Monday, April 12, 2010

His passion for her throbbed in an obscene fashion...

...many years ago, to put myself through school, I caught a gig writing romance novels.  By agreement with the publisher I picked a feminine pen name, and set to work with the guide that they sent me. 

By contract, the book had to be 275 pages, period.  The guidelines also preferred that the storyline follow a female protagonist who was searching for love, something that had evaded her. "X" number of pages would pass before she could "give" herself to a male that she loved, although a man she detested could "take" her, so long as I didn't go into details and the fates dealt him punishment for that lapse of judgment.

The editors gave me my protagonists name, and so they created "Jayne".  Not Jane, but JAYNE" because "Jane" was a WASPISH sounding name that could belong to anyone, but the added "Y" made he special, with it, and "today".  Why did they give a you name?  Because they didn't want seven books in one month to have female protagonists all named Heather, Brittany or Mariah.

The editors also gave me the name of the man with whom "Jayne" would find happiness and fulfillment.  And his name was "Darrik" and spelled as such.  It was edgy, familiar and daring.  Darrik could have a dark secret, but that secret could not include: homosexuality, criminal acts, draft dodging or AWOL status from the military and he could not have a history of being a "Himbo" (my name for it) because while women love the idea of taming a rake, they don't like a man-whore because past behavior is a good indication of future behaviors.  Darrik could be a professional, or a blue color, each provided, according to the outline, specific plot tracks that the story could go towards.  He could have a motorcycle, but he could not drive a white van, because that would be creepy.

Included in the packet were adjectives that were "masculine" and those which belonged to the distaff side of the story:

MASCULINE adjectives included: throb, strained, brute, muscularity, rippling, brooding and tender.

FEMININE adjectives included: pulsate, trembling, quivering, wavering, wanting, yearning, dewy, moist, etc.

"Avoid melancholia - it turns readers off.  If either the protagonist,or the man who was captures her heart, are moody; it leads the reader to think that one, the other, or both are unstable."

The list was there to keep men from pulsating when they should have throbbed.  And rather than have the protagonist "feel her own heart throbbing" they preferred that she felt her pulse quickening.  Evidently the female heart could only make an appearance once she "surrendered her will" to his "unyielding desire to take her" and then the heavens would sing, the angles were free to weep and she too would know the fulfillment that had evaded her for so long.

"And no Fuckie Fudging."

Fuckie Fudging is a term to denote text that simply takes up space for the sake of taking up space.  So when Jayne finally yields to Derrik, she could not coo "Yessssss..."

That said, with all the limits they put on me, I was cooked after the third book. The first book was about a woman starting out on her own after discovering that the man she had been saving herself for had been untrue.  The second book was about a woman who, having been raised by two maiden aunts, was now free to set out on her own.  By the third book, I was out of ideas of what pure women could do that didn't involve a specific career or school.

In the second book, the protagonist was fooled by a man who held great promised, but revealed that he was a cad.  In the first book, the protagonist found the gentle man under the rough and silent exterior.  But in the third book, I just ran out of idea who could find who in the WASP world that the publisher felt that these women lived in.  SO my editor told me that I could write of write of a woman who ventured out into the world, to forget. 

"Forget what?"

"She could be trying to forget a love that wasn't pure?"

His solution wasn't all that out of the formula, so I slogged through the third book, but "Laura" and "Van" were nothing more than pale imitations of "Tamara"and "Ben" who were second rate "Jayne and  Darrik's".

So I walked away, partly because the well wasn't as deep as they needed it to be on my part, and partly because I wanted to write about a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, which was not allowed unless she was intent on bettering herself.

In the romance writers world in monthly cycle of pulp books, the line that these women could walk was narrow, but my aspirations were simply too big for the grocery store rack to hold.


  1. You were a budding Danielle Steele! I love it.

  2. Rhea Polster "contributes" one item to each of the non-fiction books that I write for Arcadia Publishing. Its a hidden joke.

  3. A former neighbor wrote stroke stories for a gay magazine and asked me to read one of his drafts. But the problem with those is when they have sex, you can end with sentences like "He lift his ankles and and placed them on his shoulders." Too confusing.

  4. A 'pulsating' and 'throbbing' look into the inside of the romance novel world. Thanks Stu.