Thursday, June 9, 2005

The Column That Wasn't

It dawned on me this morning that I'm one month away from my 30th birthday. The jury is still out on whether or not I'm OK with that. Right now, I'm OK with it. Of course one case of raging PMS could turn me into a crying mess - "Why, why, why?! What do I have to show for my life?!" That kind of rubbish.

In library news, I'm knee deep in weeding our very sad, very embarrassing reference collection. This morning I chucked my entire collection of Who's Who In America (because I hate those damn books) and a Thomas Register set from 2000. To any librarians reading this - yes, my reference collection really is that sad.

Maili mentioned in a previous comment that she'd like to see my aborted RTB column on children in romance. Always eager to please - here it is:

No One Under 12 Admitted

“Anyone who hates children and animals can't be all bad.” – W.C. Fields

Ever look – I mean really look – at couples with small children? At single moms and/or dads with small children? They look like hell, don’t they? Tired, exhausted, working full time – its sort of like Night Of The Living Dead except these poor adults aren’t technically zombies.

So why oh why do romance authors insist on putting small children in romances? Children are not romantic. Sure they’re cute. Sure they’re sweet. But nothing saps the romance out of a situation quicker than a child with a poopy diaper.

Worse still, there are many writers writing child characters who have no business doing so. Has this ever happened to you? You’re reading a book, and everything is going fine. Then little Timmy, age 3, shows up and starts speaking sugary dialogue like:

“I seepy Mommy.”

“Mommy, I no feel good.”

“I wuv you.”

Do kids talk like this in real life? Maybe. Do children often suffer from lisps? Sure. Do I want to read this claptrap in a romance novel? Heck no!

Infants and toddlers are just learning. They haven’t quite figured out the concept of conjugating verbs, adverbs or adjectives. They are also, by their very nature, cute as the dickens (otherwise they’re on shows like Nanny 911). You can’t write them any other way, and some authors have a tendency to go overboard.

Here’s a reminder – romance readers tend to read books for the romance. We do not read romance novels for toddlers who talk like Elmer Fudd.

That isn’t to say that all child characters in Romance Novel Land are inherently awful. Ones of a certain age can actually add dimension and conflict to a story. Thinking back on all the books I’ve read that feature interesting younger characters a pattern begins to emerge. They’re all over the age of 12. Every single one of them. They talk like adults (for the most part) and are going through various angst and struggles that we can all relate to, because after all – we were once in their shoes.

So my advice to romance authors is if you can’t write kids – don’t try. Sure these tykes are cute in real life, but slapping them with cloying dialogue has a way of inducing severe eye rolling in readers. The fact remains, that child characters are a potential minefield. If you can’t write them convincingly, don’t write them at all.

5 comments:

Tara Marie said...

1. For me 30 didn't suck, it was too close to 25 to actually suck. It was 35 that sucked. I was closer to 40 than 25 and I hated that. 40 wasn't bad because I was too busy chasing a 2 year old.

2. Children in romances can be difficult. I'm not fan of young children being in romance, because parents are exhausted and just as cranky as the kids, and that isn't all that "romantic".

3. I posted this comment about children and lisps at RTB under Maili's column "Romance Killers":

I have a child who has an extensive vocabulary, yet because of voice and tone he still sounds like a 3 1/2 year old. I think this is what’s hard for an author to bring out–they use the lisp to help show this and yet, my son and most children he goes to nursery school with don’t speak with a lisp, the few that do visit a speech pathologist twice a week.

Candy said...

"They are also, by their very nature, cute as the dickens (...)"

I fully subscribe to the theory that young children are so damn cute to avoid us drowning the little suckers after they re-decorate your hallway with their poop, terrorize the cat so badly that she pees in fear and refuses to leave her safe spot under the bed, break your iPod and go into a three-hour crying jag for no discernible reason--all within the same day.

Wendy said...

Candy:
Absolutely right on! I have a 3.5 year old niece who is so cute I get a toothache every time I look at her. But she's also a demon on wheels. So cuteness is obviously some sort a survival technique....

Tara - good point on turning 30. The last really "hard" birthday I had was 26. It struck me as "the point of no return." My coworkers assured me 30 was a cake-walk for them, but 40 was a different story altogether......

lost said...

Thanks for posting the RTB column. Aw, I wish that was in place instead of mine.

My 30th birthday took me by complete surprise. In the morning I woke up, looked at the ceiling as I pondered on the fact that it's my 30th birthday and then, out of blue, I started crying. I didn't expect this at all as I was perfectly fine the day before.

I cried on and off throughout the day. I even wept throughout my 30th birthday party. My brother had the gall to videotape me sobbing into my arms with my husband hovering closely behind, patting my back with awkwardness, and my other brother, who was next to me, grinned throughout the ordeal. Bastard.

My 31st birthday - wept a lot. 32nd - wept a bit. 33rd - less but wept a bit. 33rd - sulk. 34 - sullen. 35th - muted shock. I'm dreading how I'll behave on my 36th. Will- to give him the credit - didn't run and hide. He stayed around with a box of issues. Bless.

Nicole said...

So...how big is that box of issues by now?