Romance is a wonderful thing. It’s great to experience and fun to read. Romance is the backbone of many Christian novels and many times is done quite well thanks to fine writers out there creating great books.
Writers need to crank up the lovefest to keep readers titillated and eager for that first kiss or marriage proposal. I get that. What I don’t get is why there needs to be at least one “zing” per page, if not two or three.
By “zing” I mean the man getting a twinge when he touches her hand or sees the sun gleam off her hair or sees the twinkle in her eye. The woman feeling her heart pound, her nerves tingling, or her pulse quicken. Don’t forget the pupils widening, quick intakes of breath, staring unabashedly or surreptitiously, being surprised at noticing her dress, or breathing in his musky scent.
This happens page after page after page. I get more and more and more irritated. Where’s the plot? Buried beneath the zings! Recently I got so irritated during the first 30 pages that I slammed a book shut and threw it down. I’d enjoyed this author’s previous books and looked forward to the start of a new series. Until the zinging started and didn’t stop.
That afternoon I picked up two Oprah Book Club novels for 25 cents each at a garage sale and dove right in. I enjoyed them both, experiencing not even one zing.
The bigger issue is why authors and editors feel the need to tell me time after time that the protagonists are attracted to each other. Do they think I’ll forget after reading half a page?
I took a driving trip recently, going from my home to western Pennsylvania, then to Cincinnati before heading home again. My phone’s GPS kept me informed about where I should go—ad nauseam—from the second I left the driveway.
While I appreciated not getting lost, I couldn’t have gotten lost if I tried. The voice would always direct me back to the right place whether I wanted to go that way or not. It was relentless in its direction-giving.
Finally I turned it off once I knew where I was going, just like I threw down that book with all its endless, romance-pointing zings. Two months later that novelist’s book is still sitting on my office floor, the bookmark stuck at page 30.
Share your little annoyances with Christian fiction. I’ll gather them and put them in a new blog post. Don’t worry, though. There will be posts on what I like about Christian fiction, too!
I don’t like it when the author makes the good characters so good that they don’t make any wrong moves.
Perfect people are just so hard to like!
Oh! All the tingling and jello knees!
So, one thing that annoys me about Christian fiction is that often the protagonist (which is always called the heroine which makes me think of a mellow drama) is almost always teeny tiny skinny and amazingly beautiful. I mean, yes, there are skinny people out there, but are they the only ones we can write about?
Totally agree! Not everyone who falls in love is ruggedly handsome with great abs (the guy, of course) and a size 4 and 5’2 with long, wavy tresses and brilliant eyes.
I mean, I’m all of 115 lbs and my hair is perfect….still…
All the zings simply get nauseating to the point I don’t want to know any more about the characters. Then reading time is done … SLAM!
And that’s the real issue for publishers: we don’t finish the book.
For me, it’s the speed at which relationships progress. Maybe it does happen the same way in secular fiction, but I tend to choose more mysteries or women’s fiction without a strong romance thread, so I don’t notice it as much. I had to actually stop reading much Christian romance (especially shorter length novels) because it annoyed me to no end that these people were always meeting, falling in love,and getting engaged within the span of less than a week. And don’t get me started about highly unrealistic love triangles where the woman is engaged to a selfish idiot and the boy next door is perfect, unattached, and has been pining for her for years…
A week or two weeks or even three weeks or a month. It’s just too short a time. Of course, I started dating my husband in January and got married in August.
TOTALLY agree. It’s not only a “show, don’t tell” failure but also a lack of faith in the reader’s perception and imagination. We need not fill in all the blanks!
And we’re not stupid!
Love part two also. I hate books that publishers and writers try to pass off as a book with a strong female role and in the first 5 pages she meets a guy and the only thing we hear from her the rest of the book is how great he is. This happens in many books not just romance. Are females only strong if they have a guy?
There are many great things about Christian fiction so I am eager to see that post.
Many people (men and women) believe women shouldn’t be strong, especially if they have a guy. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Eager to write about what I like about Christian fiction.
Similar to Chris, I hate when a woman has great goals and dreams for her future, but none of them matter once she meets “the right one.” And really, do we really believe (or even want to believe) there is only ever one right one? What if he rebels against God and marries some diva? Am I sentenced to singleness forever? (Not that any of that would happen in a romance novel.)
Singleness sure doesn’t make for a great romance novel. See Brenda’s comment, too. And why, exactly, does a woman abdicate her dreams and goals once a guy shows up on the scene? Seriously? Unless her dream is to care for his handsome, muscled self.
As a Single/Never Married, I would like to see a strong single not always get her man. I know that may not make for a good Romance novel, but not everyone gets married and there should be strong female characters who want to get married, but want God’s best more!
Excellent point, Brenda. Good thought.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a Christian romance novel and thank goodness for that. I’d be hurling books, too. Hurling books and hurling hurl.
Zings, in real life, are rare and preciousl things. Twice a page makes them ordinary.
I agree that Christian fiction tends to be more focused on emotions than plot with romance being the “heart”of the story. I’m working at changing that image with my debut novel that pulls a lot on 17th century historical drama occurring in France. Follow my blog: JPROBINSON.ORG as I’ll be posting updates in the future.
We need to weave drama into our stories to keep our readers hooked so they the can see the most important picture of all :Christ.