex? Is it the sex that makes it fluffy? I'm a little confused. Let's look at these aspects of romance that make the romance romance. Right? These are two characteristics of a book that set it apart from other genres.

Happily Ever After [HEA]
...the American Dream. Pursuit of happiness. Love that lasts a lifetime.

There's a chance--and I'm going out on a limb here--that this is what all people are looking for, whether they do it by taking up extreme sports or by dating off and on through their twenties. The goal in life is happiness, completion, purpose. Sooo clue me in, what's fluffy about reaching a dream, succeeding in a goal?

The fact that a romance novel portrays that journey to HEA is proof that it is NOT fluff.
Fluff would be..what? Making a goal and getting there without effort. Fluff would be... no conflict. Two people meet, fall in love, get married, have kids...and gah, gah, gah til death did they part. BORING.

I haven't read a romance novel like that. Honest to goodness, if a romance novel doesn't have conflict, it isn't going to sell! A publisher is NOT going to buy it.

Maybe this misconception by fluff-claiming readers is that the story ends at The End. Maybe they read to that satisfying ending and think... "that would never happen." or "Sure, like that couple is just going to live together forever and be happy for the rest of their lives." But what the romance novel shows is that Love conquers the bad. That they've made it through the worst--or something really awful--and survived. They'll do it again the next time, too. Suzanne Brockmann does a great job of showing this. Through her series, you see the HEA couple from book a previous book hit bumps in the road again. And I think that's what's so appealing about her books. The story doesn't stop.

The books I read hit on all the hot topics we find in life every day--divorce, sickness, career choices, sibling rivalry, death, morals and ethics, self-esteem... The people are just like people I know. Do we like the HEA? Yes. Do we get to the end of the story and go, "Awww." Probably. Do these reaction indicate an empty, airy, meaningless experience? I don't think so. More, it's a sign that we've come through something trying and won. That's the meat of the story. The story would be nothing without the trials, conflicts, and characterizations.

Fluff? I think not...
Wow, I just went on and on and on. For the record. I am not offended that people don't read romance. There are gobs of readers reading all sorts of books. Some like Fanstasy and sci-fi, some DIY, some memoirs and auto-biographies...some like historical or msyteries. There is so much to read these days!! We should all read whatever makes us happy. Just, don't go calling romance Fluff because it makes you feel happy and "destresses" you. Happy--no matter how you define it, i.e. getting to heaven or finding mr. right or making a million dollars--is the ultimate goal!! Would you define your own journey and goal as Fluff? I can't speak for everyone, but somehow, I doubt it.

Next week, I'll speak on that oh-so-hush-hush topic in romance, Sex. But I wonder if that's even necessary, because it's one of the most powerful aspects of humanity...so, not really fluff, eh? I mean it's so important...we're told to wait for 'the one', we have to do it for marriage to be official, it speaks for men, can be used by women, and without a doubt can change the course of a person's life. There's hardly anything fluffy about sex. It's important, sacred, powerful, and, over-all, not fluffy. There. Nevermind about next week. :D

Have a great week.
With Love,

Revisions and Rewrites

It's true...i'm in it big time on Unwanted Vows.
There's this myth that an author doesn't want to mess with "their baby," that they've raised this manuscript from infancy and it's perfect. But I don't agree. I find that the hesitation to change something has more to do with the ripple effect.

Yes, one change instigates numerous others. Even when I get down to the nitty gritty and find a new brilliant way to show exactly what I mean without causing the most havoc, I find there is at least one surprise.

For example, one little change, postponing a "first date" by a couple of weeks, totally screws with my day-care dilemma. When the first date ends up being at the hero's parents' home and the hero's mother graciously offers to help out with the baby until the heroine can find a permanent spot in one of the nurseries in town... well that's divine providence.

Unfortunately, without that date... i need to make more stuff up.

Back to the drawing board, if you will.

But maybe it's a good thing because my heroine is inclined to keep to herself and NOT ask for help--oh, the humility, the pride! I guess she's going to have to step out of her comfort zone.

Definitely, not a bad thing. And perhaps, better than what was written originally, eh?

This post is Procrastination

How do you handle CONFLICT?

and yes, this is for all my writer friends out there. I'm not really talking about how you duked it out with your buddy at the bar last weekend. Or, how you gave your bestest girlfriend in the whole world the silent treatment for an entire month one time.

I'm editing.
So, tell me how to do it!

1) break it down first and go through the ms one issue at a time
for example...bulk up on sensory items, first adding stuff for smelling, then for touching. In this way, I could go through for each element of conflict. Ex. Morgan left his girlfriend after high school to join the Army. He was escaping. Are those feelings clear. Does his girlfriend treat him like a woman scorned would?
Through each scene with one item.


2) Go through a ms with a list of items and change everything as you go...
i'm sure this is possible, it just seems a little overwhelming to me.

How do you do your editing?


I was sitting at the library today with my pen and paper.

Yes, you heard me. Pen and Paper. There's this area at the back of the main room with tables and chairs. I sat at a table, facing a wall of windows. A WALL OF WINDOWS.

So I got to look at that for a couple of hours... wheeehoo! See that line running down the mountain on the right?? That's the incline... I have NOT walked up the incline. My husband, on the other hand, has done it twice and plans to do it again ASAP. Perhaps someday I will be able to do it, too.

Deciding to work on the plotline for an already written story, I went through some really old notes, really old critiques, really old...everything. I thought about what I'd learned over the years and how I could apply it to this OLD manuscript. I've written a few notes about the hero, who he is and his backstory. I remembered seeing in those old notes, a question: What does the hero want?

I thought...and thought...then there was this flash of lightning!

Not, what does the hero want. That's too easy to answer. He wants her. He'll get her by doing A, B, and C. Story over in this case.

What DOESN'T the hero want? And why?

See. Cuz, I have this story in which the hero loves the girl and wants to marry her. And she's not completely out-of-love with him, either. They have history, and a very boring love story, I might add!!

But if I ask myself, "Why doesn't the hero want the girl?"

I get a whole new picture. Better questions to answer, like what made him that way. What will he do to avoid her? And in the end--hopefully--more emotion, more conflict, and a better resolution.

So, tell me, what conflicts do you like? Which ones make you cringe?

Where is the HEA?

I actually stopped reading a book this week. The disappointment was a tad overwhelming because this book started off AWESOME! Like, dance-in-the-kitchen-til-the-morning-light AWESOME. The hero was an agent...the heroine was his computer geek, couldn't-run-things-without-her, right-hand lady. Scene one, dinner party with an assassination threat. Heroine gets pulled into the field. She is going to accompany the hero as his date. The decision was a bit compulsive, but he needed someone and of course, she was there. She's trained physically... Anyhoo. VERY exciting. Hero gets attacked...shot in the chest actually...and the heroine (who didn't actually run that far away when he told her to) sees the attacker going in for the head shot. So what does she do? She kicks ass. In the scuffle, the shooter gets shot.

Scene two: At the hospital. Shooter is in surgery. Hero is in ER. He was wearing Kevlar (of course!) He hears a woman's voice. Low and behold, it's the traitorous B who almost killed him. Her son is the shooter...and guess what? It's the hero's son, too!!!! [wow, when I write it out like this, it sounds awfully cheesy] There is a confrontation in which psycho B threatens the hero (she's off the deep end, btw), but the heroine jumps in at this point and says, No. I shot your son.

There's stuff hitting fans everywhere...and the hero knows only one thing. He has to put the heroine into hiding.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! [end of round one]

We've got a sagging middle here. I swear, I was so excited about the opening of this book. Remember now, this is all research. Any books I read [usually], I tend to study. So, I asked myself, how did the author lose me? And this is what I figured out...in this instance.

I always knew the heroine loved the hero. She'd maintained a professional distance, but her internal gave her away. This isn't necessarily a problem. Most women are more in tune with their emotions. It wasn't too far into the story, maybe a third of the way, when the hero internally admitted love for the heroine. When they 'got together' at about two-thirds of the way through the book... I couldn't get that excitement back.

They had their Happily Ever After!

Sure, there were still bad guys on the loose, but the hideaway was known only to the hero. Not even his best friend or family knew where they were. Also, the bunker had a room FILLED with computers, but the heroine [the computer EXPERT!] never even went in there. Didn't do anything during the time they were there to help find out who had hacked into the company's system. Why not?

I had to stop reading...the final straw was when the heroine went into the cave of this bunker/hideaway and...for the THIRD TIME!, mentioned the stalagmites--or was is stalactites? Seriously, she said that in her head THREE times. To me, the stinks of author intrusion. As if she didn't have the time or wherewithal to look it up...and so, made the heroine an idiot. Because, if you were curious about something, wouldn't you go to that computer room on the other side of the bunker and LOOK IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sheesh.

Stalagmites: rising from the floor.
Stalactites: hanging from the ceiling.


There was a point to this... Oh right. I have a tendency to do this. AVOID CONFLICT, especially in the relationships I conjure up. It's in direct relationship to reading books where I groan at the stupid reasons people have conflict, BUT I read just as many books with good conflict. So, I'm going to make sure my book doesn't resemble this one....
How about you? Do you get tired of the conflict in a romance? What do you do in your writing to avoid such conflict?