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:~: Sunday, April 23, 2006 :~:

Mommy? What is that man DOING to you????

I was reading an article recently that talked about having children in romance novels. Basically, the author of said article (and I can't remember who it was or where I read it, go figure) was lamenting that readers want to escape reality when they pick up a romance, hence they don't want to read about things like mouthy children and frazzled parents.

Now, because I have three mouthy children (okay, two and one who babbles nonstop) and I'm usually classified as a frazzled parent (um...reality check: I'm always a frazzled parent), I can sort of see the validity in that statement. I read to escape. And escaping into a world I live day after day isn't escaping for me. For the most part, I would say the books I choose to read do not have kids in them. It's not a conscious decision on my part though, because I have read (and written) books with kids. I just don't think my favorite authors write plots that include kids all that often.

Why?

Well, kids throw in a whole other dynamic in a romance, especially a romantic suspense where the hero and heroine are running for their lives. (And I tend to read primarily romantic suspense.)

Heroine: "Wait, honey. I have to buckle the three-year old in his carseat before we speed away from the bad guy."

Hero: "What? He's waving a gun at us, and you're worried about carseats at a time like this?"

Heroine: "You think I'd endanger my child by not strapping him into a government approved safety device? What happens if we crash? Are you completely insane or just clueless? Don't you know me at all?"

Three-year old: "I'm hungry. I want McDonalds!"

Hero: "Holy shit. What did I get myself into???"

Kinda hard to do. But you know if you don't strap that three-year-old into his carseat before you send your hero and heroine darting off into traffic with a killer on their tale, every mother who reads your book is going to toss it at the wall.

Aside from the logistics of adding kids into a romance novel, you have the added struggle of getting your characters from mutual attraction to hot and heavy to true love all while little eyes are watching. When you add kids to the mix of suspense and romance, it ups that how the hell are we going to make this work? factor to the nth degree.

The other day I was editing chapters for J, and in one scene - a really great scene by the way - the hero is playing mud baseball with the heroine and her two daughters. One is eight. One is four. The scene was funny and cute, and very enjoyable to read, esp. when the heroine threw her muddy body at the hero and the two rolled through the muck like greased pigs. But reading, I was blushing because I knew those two girls were watching, and I could actually picture my kids in that situation. My seven-year-old misses nothing. She has radar ears that hear everything, and I already know she knows way more about sex than I did at her age. I honestly can't imagine trying to go through that whole meet someone-fall in love in front of my kids' watchful eyes.

Now, I don't know if J meant for this scene to be so funny, but it was because the hero (who doesn't have kids) is so totally clueless that little eyes are watching all the time, and this isn't the first time he's been oblivious, which makes it even funnier. So in this instance, adding kids to the plot added depth to the main characters. Did they get all hot and heavy in the mud? No, damn it, of course not. But you want them to. However, when two little kids are underfoot the whole time, it makes a person wonder when the heck that will happen.

Good authors can work kids into a novel and make it believable. Usually there's a place the hero or heroine can dump the children for a few hours so they can get down to business. Because, let's face it, intimacy is important in a romance novel, and as all of us with kids know, it's darn hard to find in a chaotic household. I don't mind reading plots with kids as long as the author doesn't sacrifice the relationship between the hero and heroine in an attempt to give the kids realistic screen time. I don't want their love scenes interrupted every time by little voices saying, "what's going on in there?", or "Mommy? What is that man doing to you???" I think a lot of times authors add kids to try to keep the main characters apart. If that's the reason, then it doesn't work for me. There should be other factors keeping the hero and heroine apart, not just the fact kids are beating on the door or sticking their fingers beneath the crack until the heroine (or hero) relents and comes out.

So let me ask you . . . do you like novels with kids in them? Does it make you want to put a book down or pick it up or does it not matter? And if you are a writer, are you drawn to writing plots that include kids? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

8Comments:

Blogger Paty Jager said...

Kids are a part of life, whether they are your own or someone elses. Yes - I have kids in all of my stories. Look around you- when don't you see a kid? And because my books are a lot about family relationships as much as romances. I think out of all my books- if there isn't a child there is at least a teenager. Not necesarily in every scene, but as an important part of the story line. But- I don't write Romantic Suspense. I write historicals and contemporary. I think that makes a difference too.

Plus they can get away with saying the darnedest things!

7:41 AM  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I don't really care one way or another but I had to comment.......

>>how the hell are we going to make this work?

FOr their safety, ma'am, it'd be a good idea to send the kids to grandma until we catch the bad guy ;-)

I know major copout! LOL

8:06 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

I'm glad you liked that scene, E. And it's even better because I didn't intend it to be that way (clueless hero), but it must have been playing in the back of my head because it sounds like it worked out right.

Hee...wait til you read my first love scene. OMG, you'll totally relate.

And as far as kids in books, escape, etc...it all depends on the book, how the author handles the kids and the kid themself. I don't mind troubled teens that have their own character arc--that's pretty entertaining and rewarding to watch, but bratty, noisey, spoiled little urchins? No way. That would definitly be a wall slammer. And using the kids as a device? That book would get a royal flaming in the fireplace.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Very true, Paty. In thinking about the books I've read with kids, I'd say most of them are on the contemporary side - if there is a suspense plot, it's more minor than major.

And you are right. Kids do say the darnedest things. And they can get away with a whole lot more!

10:00 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFLMAO, Cece!

Love it. Wonder if I can pull that with my own mother . . .

10:00 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Joan, your hero is totally clueless in all things kid related. And it's really cute. But he's also very sweet with the girls, which makes up for it. LOL

Love scene - droooool - what chapter are we talking????

10:02 PM  
Blogger MaryF said...

I don't like romance novels with kids, but it looks like my next WIP will have a kid - how did THAT happen??

4:01 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Okay, I'll bite, Mary. How DID that happen???? :)

10:15 AM  

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