Friday, July 13, 2012

You And Me Could Write A Bad Romance

So our Creative Writing Class spent the last two lessons on the romance genre. Obviously this degenerated into a discussion of pornography and Fifty Shades of Grey, slightly hampered by the fact that only two of us had read any of Ms James work that wasn't a selection. But that's not important. What everyone is dying to find out is what I find romantic. This question is not really answered here in this tripley titled piece:

Withdrawal Method
Caution and Precaution
Girl Trouble

It was a perfect summer’s day at the beach. The slight breeze didn’t disturb the sand and carried the salt smell of the sea to me. The blazing sun beat down on my back. I lay on the towel and waited.

“Gwendolyn, I... I built you a castle.”

I rolled over. It was impressive. Simon had made it nearly waist high, with a central keep and a dozen surrounding towers. It was decorated with flags and seashells. As I watched, he swung his spade, breaking a dam and water flowed into the moat.

“I built it because it’s a castle. For you. You’re, you’re my princess, and when we’re together it’s like a fairytale.”

He stopped for a moment. I looked at his thin figure, not shown to his best advantage in swimming trunks. He was just what I wanted, he did what he was told and had a good car. His only flaw was never getting to the point.

“Gwendolyn, I’ve been thinking about what you said. And, and I have an answer for you.”

Well at last! I’d made my proposal hours ago. I know girls shouldn’t take the lead in this kind of thing, but honestly, we’d never get anywhere if I had to wait for him. I sat up, took off my sunglasses and stared up at him, my eyes bright with anticipation.

“Gwendolyn, I... GACK!” The castle collapsed and sand sprayed across Simon’s face, into his eyes and mouth.

A tall, laughing, dark haired figure appeared in the ruins of the sandcastle. “How d’ya like that, bozo?” he said.

Simon wiped his face and put his glasses back on. “I, you... what do you...?”

The arrival stepped closer, towering a head taller, his powerful tanned torso contrasting with Simon’s pale skin. “Something to say shrimpy? I didn’t think so.” He turned to me.

“Hey gorgeous. How about we make like a tree and leave.”

I looked him up and down. “Do you have a car?” I asked.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

I stood up, brushed the sand from my long legs. I pulled my summer dress on over my bikini, adjusting the bodice over the bow on the front, pulled my golden hair back into a ponytail then picked up my bag. “Okay, let’s go.”

“But Gwendolyn!”

I looked down at Simon. “Sorry baby. But I think this guy can give me everything I want.”


In Joey’s red convertible we raced down the coast road. He drove fast and aggressively, watching me from the corner of his eye to see how I reacted. I was a little nervous.

“I think you should cool it a little Joey.”

“I don’t know what that dweeb did in his car, but this is how a man drives.”

“I know and I like it. But the cops sometimes wait out on the edge of town to catch speeders. I don’t want you to get in trouble, not when we’re only just getting started.”

He grinned at me, and eased off, so that we hit town at the speed limit.

“Can we go by the bank? I need to do something there, before it closes for the day. After that I’m totally free.”

“Sure baby,” he said, and pulled in right across the street. I checked my reflection in the vanity mirror, added a touch of lipstick.

“Wait right here,” I said. “I won’t be long.”

Smoke and flames followed me as I ran out of the bank. I threw the bag in the car and jumped in after it. Joey looked at me in shock. “What the hell happened Gwen?”

I smiled, white teeth between scarlet lips. “I had to make a withdrawal.” I pointed the gun at him. “I think you’d better drive.”

Sirens screaming behind us, we raced down the highway. I ran my fingers over his strong, manly hands that clutched white knuckled at the steering wheel. Looking at the blood stained banknotes that had fallen out of the bag I snuggled up to him, pressing myself against his chest, and kissed his strained, grimacing face.

“You know, I think this could be the start of a beautiful fucking partnership."
Official Soundtrack[1]:

Well, the first thing is that I have taken a lot of cliched genre-romance elements[2] and given them a twist, but I have twisted them so far that this is no longer romance. Secondly, I tried it with family friendly language, but the last section isn't as strong without the fucking. It has to be that word because by placing it out of usual adjectival order, after the beautiful, it implies both it's literal and metaphorical meaning. As was pointed out, in a film if we were using obscenity, then Joey would probably swear like a one eyed carpenter, or maybe a fishwife.

My use of first person was criticised. Mills and Boon, it seems, insist on a third person voice which influences the rest of the romance genre. By using first person I am hinting something is up. Interesting as I went for first person in order to make the surprise at the change stronger[3].

Several hints earlier make it clear that Gwen is very self-centred, making the twist more plausible, which was admired. The word "bodice", and the phrase "strong, manly hands" were suggested by my brother, who also had a couple of comments on the first draft. I may have used them in the rewrite, can't remember. I have juiced up the ending; previously the bank wasn't on fire and the money wasn't bloodstained. If I'm going with both real and preceived romance cliches, I should go with some crime and thriller ones.

[1] The actual song in my head while writing this was Guns 'n' Roses Sweet Child of Mine. Because we all want it, here's that very song being played on electric harp by twins.
[2] Some so cliched that they don't appear any more.
[3] One suggestion was that I went for first person because I want to be a woman. Well, you know, it's like Spain. I'd go there on holiday, but I wouldn't want to live there.
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