Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bad Romance

February is the month of Valentines and romance. In keeping with our KISS theme (keep it short and simple), here is a short list of malignant memes about love that are perpetuated through modern storytelling.

1. My love will heal you syndrome.

Love cannot cure dysfunctional behavior. You can love someone through their recovery, but the journey is theirs to undertake. If the character is severely dysfunctional and verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive, your hero/heroine should run, not marry them.

2. The Eeyore syndrome, or “Thanks for noticing me.”

Your hero/heroine’s self-worth should not be based on who pays attention to them. Let’s model heroes and heroines with intact self-esteem: no more doormats.

3. The Jessica Rabbit Syndrome

Your heroine does not have to have large breasts and wear stiletto heels to be sexy. Your hero does not have to have six-pack abs and a seven figure bank account. Sexy is confidence, humor, and a good character. Those traits come in all shapes, sizes, and income brackets.

4. Bad Boy Syndrome

Bad boys make horrible partners. So do bad girls. Stop glorifying them.

5. Bad Ass Syndrome

Heroines have become physically and verbally abusive and behave as badly as the worst of men. Now we have women beating up men, women beating up other women, and men beating up everyone. That’s not what the suffragettes fought for. Bad ass means being courageous enough to do the right thing, even if it comes with a price.

You can write a gripping story without relying on these memes for tension and conflict. Your words have power. Wield them wisely.



Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

11 comments :

  1. I totally agree with you, Diana - especially on the first one. The "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" is a particularly odious example, where the [depressed / unfulfilled / just plain mean] male protagonist gets to turn his life around because he meets and falls for a bubbly quirky woman who either sets him straight or ties him in knots until he relents and repents. :-/

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    1. That was one of the themes in the books I read as a teen. Then I grew up, got divorced, and went through therapy. : )

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  2. Well said. Characters have to have flaws, but overcoming them in fairy-tale ways isn't realistic.

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    1. I hate "script called for it" changes and plot arcs. Bleck.

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  3. Well, one thing my readers will never have to worry about is seeing one of those 'memes' (I had to look up that word) show up in my stuff. Oh, and I'm so happy to hear that I don't need six-pack abs or a seven figure bank account to be sexy ... just quit my gym membership and fired my broker.

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    1. Good sense of humor and good character are all that matter in the end. Looks fade and bank accounts can empty.

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  4. Great post, Diana. I do like flawed characters as long as they're not mean or abusive, and I don't think they always have to get unflawed. None of us is perfect, and a complete character reversal isn't realistic. I'm big on the reasons why a character is the way s/he is, but knowing the reason doesn't mean a cure or a change. It's just a way to deal with the imperfection.

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  5. THANK YOU for saying all that! I am not a fan of romance where the major form of conflict is between the two lead characters. If I want a knock down, drag out fight, I'll watch the a Steven Segal movie. I like flawed characters who grow and change on their own, not because someone changes them. My aunt always used to say, "Don't marry a man with the idea of changing him. It won't happen." I often wonder what that said about my uncle, but it was excellent advice.

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  6. There's a lot of truth in you examples!

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  7. Maybe this is the reason I'm not a big romance fan. Too many in that genre don't ring true for me.

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  8. Question and response to this post:
    http://dianahurwitz.blogspot.com/2015/02/subliminal-messages-in-romance.html

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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