Clean Romance: Old-fashioned Idea or New Trend?

(Warning: I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to get on a fairly large soap box.)

Why does everything have to be sexualized? I’m sick of it!

Last night, our family went to the Detroit Pistons game (basketball game for the non-sports people). It was such a riot and a blast, and I was having such a great time. Until . . . the dancers came out. Their moves, their outfits, their fake bodies. Everything reeked of sex and I was cringing with my five kids next to me, including my teenage boy and girl. (I would have been cringing without kids.) My husband’s company offered us great seats and as such, there wasn’t much to miss. I kept saying, “Hey, you guys want some popcorn?” “Hey, look at the mascot over there? He’s funny, right?” “Wow, look at all the pretty lights!” just waiting for the songs to be done.

FYI, I will be writing a letter to the Pistons staff because I write letters when I’m offended. Part of me believes it makes a difference, because I once sent a nasty letter to Google about an offensive ad and next thing I knew, I was emailing back and forth with one of their Senior Board Members. I haven’t seen the ad since. But even if my letters fall on deaf ears, I have no business complaining unless I speak up and try to do something about it (like I mentioned in a recent post). Watch out Pistons management, Mother Bear around the corner.

But I digress.

I’m sick of our sexualized culture. I’m sick of feeling like a Mother Bear all the time. Movies. Books. Video Games. Radio. Even harmless websites have harmful advertising in the sidebar. I mean, come on people!

Enough already!

Interestingly enough, I’m seeing a trend in the book world. There is a large group of people that are running to the Young Adult (teen) market. Readers and writers. Why? I think that many, like me, are sick to death of the of this over-sexualization in our culture and are hoping to find less prevalence in the teenage world. I say “less” because the YA genre is not free from sex. WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD? Hmmmm, deep breath might be warranted at this point.

*Deep breath*

Okay. Back in control.

This new ‘clean’ trend in the YA is awesome, but…what if I don’t always want to read about teenagers? No offense to that group of people, but I already live with two teens. Do I really have to read and write about them too? I have friends who turn to the Christian market to find clean romances to read, but really, do I have to read cheesey religious books now too? No offense to religion or religious books, especially because I consider myself very religious, and SADIE has religion in it (although my next book doesn’t). Hopefully you are understanding my point, though.

There has to be a place somewhere that I can read about engaging, quirky, fascinating adult characters without muddling through the smut.

So here’s my plea to everyone out there.

I write romances. I write clean romances. But I can’t read my own stuff all the time. As much as I might like my stories, that’s lame and dumb. So please writers, PLEASE give me some reading with grown-up characters that’s safe for my 13-year-old girl to read. PLEASE! And it’s not just for me. I’m telling you, there’s a whole market out there that few are tapping into. Readers are running in droves to the YA market because they feel like it can’t be done in the adult world. It CAN! It has to for my sanity!

*Another deep breath*

My last point.

  1. Why is Jane Austen considered the greatest romance writer of all time? Her books are super squeaky clean. You might get a kiss out of the main characters. Maybe. But we totally and completely adore them–at least I do.

2. Why were 9 out of the top 10 grossing films of 2011 PG-13 or less, when over half (at least) of movies in theaters are rated R?

3. Why are people running to the YA market?

4. Why don’t authors and Hollywood understand this?


Enough ranting.

And if you haven’t heard about it, is a great website for parents or non-parents who want to find out what content/smut is in movies and books. It isn’t all-inclusive, but it has the major ones. You can check out some of their book reviews here. Big thank you to them!!!

I’m still waiting for goodreads to come out with a rating feature so people not only rate how much they like a book, but where it would fit on the PG-XXX scale. Maybe someday.

(UPDATE: there is a new book website called which rates books on content. Check it out!)

Okay, I’m done. Stepping off the soap box now. But I’m really hoping you’ll weigh in on this.

Do you agree with me? Disagree? Am I old-fashioned or could this be the new trend? What are your thoughts as a reader, writer, movie goer, music listener? As a parent? As a non-parent? As a consumer? 

Okay Campers, Rise and Shine!


“Okay campers, rise and shine. And don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s COOOOLD out there!” 

“It’s cold out there every day.”

“The big question on everyone’s lips—“

“—On their chapped lips.”

“Their chapped lips, right, is: Do you think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow?’ Punxsutawney Phil. That’s right woodchuck chuckers, it’s GROUNDHOG’S DAY!”
Don’t drive angry!

“Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right? Right? Right?”

Oh, the power of a great story to forever change an obscure holiday. :)

Have a great Groundhog’s Day!

90% Non-verbal Stuff — Part 1

Yesterday I asked three questions of my writing friends. Since I got such a great response, and since several people have expressed interest in this particular topic–me especially–I decided to spread out their ideas over the next three days. That way this post won’t be ten pages long (and it might also give you some time to think of tricks that you can share with us as well).

here are the questions:

  1. If 90% of all communication is non-verbal, how should authors portray this? 
  2. How have you seen non-verbal communication used in other books? 
  3. What tricks have you personally tried that worked without weighing down the manuscript?

The first response comes from Tricia Pease. I broke down what she said into bullet points because I tend to think in bullet points.

Tricia:  I guess the biggest thing for me is to:

  1. Keep the non-verbal stuff brief and intuitive.
  2. Have the characters respond to a situation in way that your readers can relate to on some level.
  3. Try to keep the non-verbal communication logical. When authors make their characters do too much or too little in response to a situation, I feel myself stepping away from the story line and wondering what the author is thinking.
  4. I also have found that if I am spending too much time describing the non-verbal communication and it is weighing down my story, I just stop writing that scene. I’ll write the next chapter or two and then I can come back and fix it a lot easier. When I know what’s coming next it helps to more accurately describe what has already happened.

So true. What Tricia said made me think about the movie “Tangled.”

I love, love, love the scene when the guard comes to tell the king and queen that their long-lost daughter has finally been found. There isn’t a single word uttered. Not one. It’s all non-verbal totally cool stuff. It’s also brief and completely intuitive to how I picture myself responding to news so shocking. In fact, most of the scenes with the king and queen in “Tangled” are non-verbal stuff (if not all, I haven’t checked).

Here’s a very short clip–very short–to illustrate. (Turn down the sound so you can focus). As you watch, notice the guard’s face. His shoulders. His breathing. The way he’s leaned forward. How he nods ever so slightly. Then watch the king and queen, their faces, mouths, hands, and basically what they DO.

From a writing standpoint, that’s serious awesomeness.

Imagine if the guard had burst in and started talking a million miles a minute and the king and queen had gasped and sobbed on each other’s shoulders. We would have shut off to all the drama, right?

If you give your audience too much, it’s just too much, like Tricia said. But you still have to give them something. To use the old adage, “Don’t tell me. Show me.” And this is some serious showing. I counted at least five emotions just by watching their non-verbal cues. How cool is that?

I realize this is a movie, but books can and should be a movie in the readers’ minds. If you can’t see the subtlety in your characters actions, neither will your readers. But…only show us non-verbal cues if it matters to the story. Does it matter that the character is breathing quickly or leaning forward? Does it matter if he’s bouncing his knee? His pencil? If it doesn’t, skip it. Strike that balance. Think through what’s intuitive and if it isn’t working, come back to it later.

The second response comes from my friend Sharon Belknap.

There is so much to be said in an expression, a hesitation, in the way a person folds his arms or even the length of a breath. (I’m picturing “Tangled” again.) To me, it is so much more imperative to a story to include details like this than the color of the curtains, the layout of a room or even physical features of the characters in the story.

The beauty of writing is that all of those nonverbal clues can be included. You can get inside the head of your characters, something you can’t do nearly as well as in a movie or play. You can follow a character along on a demented journey of wonderings, many of which paths can veer off into unexpected directions or dead end without warning.

That’s one of the things that makes reading and writing so interesting and compelling. I can’t remember feeling weighed down by these non-verbal kinds of details. But maybe that’s just me.

I agree. I love being in character’s heads. In fact, I get frustrated when I read a book and they forget to add in those details–or when I only get those non-verbal cues sporadically and only in the beginning when I haven’t grown to love or understand the character yet.

To go back to “Tangled” (because at this point, why not?), think about the scene where Rapunzel has just broken out of her tower/prison for the first time. If you haven’t noticed this scene before from a writing standpoint, notice it now.

Before you watch this clip, turn down the sound again and pay attention to all non-verbal stuff going on. There’s a whole bunch in there–from both of them.

I love it when a character DOES something and the author doesn’t tell me why, because really, that’s how life is. If someone looks at me and folds their arms, I have to figure out why. What did I say that ticked them off? Or are they even ticked off? Maybe they’re just pensive. Or tired. Or cold. Make your readers wonder—but ONLY if it ADDS to the story. If your character is tired because they stayed up too late cutting their toenails, don’t waste my time telling me UNLESS it’s going to impair their judgment and they fall asleep at the wheel and drive off a cliff to their demise. Okay. You get the idea.

Oh man, I’m so excited for this topic! I have a character I’m working on right now who is not a “man of many words.” This is going to help a ton! And tomorrow I promise no more “Tangled” references. Maybe.

Thanks to Sharon and Tricia for sharing your thoughts.

Tune in tomorrow for more ideas of how to get that 90% of non-verbal communication into your manuscript without weighing it down.

6 websites for authors to create an online (1)

Happy 400th!

When I get online every day, my homepage pops up, which has a quick list of news articles from around the world. Most days I ignore these articles, but today one caught my interest:

King James Bible: Queen marks 400th anniversary.”

My first thought was, why on earth would Queen Elizabeth be celebrating the anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible? And even beyond, why the heck did the liberal media care?
Sometimes I’m really slow. 
Before that, I should mention that I’ve been aware that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the KJV for some time now. I teach an adult Sunday School class in my congregation where we have spent the entire year (to my utter delight) studying the New Testament out of the KJV. My church, the LDS/Mormon Church has asked that all English speaking members use the KJV. So I have grown up with it. To say that I love teaching out of the KJV would be a gross understatement. I eat up every moment of it. It’s been so awesome and I’ve learned so much just this year!
So I’ve been interested in any articles talking about the 400th anniversary of this incredible book. With that, I saw earlier this year that BYU had produced an awesome documentary (no, that is not an oxymoron) that is entitled “Fires of Faith.” It is a three-part documentary going through how the King James Version came to be in 1611. You can check it out here. It is very, very well done and informative. I had no idea how much controversy was involved, or how grateful we should be to have this beautiful translation of God’s word.
But even with all this, I still couldn’t figure out what the Queen of England had to do with anything.
Again, I’m really…really…slow sometimes.
It finally hit me that this is the anniversary of the KING James Version of the Bible, as in King James I, King of England in 1611. As King of England, James I was also the head of the Church of England, and sanctioned this particular translation.
Okay, so that explained why the British Monarch, namely Elizabeth, would want to celebrate. But still, front page news?
Then I remembered that British Monarchy isn’t like our US Presidency. You aren’t elected into it, you are born into it. Or in other words:
Queen Elizabeth II is King James’ great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter. (That’s nine greats if you’re counting.) Of all the people in the world to help celebrate, surely she should be one of them. How would you like having your ninth great-grandpa’s name on your Bible? Cool, eh?
I also got to thinking today about how less than a decade after this translation was finished, the first permanent settlers sailed for America. Only 9 years later! That can’t be a coincidence. Especially considering how much of Colonial America was shaped by the Bible. The article above even points out how much of today’s English is influenced by the language of the KJV.
Another thing I learned (can you tell I’m excited?) is that it took 54 scholars to create the KJV. I knew it was a lot, but didn’t know it was that many. Not only that, but those scholars were contemporaries with William Shakespeare who died in 1616. In fact, they could have just walked across the field and asked, “Hey Shakespeare, what do you think of this particular passage?” or more accurately, “Pray tell, Sir William, what dost thou thinkest of said passage below?” Which explains why, at times, reading the KJV feels like you’re reading Shakespeare.
And yes, I agree–partially–with people who say that the King James language can be very cumbersome and difficult to understand. It can, but it is also absolutely, positively beautiful. And well worth it, in my opinion!
For example, in most new English translations of the Bible, the common phrase is rendered “Faith, Hope, and Love.” And yet in the King James Version it says “Faith, Hope, and Charity.” What is the difference between love and charity, you may ask? Well, charity isn’t just any love, it is defined as “The Pure Love of Christ,” which is something far greater than just love.
Apply that to an excerpt of Paul’s great sermon in 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve listed just a few verses side by side to show a quick comparison. The NIV, a popular version of the Bible today, is on the left, while the traditional KJV on the right.  Note the difference in language.
And if you go back and substitute “The Pure Love of Christ” in place of every use of the word “Charity,” the language becomes even more powerful.
“And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not (the pure love of Christ), I AM NOTHING…Now abideth faith, hope, and charity (which is the pure love of Christ), these three; but the greatest of these is charity…Follow after charity (the pure love of Christ).”
So yes, the KJV can be a bit cumbersome and confusing at times, but it is also incredibly, amazingly beautiful. And poetic. I think it is well worth the effort! But even beyond, I think the King James Version of the Bible has shaped our society, our language, and the history of America more than we will ever know.
Happy 400th KJV!