Updated: Jun 7
This month's blog was inspired by an Amazon listing for a book that caught my attention over the weekend. The book was marketed as a sourcebook of words for romance writers, and my first thought was that it was a brilliant idea. After checking it out via the Look Inside feature, however, I lost interest when it appeared to be exactly what it was being marketed as.
If you're scratching your head in confusion, allow me to explain.
Although there were only a few pages available for preview, one such page was an outline of what to call various body parts. Now, while this sounded fabulously helpful, I couldn't help wonder what would happen if it 'caught on' and became a widely used reference for romance writers.
It is difficult enough trying to sound unique in an industry already heavily populated with articulate individuals (and teams) who—despite their abilities to organize and present entertaining stories to the masses—are still frozen by the thought of describing body parts and natural functions on a daily basis. Add something like a super handy list of words that has been vetted for exactly their 'type' of writing and voila! A perfect storm for creating similarly worded pieces of writing that inspire authors to sit around and point keyboard-mangled fingers at each other in accusation. "You stole 'luminous voluptuous thighs' from me—I know it!"
And what about the readers? Should we ask them to endure this type of suffering? They've already gifted us with their gracious acceptance of thousands upon thousands of furrowed brows and mischievously grinning characters. Dare we ask them to endure a world full of bestselling novels describing their heroine's ear as shell-like or stating they are in possession of a siren's shape? Oh, alright. These are already in heavy rotation. However, should we risk exposing them to, say—ten out of twenty new releases full of regurgitated material simply because the authors all took the shortcut of consulting the same romance word sourcebook? I'd bet your MC's rounded bottom that your readers would answer "oh please, no."
I believe the possibility of reader fatigue and creative atrophy are strong arguments for foregoing popular writer sourcebooks, especially ones tailored for a specific genre. Instead, consider using broader sources—think thesaurus or dictionary—or, opting for other tools in your writing toolbox (isn't this why analogies and metaphors were invented?) One may just save a reader (or another author) from a prodigious amount of brawny or broad shouldered heroes. And really, doesn't your reader base deserve something more along the lines of "the azure broadcloth sprawled across shoulders as expansive as the mountainous regions of Japan"? You bet your pursed lips they do.