Early in my career, when I was writing romance and women’s fiction, a bookseller, who I greatly admired, commented that my idea of romance was a chuck on a man’s shoulder. The other authors gathered in her store for a book signing laughed – and so did I. She was right in context of the romance genre. I was never comfortable writing love scenes or covering my ‘author lens’ with gauze. I didn’t care for characters having long involved conversations about their relationships. It never occurred to me to have brooding heroes or pining heroines. I was less interested in cupid, than I was in the arrow he shot and, I suppose, that is why I write thrillers now.
However, that does not mean I am unromantic. Why? Because in each of my books I take great care with character relationships, character’s moral core, their willingness to take chances and their curiosity about their mysterious world. To convince myself I was correct in believing these attributes to be romantic, I looked up the definition. Here you go, straight from Meriam/Webster:
Romantic: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized.
In other words, romance for one heart might carry an emotional connotation that leads to a sexual encounter or a committed relationship. For my heart, romance is embodied in how characters react to challenge. As a thriller writer I want my reader to feel the romance of suspense, of mystery, of the idealization of a hero who will walk through fire to make things right.
I find John McClane in Die Hard, Indiana Jones in any of the Indiana Jones movies, romantic and yet you never see them in sexual situations. The focus of these movies is on action within a mysterious world. The romantic in me sighs over their heroics, my heart beats faster at their commitment to justice and the place of honor in which they put women while also treating them as equals in adventure.
Whether you are an author or are a reader, do not pigeonhole the idea of romance. If you do, you will be limiting your talent and your reading enjoyment.
This Valentine’s Day, I hope cupid brought you candies and flowers. In the next year, I wish you a different kind of romance; the kind that take you to exotic, mysterious and adventurous places in your imagination.
The unromantic romantic
USA Today and Amazon bestselling author, Rebecca Forster is the author of over 38 novels including the acclaimed The Witness Series and her new Finn O’Brien Thriller series. She is married to a Superior Court judge and is mother to two sons.
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Shannon Donnelly is with us today to talk about her upcoming OCCRWA online class, Show and Tell, an Interactive Workshop. Take it away, Shannon!
Thanks Alina. Weâ€™ve all heard â€œshow, donâ€™t tellâ€ and there is value in that advice. If all you do is tell a story, how does the reader participate with his or her imagination? However, a book is not a movie. While a movie requires everything to be shown (or an often awkward voice-over to be added if itâ€™s not showing enough), a book has the luxury of being able to use narrative. And thatâ€™s where I usually get folks who are utterly confused.
Merriam-Webster gives us the root for narrative/narrating as the â€œLatin narratus,past participle of narrare, from Latin gnarus knowing; akin to Latin gnoscere, noscere to know.â€
This means any writer of fiction needs not only showing but telling as well. Whatâ€™s the secret in knowing when to show and when to tell? This is something Iâ€™ll be covering in the May workshop, but here are a few tips:
– Where are we? (Place and world â€“ the reader needs to be placed into the scene, otherwise itâ€™s confusing to the reader. Do not throw your readers into the deep end without giving them some help.)
– Who is here?(An introduction to the characters, particularly to the main characters for that scene, and for the story.)
All this needs to be woven together, stitched in with careful threads, not dumped on the reader in big clumps. Or, to put it another way, feed the reader your tellingâ€”your narrativeâ€”with a teaspoon, not a soup bowl.
– Your characters in actionâ€”scenes are always stronger when you show a character expressing emotion with physical reactions.
– Your characterâ€™s emotions through words. Dialogue should never just be there to advance the plot or you end up with a character that seems stiff on the page. Just as you want to show emotions through actions, you also want to show emotion through wordsâ€”this includes what someone avoids talking about, too.
Her Regency Historical Romance, Paths of Desire, can be found as an ebooks on Kindle, Nook and at Smashwords, along with her Regency romances.
While I celebrated the book, I also lamented that this author might never be embraced by the mainstream despite her talent. Why? Because Anyonymous-9 is what I call an X-treme novelist – a writer who does not poke at parameters, but boldly shreds them. Think Tom Wolfeâ€™s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and his brand of hysterical realism. Hunter S. Thompson and Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas. My favorite, Anthony Burgessâ€™ Clockwork Orange. The X-treme novelist is often ignored, ridiculed, or, even worse, published only to languish in a no-manâ€™s land of genreless books.
**Conrad Johnson is the pseudonym for John Byk. Check out his live contemporary author interviews on 2012 Writers Alive