Contemporary Romance Writer: Why There are No Aliens in My Novel

Beth Vogt Contemporary Romance, Writing 20 Comments

There are no aliens in Wish You Were Here, my debut novel.

Llamas, yes.

Aliens, no.

This fact greatly disappoints my husband. Whenever I hit an I-don’t-know-what-to-write-next moment, my husband always suggested aliens. And I always, always overrode his suggestion with a polite “I don’t think so.” Or a flat-out “Not gonna’ happen.”

I’m all for surprising my readers. My Preferred Reader — a close friend who will be identified from here on out as only PR — told me I did just that with one particular scene in Wish You Were Here. But I assure you, there were no aliens in that scene–registered or otherwise. Or llamas, for that matter.

Now, if my book were set in Area 51 rather than in Colorado, then I’d be OK with bringing on the aliens. Who knows? Maybe an alien would be the villain — or possibly in a surprise twist, a hero or heroine. (My husband just offered a new word for a contemporary romance novel with an alien as heroine: a hero-it.)

I learned a lot during the three years I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my first novel. (Yes, you read that correctly: I wrote Wish You Were Here over three years. Remember I was the nonfiction writer learning to walk on the Dark Side of the writing road.)

One of the things I learned: A novel’s action has to be plausible.   And, let’s face it, aliens suddenly showing up mid-story in a contemporary romance novel would be, at the very least, unlikely. At the most, it would be lousy writing.

In Your Words: How do you feel when aliens crop up in the middle of a romance novel? Obviously, if you’re reading paranormal romance, you’re probably OK with that. But how do react when a romance takes a completely implausible turn? Do you keep reading? Or is that “the end,” no matter how many pages you have left to read?








photo by spekulator/

Comments 20

  1. i’m apt to give it a few pages–just to see where the heck it’s going–before i close the door for good. but that’s not just with genre anomalies. that’s with anything that comes out of the blue, even a character action that only served the plot and wasn’t organic to the character. i’ve been known to stop watching a movie for this reason….like jurassic park when that guy just throws down a candy bar wrapper when he’s been so meticulous up until then. it just makes no sense!

    you should write an alient short story to appease hubby. at least he offers ideas, even if he is rather singular in focus. 🙂 mine would just stare at me and go, “huh?”

    1. Jeannie:
      The whole “throwing a candy wrapper” thing — great example, that.
      And my husband’s an excellent plotter, to be honest. Some of my best lines — and plot twists — came from him. I just spent yesterday plotting out part of book #2 with him.

  2. I usually research books fairly well before reading so I know they’re worth my time. It doesn’t happen often, but I have dropped books midstream if they don’t satisfy basic reasonable expectations, and to my surprise did so last week in one written by a very successful renowned male author whose work is generally quite creditable. Moral? It’s always important to provide top quality and not rest on past laurels.

  3. So funny, Beth. Your hubby and his aliens. 🙂 I get the point about implausible events in stories, though. What you wrote makes sense. 🙂 When I’ve read a story where an implausible event occurs, I usually keep reading, at least for a little while, to see if/how it gets resolved. I have put a couple of books down because of implausible reactions by characters or events, when they weren’t resolved or when there were too many.

  4. If an alien popped in unexpectedly, I’d read a little further to make sure a character wasn’t having some kind of dream. I might finish the book if there were very little left. I would probably walk around for the rest of the day with a huge question mark on my face!

    What a funny post! And for the record, I don’t think Rob would actually let you put in the alien story line! If you did, and he, your crit group and your agent let you keep it in. I assure you that your preferred reader would make you take it out! Because…best friends don’t let best friends put random alien subplots in their contemporary romance books!

  5. Agree so completely with everyone. When a hero or heroine does something so completely out of character, I’m afraid I’m out of there. And I’m with you one the aliens, Beth. Thank you, but no thank you. lol

  6. Thanks for the smile this morning, Beth! My creative writing teacher used to call these “poof” moments. He’d write “poof!” next to anything that seemed to come out of the blue, especially a too-easy ending. These moments are really unsatisfying and leave me questioning the author’s abilities.

  7. Ha! I loved the “poof” comment! And I have a sneaking suspicion your husband was having fun with you…except maybe that’s the only way a man would read a romance novel.

    1. Rob was most definitely having fun. And it was a sure-fire way to get me plotting again.
      And my dear husband read and re-read my novel. What a guy! He’s my main cheerleader.

  8. Beth-
    Looking forward to ‘Wish You Were Here’.

    As far as aliens go…writing romances–men are alien enough creatures, don’t you think?! Ha, ha. But that’s what makes them wonderful, too.

    I like some SciFi. Try Stephenie Meyer’s ‘The Host’. I thought it was too weird of a plot when I read the blurb, but I gave it a dozen pages and was hooked! Also, the YA, ‘I Am Number Four’–it has an alien-human (teenage) romance. After all, we know it happens…remember Mr. Spoc’s parents. 🙂

    So, maybe your hubby is on to something.


    1. Julia …
      I like the way you think.
      Now you’ve got me re-thinking my whole approach. Maybe I do need a hero-it.

  9. As long as you still had my attention, or as long as I was still worried about the characters, I’d keep reading to see what happened. But I stop reading when stories become ridiculous and I no longer care about the characters. There’s just so many great books out there to move on to.

    I think you should reconsider the alien novel. 🙂

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