Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Swoony vs Cheesy: A Mission For You

So I mentioned in my Nano update on Sunday's post that I'm curious and pondering and wondering how authors can write scenes that come off as swoony rather than cheesy or corny. I'm to those parts in my own Nano story now where as I'm writing I'm thinking, "sheesh, this sounds so stupid!" And, you know, I don't want them to sound stupid, I want them to be SWOONY!

Even though I've read I-don't-even-know-how-many-books where there are swoony parts, I can't quite put my finger on what makes them so and then to be able to go and do likewise.

Thus, I'm coming to you all for help!

Here's how I define the two:

SWOONY: Obviously, the parts of the romantic story that make you swoon, as you read it. Which is to say, it is full of all sorts of emotions that make you actually feel right along with the characters. It makes you fall in love too. It makes you say after reading it, "that was the BEST!"

CHEESY: The parts of the romantic story that make you groan and roll your eyes and go oh, sheesh, why? It makes you want the scene to just be over already. It makes you wonder why she even likes him, or he even likes her, because you just don't get it.

I've been asking around in other places, but I really want to ask here and to know what you my bestest blog buddies think. Here's your mission should you choose to accept it:

1. Tell me how you define these terms and what EXACTLY makes one scene one way and one scene other. Are there certain words that need to be used or avoided? Is it simply a matter of cliches vs. new ideas? Is it your investment in the characters? Is it just some overall feeling that you can't really describe? Is it different for everyone? Is it a personal taste sort of thing?

2. Give me some examples! I know you must have your favorite swoon-worthy scene you can share with me! Or even a remembered cheesy one! But I really want to dissect the swoony ones so I can copy learn from them! And no movie scenes allowed because I want to see how the author uses the WORDS to create such scenes. Am I right? So....can you think of some?

Here's one of my favorites from Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: 

"I can't concentrate. I thought I could do this." He put his hands up in defeat. "Can't." Then he came closer. Aria didn't think her heart could beat any faster, but then it did, faster with every step he took toward her, until it hammered against her chest, making her breathless when he stopped right in front of her. Her wooden blade rested on his chest. She stared at it, her heart in her throat. She stared at the way it pressed into his shirt.

"I've been watching you and Roar. Wanting it to be me training with you." His shoulders came up. "I don't want to do it now."

"Why?" Aria's voice was high and thin.

He smiled, a flash of shyness, before he leaned close. "There are other things I'd rather do when I'm alone with you."

Time to step off the edge. "Then do them."

Anyway, I hope some of you take me up on this and share your thoughts. I really would love to know what you think and what you feel is the bottom line thing that is the difference between these two sorts of romantic moments.

Have fun! Thank you!


  1. UGH!!! What a hard question!!! Ok I might have to come back with examples, but Swoony VS Cheesy to begin with...
    Swoony: The part in the book that makes you hold your breath hoping the characters are going do and act like you have been hoping they would act. The part you have been waiting for... where characters are courageous enough to be vulnerable and reveal their feelings/emotions, but in a way that seems real and honest. And it feels like something that could actually happen. It leaves you feeling relieved, fulfilled, and satisfied that the scene finally happened. For me a sigh of contentment would usually follow as I set the book down (still open, just taking a pause) and I bask in the possibilities of it all and relive it in my mind's eye.

    Cheesy: Characters do and say what is expected, but in a way that doesn't seem real. It comes off as not being honest/genuine or trying too hard and often cliché. It leaves you disappointed, unfulfilled, and maybe even frustrated. For me, usually followed by the closing of the book (I'll come back to it later) and a grunt of disgust/dissatisfaction.

    SO there you go... I'm sure there is something I forgot or maybe I didn't even make sense. But that is my imperfect definition of Swoony and Cheesy. Maybe I'll come back with some examples.

  2. I don't have too much to add to this discussion but one thing that I've noticed often shows up in cheesy scenes is analogies or metaphors. Unless they're really original descriptions, that can be too cliche and become cheesy. Something I really like in the scene you share are the physical descriptions of what's going on and the slight surprise when the guy explains why he doesn't want to train with her. It makes you catch your breath with the heroine wondering if he's saying he's not interested in her now.

  3. Swoony = lots of emotion, lots of tension, and a commensurate release.

    Cheesy = using the phrase "making love" more than twice in an MS, for ANY reason, no matter how character-appropriate it is.

    Just my own personal. That and $5 buys coffee at Starbucks. :D

  4. tone is a tough thing to control and it can be very subjective. Even things I thought were super romantic as a young adult (Girl of the Limberlost for example. Loved at 11. Was so cheesy now).
    I think Sophie Kinsella walks the line between cheesy and swoon-worthy. She develops such funny characters that when they are silly and have silly romance you buy it because that's been the tone of the book. They are also real and relatable and that helps because let's be honest romance is kind of cheesy.
    Same is true with Bridget Jones. The cheese is earned because the characters are endearing and funny. I would recommend listening to people's love stories. See the level of cheese when they talk. I think that will help you start to know what to write but you can never know for sure. Recently I wrote a kissing scene that I thought was hilarious but one reader thought the man was being very aggressive and mean. What I thought was funny, she thought as pushy. Who knows!

  5. Just wanted you to correct - Under the Never Sky by Veronica Roth - That should be Veronica Rossi. I was so excited when I read this post thinking that Roth had written a new one. BTW - love your reviews. You break it down and answer every question I have about a book before purchasing it for my school.

    1. Amanda: ARGH! I hate goofs like that! Thanks for pointing that out. I will fix it now.



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