Following A Trend vs. Finding Your Own Voice

50 Shades of Gray was undeniably a hit. You do not have to like it, to realize the impact it has made in the publishing world. Twilight did the same thing, creating a massive following who was hungry for more of the same. Harry Potter rocked the children’s book world.

But unlike Twilight and Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Gray is written in “first person present tense”. A difficult task to pull off on a a good day, and despite the subject matter, and all of the little details one could argue about and get in discussions over, the Author did it, made it readable, in a filthy sort of way.

I can understand how one would like to copy this success. Who would not want to achieve what the Author of that series achieved? Fame, notoriety and one hell of a paycheck are hard to overlook and not want to have for oneself. At the same time, romance writers need to remember that it takes a special skill to make that voice work for themselves. What sounded authentic, sounds like a wanna-be copy cat in the many other books that came across my desk written in first person present tense. Either you can pull it off, or you should stick with the conventional 3rd person writing style. Most can’t.

Take the following book for example:

Breathless For Him

A promising premise, sex, tension, erotic, and romance, all that is promised to us in this short blurb:

As a gifted opera singer, Allegra Orsini’s only obsession is music-until she meets him. A strikingly handsome and powerful man with a life splashed across the tabloids, Davison Cabot Berkeley isn’t what she expected. He’s unlike the other wealthy patrons who dine at Le Bistro. Davison sees more than just a coat-check girl working her way through grad school. And from the moment he looks at her, those deep green eyes ignite a fire inside Allegra she’s never felt before.

She craves Davison’s touch-his possession-endlessly. Even though every fiber of her being is telling her to stay away, that it’s best for both of them, she can’t. As his passion consumes her, Allegra can no longer deny Davison’s hold on her. He’ll never let her go. But as much as she wants him, Allegra can’t surrender to his love-not until she faces a painful secret from her past that could destroy them both

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? What turned me off, was that it was written as if to copy the above mentioned 50 Shades of Gray. It does not have it’s own voice, making the main character sound like an annoying person, in who’s head I really do not want to spend time in. It takes skill, a skill I admire, to take us  readers on a journey through an experience, it takes an extra skill to do this in a first person present tense narrative. What could have been an enjoyable read, was lost because of the need of wanting to jump on the bandwagon of a popular and if well done, enjoyable ride. But not very many Authors are good at this – E. L. James is. Sofia Tate is not.

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