Sunday, February 23, 2014
At a recent writer’s conference, I sat at a table in which I was the only guy. I was asked why I write romance, in an earnest want-to-know manner. I answered, “I fell out of bed one day hit my head and ever since have been writing romances.” We were on opposite sides of a large table in which many of our table mates had already heard the story. So, I decided not to engage in a long explanation involving raising my voice to be heard and boring just about everybody.
I have found the answer is not complicated at all. My long story about being a romantic, artistic, a renaissance man, a believer in soul mates, about my enjoyment of rom com movies etc. had missed the real point.
Why do I write romance? I care about male-female relationships. I write what I care about, what interests me.
In order for there to be any weddings on this planet there has to be a guy and a gal, hopefully, in love. It is the most important decision of their lives. Men and women fall in love every day and hope the best for a couple when they see it happening to that couple whether it be on a reality TV show, real life, or in a novel. They are pre-sold.
There’s another dynamic at play here that I want to warn all those seeking to be politically correct (akin to boring, sometimes).
This is a fictionalized story in which facts were changed to protect the guilty.
In New York City, years ago, I was at a romantic comedy screen writers’ conference and sat at a table with all men and one woman.
One guy, a bit snooty this one, said to let’s call her, Nora. “Why do you write romantic comedies.”
His question implied a prejudice as subtext which was reinforced or validated by the questioner’s attitude on a number of subjects that day (not at all like my table mate, in which I was the only male, a wonderful person, let me make that perfectly clear). How could she handle the beats necessary for witty repartee, dynamic tension, the quick pacing? After all, dialogue, scene and body language had to carry the meaning. This was no place for someone who might prefer long ruminations and deliberations, just because she was female.
“I love what I do and I write better than any of you schmucks,” Nora answered. Everybody at the table except the guy who asked the question, laughed. Her timing and delivery was impeccable. Nora was a natural born genius. Through hard work and study she applied her craft quite well, thank you very much.
God gave us all fantastic talents to grow. We’re lucky to live in a country in which we can choose what is our best path to help ourselves and our fellow man. Men and women aren’t so different, but viva la difference.
Here's two men who chose to sing love songs as their way of contributing. Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby compare their little black books.
This is my 100th post. For anybody who writes me or comments, you can choose a free copy of my Robin Hood noevella or an advance copy of my about to be released romantic comedy, Double Happiness.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
A Sweet and Sour Romance, for $5.99, no eggroll.
Yesterday (2/15/14) at my RWASD meeting our guest speaker, the great writer, Bella Andre (aka Lucy Kevin), spoke of her adventure into the sweet romance market as leaving a sour taste (paraphrased) with a small portion of her readers because her stories written under the alias, Lucy Kevin, were described as sweet.
So what’s the rub? (Is it simply mixing sugar and vinegar in the makiing of the sauce?)
First off, a sweet romance (aka mild) is defined as without graphic depictions of sex. A subset of this is the inspirational romance which has little to no sex and showcases spiritual values.
Suppose you want to write a sweet story but don’t want to offend an inspirational reader who may have been attracted to your premise. If you are in control of the marketing you can just define what you mean as sweet. You may lose some readers but you will have found your true and more appreciative audience.
You can have fun with labeling your romance.
Although Sweet and Sour is funny and attracts attention, an explanation is still necessary of where you land in the sweet market. Give up your recipe, now.
If you give no explanation for a sweet and sour romance what would a reader assume? First of all, the book is tasty not really spicy (exclude vinegar and sugar as spices, please). Spicy is generally hot. Sweet and sour is tasty and satisfying. But what about subtext. Sour when not applied to cooking can mean a romance that has its ups and downs. Good, we’re getting somewhere. Oops, it could also leave a sour taste in your mouth. Don’t want that, right? The last thing you want is some smart-ass reviewer turn your words against you, right? RW Richard’s latest sweet and sour made me want to cleanse my mouth. Get ahead of this imaginary reader/reviewer by poking fun at your description and being explicit in what you are delivering.
Sour can also signal sassy or not overtly inspirational.
BUT: Romances can be resurrection stories. From the pit of despair, mentally, physically, morally, spiritually arises a happily-ever-after which includes a journey from hell to heaven, but that’s a subject for another blog post. For now, think Pretty Woman. Well, I will.
For our younger RWA members, most of whom know Pretty Woman, let's treat them to a more complex look at the life of a prostitute. A woman with a child trying to make ends meet—on the dirty streets and bars of Hong Kong—the best way she knows how. You might find here an excellent example of the morality play (s few surprising twists on the struggle between right and wrong), perhaps a resurrection story, but it is definitely sweet and sour. Suzie said of her ethics, "I no dirty street girl."
THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, 1960, William Holden and Nancy Kwan (I enjoyed this movie even more than Pretty Woman).
Sunday, February 9, 2014
The Dichotomy of Man
This might seem like a boring lecture, but if it gives insight into why characters act the way they do, you will have forever more grounded your stories.
In my blog post, Jan 10th, I made a little fun of Alpha Man. In my research for the post, I connected some anthropological ideas that will today’s arguments over just what does it mean to be human.
All humans, in varying degrees, are studies in contradictions. They are both fighters and peacemakers, monogamous and not, selfish and sharing, loving and hateful. Saints make decisions to always stay the course, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have urges.
There are ways of understanding this. Good and evil is a religious aspect of man. You may have been taught that you are the salt of the earth (spice) and are the light of the world (discoverers of truth and inventors of change).
Some paleo-anthropologists posit that man for hundreds of thousands of years, most of the time on the brink of near extinction, sought out strangers to strengthen their numbers, sought out multiple partners to increase offspring. About fifteen thousand years ago things changed. Populations started soaring with the advent of farming. Fences or borders caused problems and man has been at war ever since, but he has not forgotten his peaceful routes. Many scientists see a progressive swing (with bumps along the way) toward civility in all facets of human nature. I believe we are more good than evil.
So your hero, whether he be alpha or beta has these contradictions deep within his genes and/or soul. So does the heroine. Women and men approach procreation differently, but that’s a subject for another post.
Writing a nuanced character, means investing in these human contradictions, whether it be in dialogue, direct or indirect thought, or the environment chosen.
Call me a fool, but shouldn't we be dancing rather than shooting each other?
US Nationals, 2014, Davis and White dance to My Fair Lady
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Behind every good romance there’s backstory.
They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school.
Liz Rose, a mentor, in Taylor Swift’s early development has said the sessions were "some of the easiest I've ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She'd write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she'd come in with the most incredible hooks." [Hooks-anyone]
Taylor Allison Swift is a singer/songwriter who crosses over from country to pop. She’s disciplined and brilliant. She writes romance. Except the whole story is told in a couple minutes.
The idea of building an emotional connection in two to four minutes is at least a good reason to see your story in terms of a log or tag line.
Taylor writes mostly about teenage or young adult love. If you do neither you’re missing a subtle concept in romance: every good romance has backstory. Every good romance should charm the reading audience right up front. Later, you can make a record. Behind many a hero or heroine is a story or two of how they were hurt or learned from rejection or how they learned from an amazing romance that for (add a reason), did not make it. A teenager becomes a young adult becomes an adult.
Below see, Taylor Swift, "Love Story," 2008. Note how this short song develops the story through scene, fantasy, a young girl's (and guy's) emotions. She makes a plea for a storybook ending and finds hope in the final scene. (Oh, and oh yes, there are hooks whether you're just listening to her tone, meaning, and delivery or watching her interpretation via video. No wonder, she's set records and won countless awards.