Ever since I blogged about what a reader may take against in 1st person narrative, I’ve found the idea of reader chemistry nagging away at me. Why are some words so loaded for one person, and totally neutral for another?
But I never meant to blog about it so quickly.
But then, as some of you will know, I was struck down by a monster virus. I couldn’t stop shivering. Or coughing.
I went from bed to fireside and back again, accompanied by regularly refreshed hot water bottles and The Companion Cat.
I had absolutely no physical energy. All I wanted to do was read. But I was quite likely to fall asleep in the middle of a page.
And I’d become very, VERY picky about the books I was willing to pick up. And not at all in the usual way. WHY? Continue reading →
Let’s hear it for the heroes! Tall, dark and handsome?
Hero = handsome; heroine = beautiful?
Bestselling author Susanna Kearsley published a blog last week that asks a thought-provoking question about romantic heroines: — why is it that “some readers, when faced with a blank face, are programmed to fill in the features as ‘beautiful’?”
A disturbing question, too, perhaps.
But what about the heroes? Do we readers fill in male features in a similar way? Why?
Do the heroes of our imagination have to be tall, dark and handsome? Continue reading →
This isn’t the first time that the Libertà Hive has pondered the advice to writers to “murder your darlings.”
Indeed, Joanna got seriously confessional about doing exactly that a few months ago. Actually, in her case, it wasn’t so much wilful murder as a contract killing. Editors can be ruthless.
WHO WANTS YOU TO MURDER YOUR DARLINGS?
Well, Stephen King does a pretty good job of it in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” He was following William Faulkner. But even Faulkner wasn’t the originator.
It turns out to be Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch — that’s the Victorian Arthur Double-Barrelled who was NOT the author of Sherlock Holmes. He did write novels, lots of ’em, signing himself “Q”. But I’ve never read one. (Hmm. Maybe this year?)
But he was also a serious critic and anthologist. And from 1912 to his death in 1944 he was the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. I’ve always thought that he pretty much invented Lit Crit, in fact. Continue reading →
Empathy with characters:
what is it and who has it?
Empathy? Roughly, it’s feeling what another person is feeling, from their point of view. Even if that other person is fictional.
So readers may identify with the heroine in a romance, or with the spy in a thriller, or with the detective in a crime story.
Writing Regency romances, my aim was always that my [mostly female] readers would identify with my heroine and fall in love with my hero.
But readers don’t all react in the same way to our characters and our plots. And I’m beginning to wonder if age is one important factor in that. Continue reading →
I don’t know if I’m a particularly picky reader, but I do like a novel to have some sort of resolution. It doesn’t have to be a traditional happy ending – though, as a writer, I always end up with my characters looking forward hopefully. But that’s my quirk.
I can take bereavement, despair or the end of the world in other people’s books. Even enjoy them in a Having a Good Cry sort of way.
What I can’t be doing with, is to turn the page and find that there’s no more book. And in the last few months I’ve found that happening more and more.
It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he of Ancient Mariner fame, who coined the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in 1817 in his Biographia Literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions. He did so referring to his contribution, more than twenty years earlier, to the Lyrical Ballads. Published in 1798, these are generally taken to mark the start of the romantic movement in English literature. William Wordsworth wrote most of them, of course.
At some point every romantic novelist faces the Wedding Dilemma.
If they do — how, when and where?
On the page?
On the last page?
Of course, the purist’s answer is: whatever is right for the characters. But, just as organising a real-life wedding needs to take account of friends and family, the end of a story — perhaps more than any other part of the book — is there to satisfy Readers. To provide emotional closure.
Do Readers want, need a wedding to achieve that? Even if the characters don’t? Continue reading →
Re-reading some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels recently — Dame Isadora snagged me as the minion to do the research for her blogs because she, being a Very Important Personage, had Better Things To Do — I was struck by how often Heyer brings her lovers together at the very end of her novels, sometimes on the very last page.
Heyer might give us a chaste embrace. She might even give us a fierce kiss or two. And she often adds a shared joke.
But that’s about it.
What we don’t get in Heyer is a lovers’ wallow.
What’s a wallow?
I’d describe the wallow as a shortish section at the end of a love story where the reader sees the lovers together and passionately in love — both of them trusting and relaxed and happy. Sometimes the lovers are married, sometimes they have had children, sometimes they are simply enjoying each other.
It’s the Happy Ever After ending shown right there on the page for the reader to savour.
Some readers love a wallow. Some readers even feel shortchanged if a novel doesn’t have one at the end. But readers still love all those Heyer novels that don’t have the merest hint of a wallow. So…