Romance writing examples
Published: December 29, 2004
|Here are a few examples from actual submissions I have received (minus the names, of course, to protect the guilty), followed by a couple of comments. I have preserved the actual format, typos, etc., as they originally appeared:|
Meanwhile Ada got a job and went to work. She changed jobs from time to time. And on one of her jobs, she met a young man. "How are you?" he asked. Ada lifted her face and said "fine" "My name is George," he said, "I work here." What is your name? George asked. Ada, she answered. "Have lunch with me," George said.
This was, quite literally, the opening paragraph of the book. First and foremost, it's rife with formatting errors--each time a new person speaks, there should be a new paragraph. Second, what do we know about Ada? Can we see her? Hear her? What is her job? Same questions about George.
IN 1973 deep into the south West of Atlanta Georgia, Lies the site of a small town resolving around the agony, and malice that is created toward a young African American girl in the mist of many changes that leaves her lost in her own neighborhood. Eljesha Bowers is biologically mature, and looks older for her own age at ten years old, with two ponytails on both sides of her head, with skin the color of a yellow ripe banana, where kids played without the fear of guns, gang violence, the only drive-by was The Ice Cream Man, or The Dog Catcher, and kids played with happiness of old neighborhood games for family fun, and togetherness.
Here's another opening paragraph, and once more the errors are plentiful--spacing mistakes, typos, incorrect usages and capitals. The second sentence runs on for so long that it could be a river, and worse, it changes subjects, from her description to a description--I think--about her neighborhood.
An old weather worn wooden flat bottom fishing boat drifted on the slow sultry current of the coffee colored river.
An opening line. There is far too much alliteration here for this to be catchy, and because it's a run-on (and lacks commas), the impact of the sentence is lost. Imagine the difference if it read: The old fishing boat drifted on the slow current. The wood of its flat bottom was weather worn, and matched the color, like coffee with cream, of the river.
Amanda turned the computer off. The screen faded to black. She felt as if someone had taken the file to her life and deleted it. For the second time in less than two years her life had fallen apart. She pushed away from the computer, stood and walked into the kitchen. Picked up her favorite blue mug from the dish drainer in the sink. The tears ran down her face. She hugged herself. Longing to be in his arms one more time. The teakettle whistled and she shook herself back to reality.
Honestly, this is just bad. It's filled with cliches--"tears ran down her face", "She hugged herself," and so on. Worse still, the reader has no reason to care about Amanda, so none of this has any emotional impact.
In addition to the bad writing, typos and formats are numerous other flaws--use of incorrect fonts, words and letters smudged and marked out, and other miscues. Take a look at the above examples, though, and see how many mistakes you can find or how many times the writing stumbles. These aspiring authors are trying, and for that they get a nod of appreciation. What they aren't doing, however, is trying intelligently. Learning to write is an evolutionary process, but the mistakes of an amateur--someone who hasn't studied the craft or learned standard submission format, or who makes numerous mistakes early in a manuscript--are easy for any editor or agent to spot.
Here are three opening-line examples of submissions I did accept. See if you can spot some of the differences and why these got my attention:
Shrieks and gasps filled the darkened room as a frame of glittering, medieval blades plunged with a resounding thud into the silk-covered body of the young woman lying on the table.
--from The Protector by Jenifer A. Ruth
Jessie Rhoades squinted through the rain, flinching as lightning skittered across the black sky. The rain raced down the windshield so swiftly the wipers couldn't keep up. She knew she should pull over and wait out the storm, but there wasn't much of a shoulder flanking the island's narrow main drag.
--from Caught in the Act by Joyce Lamb
On the night of their engagement party, Louisa cracked up her fiance's car. The relationship went downhill after that, but not as fast as Howard's beloved Porsche went down that steep, icy slope. The Porsche might have fared better if not for the garbage truck at the bottom of the hill, and the engagement might still have flourished, if not for the money, the wedding, and Howard's mother.
--from Love, Louisa by Barbara Metzger