"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Golden Memoirs of a Romance Judge - Part One

by Sherry Roseberry

I recently had the opportunity again to judge five books for the Romance Writers of America in the 2012 Rita contest. This time turned out different than when I’ve judged before as four out of the five entries were in separate categories. Odd! When I was done, I came away with two problems.

1. This is for kids?

Even though I gave the Young Adult 50 out of 50 for excellent writing, in depth characterization, and intricate plot, I would not let any of my grandchildren, who might be interested, read it. Unlike others, where there was no question what I was reading, I kept forgetting this was a YA until reminded that some of the main characters went to high school. Also, I was very disappointed with the language, namely taking the Lord’s name in vain, and the sexual content; topping the list with an attempt at seduction of an older man.

Isn’t this leaning a bit much on the adult side for tweens and young teens, a large age group who devours YAs? In my steadfast opinion, it is! This is also the same impressionable age group and a good portion of the fan base who is gaga over the singer, Justin Bieber. Don’t we, as authors, have an obligation to make sure our books are appropriate for our fan base?

2. Don’t rush it, please!

I’ve judged for many years in many different types of contests. What I’ve gleaned from my “vast experience and sizeable knowledge” –(I know that’s a bit strong. Okay ... a lot strong, but who’s writing this?) –is that many pre-published and published alike rush the awareness. Even though I gave them extremely high scores, that was the main problem I found on two of the entries I judged, particularly with one of them.

When he/she first meets her/him, and they are instantly at a 9 out of 10 on attraction, there’s not much to build on and many pages to fill until you type those two immortal words: The End. A book can and has become tedious with just the emotional elements to carry the story, especially if the plot needs an extra punch. At least it does for me. I find I need more substance to a story than how hot Jane and Sally thinks Dick’s body is.

Disclaimer: This, of course does not include erotica. (Although, you’d think that was what I was judging with one entry.) I assume they have their own set of rules. If they have any at all.

To show an example on how to build on awareness, I cannot think of a better example than a 1934 movie staring Claudette Colbert and Clark Cable, It Happened One Night. The story is about an out-of-work newspaper man who rides a bus and shares a cabin with a tycoon’s spoiled, runaway daughter. At first meeting they irritate each other, and, for awhile, it doesn’t improve much from there, particularity in the socialite’s point of view. In fact, even though circumstances throw them together, she doesn’t learn his name until a third of the movie is over. Now that’s building!

The funny thing about IHON is that on the last day on the set Ms. Colbert said, “I just finished the worst picture in the world!” Why is that so funny? It Happened One Night was the first movie to win the Oscar grand slam: actor, actress, director, screen play, and of course best picture. But the ironic part is, the “worst picture in the world” ended up becoming the blueprint for the modern romantic comedy, and therefore a pattern for those of us who write romance.

To Be Continued

Look for “Memoirs” Part Two coming soon to your favorite local computer.

1 comment:

  1. Judging in contests is always interesting and educational, and it can get pretty tough at times as well. It does make you question what is being put out there for our young adults. Great post, Sherry, and always with your sense of humor to brighten things up.