Ripping Apart a Bodice-Ripper

This post is in honor of Huffpo’s 2012 “Bad Sex Scene Awards”

This is a fun exercise, and it’s why I don’t write romance novels. Sit down with the trashiest bodice ripper you can find, and talk about it with your significant other.

Here’s the deal. If the people in romance novels were normal, healthy, functioning adults there wouldn’t be a plot.

Most of the conflict in most romance novels comes from (a) characters keeping unnecessary secrets from each other, (b) a misunderstanding that can’t be cleared up (because these people can’t communicate like normal people), or (c) there is an external conflict.  In real life, these would be the people we secretly stay Facebook friends with only to watch the train wrecks (not because we really like them).

I like paranormal romance better than a standard romance only because the bulk of the conflict comes from an external source (he’s a werewolf, however will she overcome their species difference? *swoon*).  This leaves the characters behaving rather sanely in an insane situation. Protagonists who wail that they can’t admit to their husbands that they are actually heiresses make my fingernails create moons in my palms for about 5 minutes before I shelve the book and leave it unread.

The other thing I love to watch for, particularly in the old used bookstore sorts of romance novels (the ones with Fabio on the cover?) are the stupid names for body parts.  If my husband comes at me with a throbbing organ, I think I’m going to get the hiccups from laughing too hard.

And don’t forget bad metaphors!  I read a pirate novel once where his desire took a backseat to his concern for her safety. Took a backseat to.  Many pirate ships have backseats? What about carriages? Coaches? Buggies? No?


I read once that a writer needs to read bad fiction just as much as the good stuff. Because a writer needs to know what not to do. I find a good Fabio-filled bodice ripper to be a few hours of cackling good time (and not for the original intended purpose!)

Do you have a genre of fiction that you read simply because you know how awful it will probably be?


One thought on “Ripping Apart a Bodice-Ripper

  1. Pingback: About Sex (and romance, but mostly sex) « A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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