The first novel I ever read that wasn’t a classic like Black Beauty or Robinson Crusoe was Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers. It was a book that was hidden in the topmost shelf of this bookshelf inside my bedroom. I was about 12 when I read The Adventurers and let me tell you, the first chapter alone had rape and murder, things a 12-year old shouldn’t be reading about. But what did I know? I devoured that book from cover to cover (actually, it didn’t even have a cover) and fell in love with Diogenes Alejandro Xenos, or Dax. I thought he was God’s gift to women.
The second novel I read was Shogun by James Clavell. I was grounded for a week for returning home past curfew and so without TV privileges, I read that 800+ page book in a week. And I fell in love with John Blackthorne, the English sailor who ends up stranded in 17th century Japan. I was probably 13 or so then and I remember how my grandfather, a retired judge and mayor, was so proud of the fact that I was apparently reading literary fiction (he had no idea about The Adventurers though).
Then came Harlequin’s Mills & Boon books that were being passed around at school. I still remember taking one home to read for the night and for some reason I ended up taking it with me to my grandparents’ house next door. The moment my grandfather saw that book, he grabbed it from my hands and ripped it to shreds. It was trash, he said, and I should never ever read trash. He said he would rip every single romance book he would see me read and after that first and last book that he ripped – that I had to pay back my classmate for – I knew better than to bring one to his house. Or read one out in public.
Fast forward so many decades later, and here I am writing trash. I write about rich men and not-so-rich women, the damsel in distress and the damsel who’s not so in distress. The drama, the melodrama, the love triangle, or not-so-love triangle, the tropes (oh, yes, those overused tropes) and cliches.
Funny though, because as long as no one says anything – that such things are over-used or cliche, I’m fine. I can write 5000 words a day – who cares if I haven’t fed my kid his lunch yet? I’ve got a story to write, damn it.
But have someone say, oh that’s so cliche, or that plot’s so over-used in my comments section, and they just raised my grandfather from the dead, and here he is now, sitting right next to me, reminding me, no, yelling at me not to read trash, and what the hell am I doing, writing such trash?
It’s amazing, this thing called muscle memory, isn’t it? How simple things trigger them to come up and they won’t let go of you so easily. Thank goodness for e-books because he has nothing to rip to shreds anymore.
Well, actually, he does.
And that’s the initial motivation to write a good story about identity (mistaken identity, apparently over-used) and relationships (way overused), because now that’s granddaddy’s up and about, I’m really just writing trash. Garbage. Basura (which is Filipino for, you guessed it, trash).
Plain. Old. Trash.
(I’m participating in some Harlequin sponsored writing contest called SYTYCW15 (So You Think You Can Write) and the winner gets a 2-book deal. It’s not necessarily about good writing because in the end, the winner is the story with the MOST votes on designated voting days. So why I’m bothering I have no idea. But with a 14K word manuscript already, guess there’s not turning back – ghost or no ghost. Trash or no trash. And yes, this piece is written in response to comments in my story, just from the 100 word pitch alone that my story pitch, while “flawless” is using a plot that’s overused and so cliché.)