Saturday, March 27, 2010
And the difference this makes for Romance Writers.
While romance writers may not have considered the difference between direct and indirect vicarious experiences, they are well aware of the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’.
When a writer ‘tells’ the reader that a character is angry, the reader may or may not feel that character’s anger. This 'angry' experience will depend on how strongly the reader vicariously identifies with the character. In any event, the angry ‘feeling’ will be felt indirectly, if at all, as the character’s anger.
When a writer ‘shows’ anger, the reader also feels the anger; however, in this case it is a direct vicarious experience. The story situation can actually make the reader angry. In an important sense, the anger is also the reader’s anger as well as the character’s. A direct vicarious experience is therefore far more powerful in affecting the reader than is an indirect one.
Sometimes the difference between direct and indirect vicarious experiences can lead to unexpected results. While there is little opportunity for confusion in telling the reader that a character is angry or ‘left the room angrily’ there can be a misunderstanding when the author is trying to 'show' that anger. For example, suppose a character leaves a meeting room, goes outside, sees a soccer ball and kicks it across the street into a park. One reader might experience this as anger while another reader may feel enthusiasm or joy. This example shows the immediate aspect of a direct vicarious experience. (It is immediate because the reader feels it directly and not through the character.)
Besides the difference between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’, there is also an important POV difference between direct and indirect vicarious experiences. This difference is most pronounced in love scenes. If the author uses a female POV during a love scene, then this will produce an indirect vicarious experience for the female reader. That is, the experience will be clearly the heroine’s and not the reader's. The reader is in effect being told how the heroine is reacting to the hero.
This same female POV, however, produces a direct vicarious experience for the male reader. He experiences directly what is happening to the heroine which he can assume he is causing. He has identified with the hero. The feeling is vicarious but it is directly vicarious because the reader is not being told what the hero is feeling. While this is very satisfying for the male reader, it amounts to 'telling' for the female reader. The female reader is being told what the heroine is feeling.
When the POV is the hero's the opposite occurs. The female reader can assume she is causing the erotic reactions in the hero. For the female then this is a direct vicarious experience and thus much more satisfying.
I believe that most romance writers, who are comfortable writing love scenes, do this intuitively. An author who does not like writing love scenes and who is not aware of this difference, may have considerable problems writing successful love scenes. I also believe that this difference explains why female eroticism is not popular with male readers and vice versa.
Traditionally, it’s thought that male eroticism is more direct, more mechanical, more likely to use four letter words and more likely to treat the female as an object for his enjoyment. Female eroticism is traditionally considered to be more gentle, more poetic, less direct, and more concerned with love than sensual satisfaction. These are traditional views because there is a lot of truth to them. However, even the new 'male-style' female eroticism (lots of four letter words and body parts mentioned) is not very popular with male readers. It is almost as if both female and male authors ‘don’t get it’ (when writing for the oposite sex) while in reality, they do 'get it' as far as writing what their target audiences will appreciate.
When writing for men, write from the heroine's POV and when writing for women, write from the hero's POV. And when writing for a mixed audience, head-hop, but do it with consummate skill.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Winter’s End, Love Inspired, Ruth Logan Herne, 2010
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now”. Julius Cæsar, Act III. Scene II.
“I mean, come on, I cried THREE times during that book [Winter’s End] ” Famous Author, Post, March 11 2010
"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford
“Show, don't tell. Make it worse.” Victoria Bylin, Post March 2010
What do Ruth Logan Hearn and Ford Maddox Ford have in common? They both wrote incredibly sad stories. Ford thought his was the saddest story ever told. “Winter’s End” at least has a short happy ending -- but it is still the saddest romance I have ever read. (I have reviewed over 1,000 romances.)
“Winter’s End” is written in such a realistically relentless cadence that I felt like I was reading something by Eugene O’Neil, Tennessee Williams, or Arthur Miller. Even after reading ninety percent of "Winter's End" the book could still have belonged to three different genres. With a happy ending, it would be a romance. Add an unrequited love and a suicide and it would be classic romanticism ala "The Sorrows of Young Werther”, "La Dame aux Camélias" or the movie “Elvira Madigan”. And with a inconclusive ending it would be a modern realistic novel like the “Good Soldier”. Hard. Sad. Depressing.
“Winter’s End” is written on a very small canvas. It is an idea story to be made into a play. Three acts, three scenes. “Winter’s End” made me think of “Desire Under the Elms” with Sophia Loren as the missing mother. It’s on a farm, there is deception, disloyalty, adultery, and depression with mental disorders.
The story starts with an animal dying and then we learn that the most normal and likeable person in the family is dying and under hospice care. This is the start. The story gets sadder and more depressing with each passing page.
There is a saying writers are fond of: make things bad for your characters and then make them worse. Just when you think things cannot get worse, they get much worse. Even the most innocent and happiest person has the world drop on her before it is over. The heroine is driven to near madness as she is forced to relive the horrors of her childhood.
“Winter’s End” is in a league with “Of Mice and Men” and “The Hairy Ape” for sadness. One author said she cried three times in the book.
“Winter’s End” is a very deep book. The details are rich and many. The psychological insights are those of a professional. The hurts are real; the suffering almost unending. The writing is also unique. I don’t think of "Winter's End" as being either ‘character-driven' or ‘plot-driven’. The tension does not rely on cliffhanger after cliffhanger. I found the conflict to be like unexpected lighting flashes on a hot summer’s day. Loud busts of short duration. I see the book as being a ‘sadness-driven-situational romance.’
In a way, the situation is the story. The writer is faced with two inevitabilities. First, the romance has to have a happy ending. Second, people in hospice care die. The canvass is small and the characters are few. The situation moves the story. Sadness becomes unbearable and then it gets worse. Death then depression then disillusionment. There is madness and near madness. There is HIV, and ships tragically passing in the night. Opportunities for hope are lost. There is economic deprivaton. There's even a church that provides for the appearance of faith but without solace.
I kept waiting for some comic relief or at least some small victories along the way. But the downward emotion was relentless. The reader would open a door and things would get worse.
The story is highly emotional. But it is monoemotional. The story reminds me of Picasso's old guitarist from his blue period. Solitude. Sadness. Suffering.
“Winter’s End” is the kind of book that critics love because it is serious and never panders to the reader just to make the reader feel good. It deals with painful subjects honestly and without any compromise. It shows suffering that is felt to the bone. It is direct and relentless. The action corresponds to actual experiences many older adults have endured.
There is an all too short happy ending in “Winter’s End” that goes along with the feeling that the hero and heroine are right for each other.
But after so much agony, I so much wanted ecstasy. I wanted a wedding, blue ribbons, babies and an epilogue that propelled me to the sublime. But such elixir does not flow from “Winter’s End”.
“Winter’s End” is like no other romance I have ever read.
“Winter’s End” is the best written, most honest book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I will never forget. However, if the author writes another “Winter’s End”, reading it will probably kill me.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
O Editor! My Editor! Our endless task is done;*
My book has weather’d every cut, the prize I sought is won;
The prize is dear, shout-outs I hear, my friends all exulting,
With misty eyes I feel the truth, the path was grim and daunting;
Oh heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bleeding drops of red
On the desk my romance lies
Fallen cold and dead.
O Editor! My Editor…
You had the power
You held the pen
You made the cuts
You wrote ‘the end’.
Perhaps ‘the end’
was the most unkindest cut of all…
the reader sees only what's there to see,
while gone forever is the best of me.
O Editor! My Editor…
Where you sought brevity,
I sought beauty.
While you moved the story,
I moved the reader.
When your aim was 200 pages,
Mine was to rock the ages.
You raced to win the roses,
I slowed to smell the roses.
To you a book is ink and paper,
a job delivered best in time.
To me a book is something magical
best played in the reader’s mind.
* My apologies to Walt Whitman.
The Editor’s Story
The editor looked down at the young man and said, “I’ve read your script. Too many words".
“To be or not to be, that is the question.”
I’ve changed it to: “Here’s the question”.
And in this other play where you write:
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears,”
Just say, “Compatriots, listen up.”
No thank you sir, the young man said, I’ll publish it myself.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Alice Audrey, The Wild Rose Press, Copyright 2009, Novella, eBook, $.3.50
Moving In and Alice Audrey are two good reasons why you should read some Electronic books. And I mean books that are only published electronically.
The marketing restraints that physical publishers face prevent many exceptional authors from being published. Either the length is wrong or the subgenre market is too small or the topic does not fit any of the publisher’s lines.
These very limitations free-up some of the best new writing talent to be showcased by ePublishers. There is a exciting new world of romance experimentation going on in ePublishing that I think many romance fans are mostly unaware of but would just love reading. It might also be wise for established old-line authors to sample this brave new world of creativity.
Moving In is a good example of a bright new talent. Alice Audrey’s voice is fresh, feisty, full of surprises and always fun. The author also deals with real people having real problems and she does it in a very insightful way.
I particularly like this passage about an early visit by the hero to the heroine’s apartment. The hero and heroine move into an old Victorian house on the same day. It has been converted into two apartments.
“He settled on her couch with a sigh as if he’d been on his feet all day.
“That sound, such a small, simple thing, ran through her, setting her nerves afire. It was the sound a man made when he was glad to be home.”
I also like the heroine’s wisecracking girlfriend in this passage when the hero is first introduced.
The man came in with armload of clothes and looked for a place to put them.
“Hey, Stud Muffin—what’s your name?” Miranda asked as if it didn’t matter that they were gossiping about him.
“Trigvey. Trigvey Taylor.” He threw the clothes over a suitcase.
“I’m Miranda. This is Suzie. And that…”
Miranda arched a long-nailed finger, “is Diane.”
Diane cringed as everything from her toes to her ears went blush-hot.
“Nice to meet you…Diane?” He glanced at Diane, turned away and glanced at her again as if worried about what he saw in her expression. “Got to run.”
The whole book runs fast and furious. It’s like the author took a perfectly good 220 page romance manuscript and cut everything out except the very best stuff. Moving In is a whole book of just the good stuff. Instead of taking one or two chapters, the good stuff happens in one or two paragraphs. The story moves so fast it might muss your hair or cause your cheeks to get wind burned.
The book didn’t end too soon. It ended just in time.
Moving In has what I look for and enjoy most in an electronic book. A unique format, creative writing, and an extremely talented author.
Give Moving In a spin. And also check into some other Wild Rose Press eBooks. I have found that this publisher does a very good job of editing.