Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Little Things Lovers Do

There are many things that might constitute as "romantic".  With a feeling that is highly dependent on the people involved that is no surprise.  Are there things that we idolize to some extent that are thought to be particularly romantic or is it all about the people involved, the atmosphere of a moment and the feelings between the two people?

Cuddling, hand holding, the first kiss.  These are all things that I've seen in movies or read in books that are labeled "romances" that would be considered to be 'romantic'.  I'm curious as to how 'romantic' sex actually is but for a lot of romance books (and movies though they don't always show it) it seems to be right up there as a culmination of the romance, if not a direct part of the romance itself.  Sex is an intimate, therefore romantic thing.  So then perhaps we can also describe romance as intimacy.

We can have an intimate conversation, go on an intimate walk together (albeit hand holding is often popular at that juncture), perform an activity together.  Is skydiving intimate though?  Or rock climbing?  This is where the idea of 'intimacy' or romance is narrowed down to a person to person choice.  For a person who loves rock climbing it might be the ideal way to spend time with a loved one.  For the person who despises rock climbing the activity would be far from it.  So perhaps it is in the atmosphere of the place as well as the combination of what constitutes as "intimate" that makes us tack something as romantic.

Dark lighting in a cozy bedroom, candles flickering around a room, moonlight brushing skin, a soft rain shower with a gazebo... all of these things can be utilized to set the mood and are often seen as "romantic" even if the person seeing them wouldn't really want any of it in real life (which is where the idea of fantasy comes in I expect).  But if these things are always considered romantic why aren't they always used?  or do we just make fun of them as cliches at this point?  Maybe it's not something like the setting, the people or the actions of those people.  Maybe it's not the intimacy either.

Romance is hard to capture.  In so many ways that is part of its charm.  It's unique to the individual, but shared by all.  We can easily place ourselves in the seat of the heroine (and yes, this is often a female thing, but I expect men can do something similar if the character was written well enough for them), and we throw ourselves to the wind, knowing that the hero will catch us and bring us safely to the end, whatever that end is.  (Most romances are not also tragedies  but there are a few notable ones, Anthony and Cleopatra for instance, or Romeo and Juliet.  Notice they're not as popular in new books these days.  At least not that I've found, please link me a few if they are!)

In the end romance is a part of humanity.  We romance ourselves with what we write which is a reflection of what I think we all really want.  We want closeness, bonds, a person to understand us and as a result we want to share life and romance with that person.  We want it to mean something to both of us, not just ourselves, not just the other.  We want to love beyond what we thought we were capable of and do something more than we could ever do alone.  Even better, we want someone to share that with.  A shame that some people fall so in love with the feeling of romance that they cannot see past it to the rich, fullness that love is.  A shame even more when that romance dies in the face of a marriage and a love that goes into a deeper relationship.  Romance should live in love and love in romance.  We're already partway there, so why can't we go further?  Perhaps that's why we love romance so much, it gives us hope that it is still out there, that, perhaps someday, we might even catch some for ourselves.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ease of Words - Novel Update

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is to keep at it, even when it's driving you nuts.  I recently had the problem of my story spiraling out of control.  I was going at a good pace, was writing huge amounts everyday and was getting closer and closer to the finish.  Only to realize I had really overestimated how much I was putting into each scene and how long each scene would be (or how short since they were mostly too long).  Worse, I realized that for the romance genre the novel I was writing was going to end up waaaaay too huge for what it was.

Now the problem I ran into was that the things I wanted to do were not supported by the earlier story AND I had put too many characters in.  This is fixed easily enough by taking the characters out and by removing those scenes that are basically repetitive but I also realized I had not taken the time to build enough into the story.  Now with this "rewrite" which is basically me going through and adding scenes from the male protagonist's point of view to balance the female protagonist's point of view and taking out the other character's POVs that really didn't need to be in there I'm feeling much better about the novel as a whole, but man is it tiring.

Don't ever let anyone tell you writing a novel is easy.  Yes, you're sitting there and you're typing and physically it might not be very active or very 'hard' in that sense but you do use a lot of your energy and your mental faculties trying to remember every little detail you need.  You also have to really focus your mind so that you can get done the amount you want to get done.  Add to that the ache that you can get in your hands (hah, and you thought there was NO physicality to this) while you're typing because you don't have exactly the right setup for your keyboard to relieve hand strain as much as possible in typing.  If you're like me and you're a very particular temperature person (I need my hands to be a particular temperature, if they get too cold my typing speed drops significantly to the point where I can no longer continue typing because I can't feel where the keys are.)  then the location you choose is desperately important.  You need to know how it's going to fluctuate in temperature and if you can control it or not.  I'm writing today at a Starbucks and they love, LOVE keeping the air conditioning on despite the wickedly cold winter days that are happening outside.  Fortunately I've thought to dress warmly and to sit with my computer in my lap.  Strangely enough this is helping keep my hands warm enough to type comfortably.

The music and the people make it more difficult for me to concentrate as I'm outside of the quiet of my house but it's a trade off since I don't have the easy access to games that I usually have at home.  The sound is a lot easier to combat too since I found Songza and realized that I could pump classical into the back of my head to block out most of the intrusions and to help me focus.  The music is not always ideal for my writing since I sometimes find it distracting, but Songza certainly does have some wonderful playlists to help with that and I've found it a valuable tool in the writing process.  It takes me a bit to get everything set up the way I want it, but once it's there whooo man I can write a lot.

Find your groove, pay attention to what you're doing and to how well you can write in any given situation.  Notice what your distractions are and try to minimize them, then focus, sit down and write.  It's the only way you're ever going to get it done, even if that means rewriting a lot earlier than you expected.  Don't worry, you can do it.  Ironically I am also coming to understand that a wonderful way to increase your stamina (mental and otherwise) is to keep yourself at a high enough fitness level that the marathons of writing don't actually harm you too badly.  A healthy body really is a healthy mind and I do suggest at least trying to keep both in balance, it does seem to help with the writing part.

All in all the writing is slow, but is moving steadily and ideally I'll be able to figure out how to make them move more than one day a week at this pace.  Find your own rhythm, everyone's is different, and play to that.  By paying attention to things that help you focus you'll at least stand a chance of being able to reach the optimal focusing zone.

Good luck and God Bless!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Romancing the Reader

There are a great many books in the romance category. They are even on the bestseller lists. This isn't really surprising if you think about it. Romance, perhaps more than most genres is about the reader almost as much as it is about the characters.

In a fantasy (which is ironic I know as we use that word far too often) it's more about the situation, it's about the characters and what's going on with them.  In a romance yeah, the characters are important but you're appealing much more directly to the romantic sense of the person reading it.  Not every romance will be for every romance reader and in many ways you have to sell the idea of what romance is to the reader.  One of the reasons that Fifty Shades of Grey is likely so popular is because, despite the BDSM nature of the book, the author sells the concept to the readers.  She convinces you that it's actually quite romantic by utilizing the concepts of not only romance, but of the relationship surrounding romance.

One of the best ways to 'sell' a romance to someone is by making rounded and believable characters that you can fall in love with.  Usually the best ones are flawed and a part of the romance is not only loving those flaws but inspiring each other to improve beyond the flaws into a better person than you would have been without the person who inspired you.  More so in romance than in any other category this kind of theme is explored.  Which in many ways makes our obsession with women loving the "bad boy" and wanting to "change" their men, suddenly make sense.

Think about it, who better to inspire to be a better person than the 'bad boy with a past'?  Someone who might have had something bad happen to them and then made bad choices as a result.  He's not actually unlovable  but he might think he is (or in some cases she's the bad girl who needs reform) because of his past.  She provides the unending love that accepts him for who is his and what he's done and by doing so inspires him to be better.  It's positive change in a positive way inspired by love and in so many ways this reflects the real world.

There's a dark side to this of course, there are those who don't want to change.  Often the heroine in these kinds of novels gets pulled down into what he does because he doesn't want to change.  He likes the darkness in who he is and doesn't really care if he's accepted or not and takes great pleasure in causing her to fall into disgrace with him, usually because he doesn't really think he can be redeemed.  This theme or themes like them are often used with fantasy/romance mixes because it allowed the protagonist to be the one to see the light again and realize how they want to be independent of the other character (again, these actually work for males or females).

What I think really makes it a romance instead of a fantasy or a literary fiction style is how you're convincing the reader what is really romantic about the story and that the romance in the story is worth focusing on.  Convince your reader of that and you can do pretty much whatever you want in terms of 'romance'.  Just because that purple alien is a weird size and has a tube for a mouth doesn't mean he (or she) isn't worth loving, but you're going to have to work dang hard to convince me that me as a human would want to have anything to do with it in a romantic (or sexual) sense.  And though romance often verges into the realms of what really should be erotica (add sexual descriptions and technically you've already wandered into that realm), if the feelings are there and presented well enough because you've set up the situation and wooed your reader into the romance the characters are feeling (read two purple aliens with tubes instead of mouths instead of making one a human for instance, the characters can understand each other and I can disbelieve that I'm not a purple alien for long enough to enjoy it), and into the world those characters are a part of and you've got a believable romance.

You've got to remember that a believable story isn't about things that actually happened. In romance stories more than most.  It's about presenting those things in a way that is believable to the reader.  If you've ever had someone go 'that could never really happen' to something you've written directly from life you'll know what i"m talking about.  (Happens more frequently than most people would expect, guess it's best not to write what you know in every sense...)  So plan your romances, make them believable and stretch the foundations of what we will believe by doing something different but by drawing the reader into it.  There's few better ways that I can think of to draw a reader in and really make them believe that the romance you're selling them is one they want to buy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Importance of Sisters

Although most of romance is about the boy and the girl, there is an incredibly important role in the form of the sister or friends of the main female protagonist.  Without this important person, no matter what happens with the protagonist, we are unable to see a different view or side to the whole situation. We are without the often wise voice of those who can see the situation clearly because they are outside of it.  Yet frequently there is a secondary storyline going on with the friends as well as with the male protagonist.

Sometimes they are after the same man. Sometimes they just aren't getting along or there is some older rivalry between the two of them. Its hard to say what the relationship is going to be, but without it the story is paler in comparison.

Where would either of them be without that friendship? The wrong guy is usually the one who gets picked when that sage advice from a external source is missed. It doesn't only have to revolve around a guy either. It could reflect family relations, other friends, heartbreaking events. Even how the protagonist sees her friend can tell you a lot about the protagonist herself. How they talk together, what they talk about, what she thinks in the privacy of her own head that you as the reader get to share by picking up the story.

Often this friend role is also the one that moves the story along. She is the one that talks to the guy on the protagonist's behalf, or she is the one to spur her on to talk to the guy or to do something about the situation herself. Without this important role the story would often end much earlier and much more tragically than they typically would.  Even Juliet had her nurse to help her seen her Romeo. Too bad she didn't have more sense to share or Romeo and Juliet might have had a much better chance of ending up as a triumphant love story instead of the devastating tragedy that it became.

Choose a character to serve your purposes well in this regard. You want a character that will see the story you want to its end, if you aren't careful these characters can be the ones to send you careening off into strange directions you didn't plan on.