Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

End of March

Good News (If Any)

No good news, per se. But I did submit another manuscript, The Bricklayer's Helper, last night to my publisher. I really, really hope my editor likes it. I love this story—I wrote it after reading a newspaper article from an old "Broadsheet" from the Regency period in England (early 1800's). An orphaned girl disguised herself as a boy in order to find work. She worked as a bricklayer's helper, then as a footman, for a number of years. She even married her landlady's pregnant daughter (the landlady blackmailed her with exposure) so that the pregnant girl wouldn't have a child out of wedlock. Unfortunately, her efforts came to naught when she was exposed, but it was a fascinating story. This woman chose that path to avoid the only other "profession" open to a young girl with no money or family: prostitution.

Anyway, I sort of took that story and ran with it—making it into a mystery (she's orphaned when her family is killed, and now the killer is after her!) with a bit of romance. The poor heroine hires an inquiry agent who seems more interested in his reflection in the mirror than in finding the killer stalking her. Oh, well. Life is tough for my characters.

This story comes after my previous book, I Bid One American, and features the Archer family again. Those characters just can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Did I mention that Highland Press contracted with me for The Necklace? We haven't started the actual work on it yet, but I did sign a contract. The Necklace is actually a prequel of sorts to I Bid One American, so I'm glad it will be coming out—maybe in 2010, I hope. This one features a cursed gem that's been in the Archer family for a number of years…

What I'm Reading Now

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay. I just finished it last night. The main character is a private investigator suffering from narcolepsy—you know—where you fall asleep at inappropriate times and suffer from hallucinations. It was fascinating. Funny and yet dark. The poor guy isn't even sure if he remembers who hired him, or if that was a hallucination. J His life is going down the toilet fast, but he's clinging to the rim, anyway, and I loved it.

If you're looking for a different kind of mystery, I highly recommend this one. I really like off-beat characters and this is one of the better books containing a whole slew of them.

What I'm Writing Now

Starting work on a Christmas story, actually a novella. I need to finish it by the end of June, so I've got to get my thoughts in order. J However, it looks like a murder may take place and a ghost may have been involved. Somehow.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

Epiphany Moment: The payoff in the world of romance novels has changed. Which I'm sure everyone but me already knew. Duh.

Used to be, the payoff was love and commitment (usually in the form of marriage).

Now, the payoff is sex.

Okay. What-ever.

But it does make me kind of sad. For me as a reader, it can be hard (no pun intended) to feel satisfied at the end of a romance novel. Particularly when there are multiple "payoffs" throughout the book. One more, at the end, becomes meaningless as a "wrap up." Who cares by that point? Obviously, every other reader in the world, except me. All right. I admit it. I'm an idiot.

But here's an example of what satisfies me, from another genre. Mysteries.

You can define the payoff in a murder mystery as the revelation of "who did it," "why they did it," and the restoration of order and justice. Well, that happens once. At the end. It's a real payoff. And like all payoffs that mean anything, you have to wait for it. You get hints, but not the real deal until the end. It's not like the author can restore order and justice and then continue the book—the story is over at that point. And that's one of the reasons I'm a huge mystery fan. Because I like that sense of completeness and order in an essentially chaotic universe. The sense of justice served—but not before the end of the book.

Mysteries and suspense that let me down on the payoff by doing something like allowing the bad guy to escape due to the ineffectual justice system—well, I'm unlikely to read those authors/books again. They are missing the essential point: a satisfying payoff. I get enough of real life in real life. I don't need a book to know bad guys get off all the time due to technicalities. Or they are simply not caught to begin with. That's life. Not fiction.

Or at least, hopefully, not fiction.

Just like the horror authors miss the point if there's no one left alive at the end. King never kills off all his characters. [Spoiler alert] The kid survives in The Shining. Phew. Payoff. And that's why (no matter what you think of him or his writing) he is a master in that genre. Someone has to survive. And hopefully, order has been restored (even if just temporarily beaten back into the dark depths). That's the payoff. He understands that and gives the reader what they need. A really scary story and a great "phew" sense of relief at the end. Good triumphs over evil (at least for five minutes).

So, back to romances and my general sadness. I guess it shows how hopelessly out of touch and out of date I am. I mean, I know women don't care about marriage and commitment, anymore. They are not a woman's sole goal the way they were up until about the 1950's. I get that. Heck, I've been working at a very demanding career now for over thirty years. But for me, romance is inextricably bound with commitment. And yes, marriage—which in my simple mind, is the legal instantiation and proof of commitment. And I've got nothing against sexy novels and such—but unfortunately, sex isn't a payoff—at least not for me. And once it occurs, the "romance" is over. So yeah, if it occurs at the end, I'm good with that—because it rolls up into love and commitment as a satisfying payoff. But if it's been occurring regularly for the last 200 pages, well, who cares at that point? I don't care anymore. The ending is therefore weak.

That's just me—as a reader—though. Just a random, useless opinion.

I'm just one gal who got sidetracked.

1 comment:

Miss Mae said...

I agree the payoff should be love and commitment, if not marriage by the end of the book, at least the PROMISE of marriage...and no sex.

Where are the great romances any more, the kind that Jane Austen wrote, or Margaret Mitchell? In their stories, I love the fact that everybody keeps their clothes on and desire and flirting is done with the eyes, wicked grins, or caresses of the hand.

I write sweet books, the kind that might make your teeth ache...LOL...because I dwell more on the plot--yes, mystery and suspense!--and throw in a bit of romance on the side. But it IS romance, never sex. So by the end of the book, the crime is solved and the hero has claimed his girl. Big payoff, if you ask me. :)