Friday, August 5, 2011

Romancing the Hone

Alligators? Nobody could survive that!
Er...that is: Honing the Romance. Cue silly picture.

Anywho, I wanted to highlight a few things about the Romance genre, because it ties together a few Writing article concepts that would otherwise be rather short for a weekly post.

How I buy eBooks

If I see a book amongst friends on Twitter, Goodreads or, sometimes, their website, I’ll look at it, hence the importance of word-of-mouth referrals (first-order). I also follow Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (amongst others) for my romance reading, highlighting the importance of word-of-link referrals (second-order). But a lot of the time it’s just me stumbling across a book in the Amazon search (third-order), thus requiring a good blurb and cover. Finally, of course, all these require a good preview (money-shot!)

This time I searched Amazon for ‘domestic romance’--because for some reason I decided that day that I shall buy my romance books like I do beer (presumably an import romance would have more body)--and found a neat series.

Romeo, Romeo
Too Hot to Handle
Breakfast in Bed

Rosalie Ronaldi is never getting married, no way, no how! But convincing her Italian mother and family is easier said than done for this financial executive. After leaving another hectic Sunday dinner at her parents’ in Brooklyn, Rosalie gets a flat tire and curses her brother, who borrowed the car, in three different languages, impressing Good Samaritan Nick Romeo. Nick is considered Brooklyn’s equivalent of Donald Trump: he owns several car dealerships and dates beautiful gold diggers. Driving a tow truck and wearing overalls, he decides to help Rosalie, who he thinks is crazy and very attractive in a Sophia Loren style. As they start a relationship, Rosalie has no idea that this Nick is the Nick Romeo. She lays down her ground rules, including nothing serious and no marriage talk, and Nick agrees until their relationship heats up. Now he must work up the nerve to tell Rosalie who he really is. Kaye’s debut is a delightfully fun, witty romance, making her a writer to watch.

From that blurb (actually a review, I guess...), the hook-word was ‘witty’ (somehow overcoming 'Donald Trump'), so I looked at the preview and saw that it was written from both perspectives. That's a good sign, because

What I Like in Books

First and foremost, Dialogue. Word-play, wit, wisdom, clevertude, attitude, scathing, simmering, rolling off the tongue, read-out-loud-and-laugh exchanges. In romance, this usually takes the form of ‘banter’, scaling up from playful, flirty, romantic and finally culminating in sexy. This is the province of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, A Confederacy of Dunces, Catch-22, (Shakespeare!) and is the reason I enjoy The Hobbit and hate The Lord of the Rings. And why I like A Song of Ice and Fire almost exclusively for Tyrion and Littlefinger (and sometimes Jaime). Thus,

Second but still foremost, Characters. You can’t have good dialogue without good characters, and the best dialogue is two strong characters (or more! in a tightly written scene) duking it out with words. It’s the book equivalent of an exciting action sequence with colorful explosions, and it should be enshrined accordingly. This is the reason why I don’t really care for (most) Victorian romances, because women are assumed to be submissive (or so brazenly unsubmissive as to render dialogue moot by sheer physicality). Inner thoughts aren’t dialogue! At least not when I’m writing them, which leads us to...

Romance Hones My Writing

SciFaR? (sounds like ‘Cypher’)
As I’ve previously indicated, I write in the Science Fantasy Romance genre, a delightful fusion of all the things I like to read. In my opinion, my best (stand-alone) genre example thus far is my short story “The Moors of Venus” (which you can find most conveniently in my Fantasy collection “To Another Shore”). To craft that genre, I read three genres and steal the good parts.

To make a useful generalization, Science Fiction = Plot and Fantasy = Setting while,
Romance = Relationships
The main strength of Romance is that it focuses on relationships (and hence, to my tastes: ‘dialogue’, a verbal relationship) and,
Relationships = Characters.
Relationships define characters, and show without telling. You could declare “Timmy was a good person. Alice knew it.” or you could more effectively describe Timmy taking care of his sick girlfriend Alice. Likewise with plot and setting. It’s just there for the characters to react to, and, by reacting, to reveal character. Thus,
Characters = Story.

1 comment:

  1. You like great dialogue? Do yourself a favor and read some Lawrence Block, Robert B. Parker, and Elmore Leonard. You'll love 'em.


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