Monday, July 6, 2009

Me Time: Word Banishment

Editor-in-Chief Kelli Collins’ rant-o-rama continues…

We’ve all seen lists upon lists of words/phrases that should be banished from the romance writers’ lexicon (see the Smart Bitches’ scathingly witty post on lave/lathe).

You don't think I'm gonna be left out, do you? I'm a child of the '80s, after all...sorta...and if there's one thing I love, it's a good list (I tried to get Hal Sparks to narrate, but it seems VH1 owns him).

Most of these aren’t new, just particularly vexing to yours truly. Call me a word Nazi, but if you’ve had to beg authors to take these words out of a couple hundred books, you’d be a bit uppity too. And there are so many more, but frequency of use was the criteria here. Just seeing any of the words below makes me shudder. They should be rounded up, blindfolded and put in front of a firing squad of sharpshooting grammar enthusiasts.

That whole freedom of speech thing requires I mention these words are, of course, still allowed in our books. So by all means, continue using them if you’d like to see a grown woman cry.

Dance: In any form. List Classic. (See my recent Annoy-o-Meter.)

Mine: Mine! MineMineMine! MINE! Okay, we get it. You’re alpha. And monosyllabic.

Little one: Common nickname for heroines, particularly those starring in BDSM novels (WTF?). If a guy called me this, I’m juuust feminist enough to punch him in the crotch.

Like never before: Some characters lead very sheltered lives.

Velvet fist (F)/Velvet rod (M): Actually, pretty much velvet anything is cliché. And coupled with the vampire genre, might as well stick a long black cape in there too.

Fire/inferno/blaze: Almost impossible not to use, or so I’m told; used most often to describe the body, and specific parts thereof. If you’re going to use fire references, perhaps be kind enough to include a list of the sexiest ways I can incinerate myself.

Womb: Stop it. Just…stop.

“You’re wearing too many clothes.” Well, they are the reason we're allowed in public. Oh, were that we were all wizards who could magically make our clothes disappear when the mood strikes. Where's our alpha Harry Potter when we need him?

Water references: wave after wave, crashing waves, cresting waves, tsunami (in reference to any emotion), etc.

Cliff references: Per Meghan: "You know what happens when you fall off a cliff? You die!"

“looked through his/her lashes”: Um…don’t we all?

Anything that pierces “straight to his/her soul”: Maybe I’m a heartless wench, but I’ve never felt a damn thing “straight to my soul”, including anyone’s gaze (most frequent use). Does anybody think/talk like this? Do they admit it?

References to heroines who can (finally!) “take his length”: Can’t believe how often I see this in the hero’s POV. Not only am I uninterested in the specific size of your character’s tool, thoughts like this make him sound like one.


Anonymous said...

What about "seal" in combination with a kiss?

I hate to read a novel I already know the ending of. I mean literally. I actually made an experiment and picked up romance novels at a store. I looked at the last page and all of the novels ended with kiss-sealing "it".

Otherwise I'm quite fond of seals. And penguins.

Anonymous said...

Oddly? I've only seen that twice in the books I've edited...but I've read it for sure. Good inclusion!

KC, a fellow seal and penguin lover...but not, you know, "lover". Eww.

Debra Glass said...

Haha! Turgid did not make the list. :-)

I, too, don't like the cliff references.

Ann Bruce said...

Dude, I fell off a cliff. Luckily, though, I had a chute.

Okay, it wasn't "fell off"...more like "threw myself off."

And where's my pet peeve, cum when not used as the Latin conjunction?

Anonymous said...

LOL! Note to self: Always consult Ann when compiling lists.


Erik said...

LOL. I have a fire reference in my latest story. Of course it goes along with the theme so it's ok.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to wonder if Ann and I were separated at birth, or perhaps just in our college English classes.

I agree with the "length" thing. Back before the mean cable company took away our free HBO I used to watch "Entourage". There's a great scene when Johnny's at a stroke parlor and the masseuse looks at his penis and goes, "So biiiig!" in a nasal, sarcastic voice. Every time I read a story with a monster tool in it (hero or equipment) I think "so biiiig!" and crack up.

Cindy Hiday said...

Taut muscles, charming good looks, rueful smile, warmth of his gaze...I used them all (and many more cliched groaners) in my first published romance 16 years ago. But, hey, it paid pretty good!

Barbara Elsborg said...

Kelli - are you sure it's not just that you read so much of this stuff that these phrases annoy you? For me - the prose either works or it doesn't. I don't mind what words are used so long as they fit together okay and it feels sincere. There are only so many ways of describing sex, climaxes etc. New ones get lambasted for being stupid and old ones are called cliched. It's just a 'feel' that a writer has it or doesn't that strikes me - less than the use of seals and penguins!!

Anonymous said...

I'd disagree with the 'piercing straight to his/her soul' because I've felt this way before. Most of humanity is too busy watching American Idol to ever discover things in their souls, but I've met those rare people whose intense gaze can pierce my soul.

The rest of your list, I definitely agree.

Christina Davis said...

omg. I'm laughing my butt off. The dance one always gets me. "Dance as old as time" specifically.

Spy Scribbler said...

ROFL! That's funny. :-)

One thing though: there are certain words that are triggers. And "little one" works for many people who enjoy BDSM. There's just certain words that bear repeating because of how they make the reader feel. Beautiful writing or not. :-)

But you would know better if the people who buy BDSM stories actually enjoy it or not, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hey Flick, yep, I'm absolutely certain repeated reading has skewed my view on these words/phrases. I'm hip to the idea many readers won't be bothered. And that's why I don't demand an author take them out...but I'll ask nicely. :)

Anon...I envy you. Mayhaps TV is indeed getting in the way of my potential soul-piercing moments. I blame "Ice Road Truckers".


Unknown said...

Okay, now this is funny -- but come on! How many ways can you describe orgasms without using fire, waves, or cliff references?

How about spinning? Circling? Thrown out beyond the stratosphere?

Sometimes those good ol' hot, waves crashing do it more for me than the flowery phrases and attempts at alternative orgasmic descriptions!

LOL -- but I get your point...uh, let me just go do some editing...

billi jean

TaraLeigh said...

Little One: If a guy called me this, I’m juuust feminist enough to punch him in the crotch.

Sweet Baby Jesus, I laughed right out loud at this one--even tweeted it. (and your link) Cripes! Hilarious. Thanks for a perfectly snarky blog post.
I so needed to read this today.

MsSnarkyPants said...

Oh good lord, you make me giggle!

I'm with Billi Jean! How many other ways are their to describe orgasms? Maybe "nuclear explosion of yumminess"? Okay, maybe not. Gimmie a break it's 1 in the morning and I'm a little bit loopy. ;)

Anonymous said...

Tara Leigh, thanks for the tweet! I do so love to be tweeted. :) And the snarky stuff is just too darn fun not to write every now and again.

And Ms. Snarky...if you care to send me a contemporary erotic humor submission, I promise to let you keep "nuclear explosion of yumminess"! Lol!


Ari Thatcher said...

I wonder if Raelene has the same feeling regarding "Little One". Guess I'll find out soon.

ECPI Editors said...

Ooh, Ari, you are probably in trouble... I can tolerate "little one" in certain circumstances, but not if it implies extreme youth or a patronizing or self-important hero. Feehan's Carpathians can get away with it, not too many others.


Blayne Edwards said...

"References to heroines who can (finally!) “take his length”: Can’t believe how often I see this in the hero’s POV. Not only am I uninterested in the specific size of your character’s tool, thoughts like this make him sound like one."

I'm assuming if I'm writing about a tool you're ok with this?

Anonymous said...

This was a great post! I kept shouting out, "Yes!" But not in that way. I'm currently editing the story I wrote and plan to submit to Ellora's Cave. Every point Kelli Collins wrote is perfect. I'm a huge fan of Ellora's Cave authors; however, sometimes I cringe reading descriptions, etc. If I read one more story where the hero calls the heroine "little one" I'm going to lose it. And the word "womb".. my goodness, are these authors trying to make their readers gag? I'm reading an erotic novel, I don't want to be turned off in the middle of a sex scene with that word! Happens too often...

Natalie Allan said...

Oh, yes! These annoy so many readers including myself. I've seen all of these plus a few more in 1 chapter of a friends novel I was critiqueing the other day. So annoying. I've seen them in published books before and thought to myself, 'What era is this from? Last year? Oh!' and stopped reading.

Looks my MS is gonna be really clean when I turn it in!

Drusilla said...

Personally, I'd love to be called "little one" but then I identify as submissive. ;) Likewise, I am interested in the size of his "tool" and love to read about the F having a hard time taking it all. ;) So, I'm a bit pervy. lol