I’m doing Genre research. That’s where I read a bunch of stuff in a particular genre of fiction to see what the reader expectations are and to see if I can work within those constraints. The two genres I am looking at now are “Men’s Adventure” and “Paranormal Romance” (yes, some might consider them almost polar opposites, but that’s kind of the point).
One of the things that appears to be the case in both is that I’m going to have to learn to write sex scenes. So far in all my fiction I’ve been able to elide over any sex–that it happens might be important to the story (a couple of cases of that) but the details are not. However, in these genres (at least the books that I’m calling “Men’s Adventure”, books of the genre that includes the long running The Destroyer and Mack Bolan the Executioner series, and the short Viking Cipher series) sex to some extent appears to be one of the reader expectations. Likewise with Paranormal Romance.
So, yeah. Going to have to learn to write that so that it doesn’t sound stupid.
However, what prompted me to write here today was something I encountered in one of the books I’m reading (not going to name it).
Chapter One of this book was written in the heroine’s POV. Chapter two, in a break from most of the PR I’ve read was written from the heroe’s and, while he was holding a gun on the bad guy, had this line:
“Blowing Mordred’s skull apart would be far too quick.”
No. No. No. No. No. He did not just think that. Tell me he didn’t.
Shooting the bad guy is _not_ too good for him, dammit.
Look, there are reasons to have the hero not pull that trigger. “It was too quick” is not one unless you want to signal that your hero is an utter moron.
Frankly, utter morons make lousy heroes. Normally, this is where I’d put down the book because, frankly I’d be rooting for the bad guy since the hero is too stupid to live (why I can’t tolerate much of modern slasher “horror”) and I just know the author is going to have Mr. Moron stumble his way to defeating the bad guys (or, more likely being this is Romance, assisting the heroine in doing so) and get the girl so he can be her Happily Ever After. (Romance, dontcha know.)
However, the purpose of reading it is familiarization with genre expectations (Happily Ever After being the obvious one for Romance, but there are plenty of others) and it’s been shortlisted for the Rita Award so I expect it will serve that purpose and I’ve spent limited budget dollars on it. So I’ll press on.
But, seriously, when you’re writing heroes, and villains too for that matter, try not to make them stupid. If there’s one thing I hate it’s the “idiot plot”. There are three grades, each more egregious than the last:
- The plot only works if a major character is an idiot
- The plot only works if all the major characters are idiots
- The plot only works if the reader is an idiot.
To help avoid some of the common pitfalls of making sure the villain is not an idiot, a kind soul compiled the Evil Overlord List.
Here are a few examples:
- My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
- My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
- My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
- Shooting is NOT too good for my enemies.
- The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
- I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.
- When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
Likewise for the Hero.
Smart, capable, heroes and villains are much more interesting to read about than morons stumbling into a plot resolution. They just are.
They’re more interesting to write about too. Harder, but much more interesting.