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:~: Friday, August 24, 2007 :~:

Remembering Why It Is We Write

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the wip (AKA: The Book From Hell). It's an RS (obviously), but while I don't tend to write about dark and depressing subject matter like serial killers and rapists, this book has an overwhelming somberness around it. It's emotional, there's lots of worry and angst and lies and betrayal. Serious trust issues at the core of the story. I would classify it as being "lighter RS" in that I don't document gruesome murder scenes, but it definitely has a "dark" emotional quality to it.

While editing what I'd already written a while back, I tried to pay attention to what it is about my hero or heroine that attracts the other. Yes, characters can be insanely attracted to another amongst a backdrop of murder and mayhem, but sometimes I ask myself, where's the entertainment in that? Is this person going to look at their significant other and see anything uplifting? Anything that makes them think happy thoughts? A good friend of mine is always reminding me that we write for entertainment purposes. That readers - regardless of the genre they read - read for enjoyment and to have fun. Too much dark and depressing - in my book - isn't fun.

Nora Roberts does a great job of adding in the daily details of life and turning them around so they strike you as comical or light or sometimes enjoyable. There's a scene in Angels Fall where the hero (a writer) is running around cleaning up his house before the heroine's going to come over for dinner. He's in the kitchen, cleaning like a guy, and thinks to himself, "Why do I bother to put the dirty dishes in the sink? I just have to take them back out again." Now, that line isn't in and of itself funny or even that entertaining, but it came at a time when the book could have taken a very dark detour, and it lightened the story enough that I thought to myself, "You know what? That's so true. Why the heck do I put the dirty dishes in the sink too?" It made me laugh. And yes, it entertained me, and it made me like the hero that much more because I identified with him.

I recently reread one of my favorite books - Perfect by Judith McNaught. The book is way too long (at over 600 pgs), and there are way too many backstory passages and telling sections and times when the author hits you over the head and elaborates for paragraphs and paragraphs when one line would have accomplished the same objective. But amidst this deep, emotional story, she's taken the time to show the little conversations, the teasing and fun that made the hero and heroine fall in love. It's not all deep and depressing (though it easily could be). There's a scene where they're playing in the snow, another where they're doing nothing more exciting than watching a movie, and while some would say those scenes seriously slow the pace, I disagree. Those scenes are some of my favorites because they are why I fell in love with this book and these characters, and without them, that book would have fallen flat in my opinion.

While editing the other night, I added in a conversation at the tail end of a scene between the hero and heroine where their angst-filled discussion turns slightly light and teasing. As I was reading that particular scene (before revisions) I realized there was nothing fun between this couple. Why on earth would she want to be with him and him with her if there isn't some element of fun and intrigue there? Sometimes I think we get so focused on pushing the plot forward and keeping the pace going that we forget the little things that make a romance novel such a fun read to experience.

What about you? What makes a romance novel more entertaining for you? Is it the fast paced, angst-filled plot, or is it the little conversations here and there that show you a glimpse of who each of your characters are?



Blogger Paty Jager said...

I like to see and feel the characters. My favorite scenes are when the two are talking, bantering if you will, or just doing something together and the gestures they make toward one another are what make or break a romance for me.

I agree, writing is for entertainment. I don't like to read dark, gritty books,I want something that I come away feeling good about. I don't watch dark or action packed movies. I like romantic comedies or ones like Coach Carter that are uplifting. I like my books that way too.

1:46 PM  
Blogger KateS said...

I LOVE LOVE Perfect. Most definitely way too long, but I loved Paradise too and it was even worse. I find that when I re-read, I got strictly to the parts I like and skip all the unnecessary stuff.

But Zack and Julie are two of my favorite characters, along with Matt and Meredith. You put those names together anywhere and that's what I think about. :-)

My characters have a lot of teasing, but mine's pure contemporary rather than suspense. There's anger, jealousy, the usual, but this wip is pretty cute and light.

Sigh. I just called my ms "cute". :-P

12:53 PM  
Blogger Piper Lee said...

Character driven books are my favorite. I love dialogue. My writing tends to lean toward more dialogue than anything else and I find I have to go back through and add in descriptions. Maybe it's because I hear those voices in my head, LOL, and though I see the actions of the characters as their playing in my mind, it's their conversations that drive me.

As you know, I don't normally read RS, in fact, I only read you're RS. ROFL...

So, it's not the "fast paced, angst-filled plots" that engage my interest in the story, but like you said, it's rather the dialogue that keeps me turning the pages. I love it when I can live through the characters of a story.

The stories you've written (that I've read) are very character driven with interesting premises to give your great characters something to do. I don't know about your current WIP, but you're characters personalities, and how they handle the situations they're in, have always been what make your stories so much fun. I know this WIP will be great too. You'll work it out. You always do. It'll be awesome. I have faith in you!

2:29 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I like the bantering, too, Paty. I realized that's what I loved so much about my last book and part of what was missing in this one.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Ah, Kate, another Perfect fan!

I enjoyed Paradise too. I read that one after Perfec though, so I was already biased. But I think I need to reread Paradise just for fun. It's been a while.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Thanks, Piper. Your vote of confidence means a lot. ;)

And you're not weird. I hear "voices" in my head too. In fact, it's how I go to sleep every night. ;)

9:15 AM  

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