Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is Our Love Too Splendid?

Love is indeed a many splendored thing. It happens suddenly with first looks. It can build over time from friendship. It can be a whirlwind that blows apart your life or trudge along like a pesky bulldog. But do you think it can be too grandiose?

(Think of stopping mid-ski run in Aspen for a surprise Valentine engagement crowned off with a ZsaZsa sized diamond versus popping the question where you had your first date while he offers up his great-grandmother’s heirloom ring in a heart shaped box.)

As romance writers and readers do you think we tend to focus too much on building a fabulous story that has no nook and cranny unturned? Are we too inclined to build this grandiose courtship with an explosive culmination, whether it happens fast or slow?

In some ways I think today’s market is leaning that way. People, including agents and editors, want something new and different. You’ll hear it said anywhere, but the writers’ inability to grasp exactly how that should be executed has led to some serious contrivance. A condition which shouldn’t necessarily happen in an act that stems from emotions, which are supposed to change like the weather. (And we can all attest that we’ve had some cooky weather.)

Believe me I understand the contrivance of a girl who turns into a femme fatale by night so she can hide her true vampiric identity, or even a superhero who dolls himself up as a super model by day so he can sleep in from romping around under the moonlight. There are circumstances where contrivances work, but not when they are over done. Just as the plot should ebb and flow, so should the romance. It should be like a living, breathing lifeline that connects the two characters. And sometimes I think writers worry too much about how to get their characters into situations, than how to show that they are in love.

Or they try to express love in grandiose measures, while not really showing the reader how the display makes the couple involved act and react. In other words, they don’t focus on the core elements…the little things that make everything tick. Remember even the grandest bits of fiction usually have an element of factual everyday occurrences.

How can you focus on the romance when you have vampires, werewolves and aliens parading around in the same book where one of these is a sex addict and must attain the elixir, but only by bringing the heroine (who we’ll say must remain a virgin to ratchet up the tension) safely to the witch who has the potion to solve all the mismatched dilemmas. I’d applaud anyone who could pull this off, and I’m sure for some gifted writer out there it may be possible. Unfortunately having to tie all these characters (not as a ménage or other multiple partner relationship) into the main romantic story line. There is so much going on, the reader fails to see the underlying moments that create the arc of the love story because it’s hidden under…playful romping.

I think that lack of clarification has become somewhat of a downfall. Yes, you want believable characters, even if you have to suspend belief, but you want to see those characters fall in love. You want to feel what they feel, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, see what they see and taste what they taste…even if any of those things are awful. (But man, they can be so good!)

All in all, whatever concoction you’ve brainstormed as a writer (and I’ve done a few doozies), boil down to the romance. That should be the underpinning that you frame everything else on. Use your GMC to enhance and heighten, not as the backbone. Each plot point should create a situation that heightens the romance or reveals sexual tension that sparks from the emotion. Each action should show a character trait to make the reader realize how the characters feel.

Above all make the love (not sex) moments count…and better yet construct them so that the readers go “Aw!” and want to rush right out and get that kind of hero or heroine.

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So what spawned this little jaunt into overblown love? I was dining with my mom and bf, pooped as could be from a hellacious workout and bemoaning all the items on my to-do list when I got home. I started ticking them off, then I mentioned my bf hadn’t called about how to work the washer (sometimes they must be coached and or prodded). To which he said, “Every time I wash clothes, something bad happens. So I washed the dishes.” Amazed, I turned to look at him and gushed, “I love you.” No, that wasn’t super romantic. But I was so overjoyed by that pitying act that I’d have kissed him silly if my mom hadn’t been sitting across the table. Those small things that make your day, that take some of the weight off our shoulders, that make you know that your beloved cares about you…those are what really matter. To top that off, he told me tonight that he asked off for Valentine’s Day, because he knows its means a lot to me!


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6 comments:

Lynda K. Scott said...

Ah, Skylar, your bf sounds like a keeper :D

Skylar Masey said...

I have to agree with you Lynda! :0)

BTW, check out my comment on your Erotica post at MySpace. I didn't have time to double post this am. (You know the FT job and all.)

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi, I do think your point is well-taken. The plot and secondary characters are so onvoluted and enormous, the love gets lost. The feelings of love. But then, I think that is also a reflection of our culture, which seems allergic to real emotion, at times. Just MHO.

Skylar Masey said...

Savanna~

You have a point. Society today is much different that in more romantic times (eras) and constantly evolving.

It seems everyone's life is so hectic that they barely have time to breath, much less love or show that love. And then there is the fear of getting close, due to the bacterias, STDs, etc. Not to mention having to get intimate without being intimate because so many people are afraid to try due to the divorce rate as well as the number of bad relationships.

I think that's one of the reasons people still turn to romance. It gives them enough reality to be grounded, but with enough gloss so they're not bombarded even in their down time. For those stolen moments they get to believe in what could be.

Lynda K. Scott said...

"I think that's one of the reasons people still turn to romance. It gives them enough reality to be grounded, but with enough gloss so they're not bombarded even in their down time. For those stolen moments they get to believe in what could be."

Skylar, what a very astute observation! And I couldn't agree more.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Great post, Skylar. An important lesson in not trying to outdo yourself and keeping it real.