Awhile back suburbanbeatnik made a comment while reading the first draft of my steampunk romance to the effect that romance novels don't usually introduce a male character who's not the love interest before you actually meet the "real" love interest. I just realized that I've done the same thing in the fantasy romance I'm writing right now. Does this sort of thing bother you? Do you need to imprint on the "real" hero first, or are you all right with a little obfuscation as long as the heroine ends up with the hero eventually?
(BTW, these aren't love triangles in the technical sense, although there is some interest between the heroine and the secondary character.)
I'm just curious as to whether this is a romance convention I need to follow, or whether I should just say screw it and go ahead with what I've written already. I could take out the earlier arrival of these characters if I have to, but some of the later stuff might not make as much sense or have as much impact. Frankly, I would think the reader would be able to figure out who was going to get the eventual HEA based on the cover art and back cover blurb, but maybe that just me. :-P
Also, sort of related but not really: Any good recommendations for fantasy romance? Like, real alternate-world fantasy romance, not paranormal romance or urban fantasy. I tried searching in "fantasy romance" at Amazon and all I got was page after page of vampire/demon/were stuff, complete with the requisite man-titty. Bo-ring.
Point of view refers to the character or characters from whose vantage point we witness the events that take place in a novel or other work of fiction. Sounds simple enough, right? But choosing which p.o.v. to use can impact your storytelling more than almost any other authorial decision you make.
This tends to be an unconscious decision for me; I’m a character-driven writer, so in almost every case I’ve had the main character tell me which point of view she wants her story told from. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to choose p.o.v. — you may have seen people stating on blogs that they hate first-person point of view or don’t want to read something that doesn’t include the hero’s p.o.v. along with the heroine’s. That’s their choice, but you shouldn’t let it influence yours.
I actually happen to love first person point of view, probably because I grew up reading Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels and Victoria Holt’s gothics, and the vast majority of these books are written in first person. Done well, this p.o.v. really connects the reader with the protagonist — you feel as if you’re taking a journey along with the character and often get a greater sense of the lead’s growth during the story. Done poorly, it can be riddled with info dumps or tangents that have little to do with a novel’s narrative direction. However, first person also can be a good choice when you have a hero who is somewhat enigmatic; in Fringe Benefits, my contemporary romance for Pink Petal Books, I wanted Pieter Van Rijn to be a mysterious character, and so first person seemed the best p.o.v. for the story I wanted to tell (never mind that Katherine, the heroine, started talking about herself in first person pretty much from the first moment she popped into my head).
The majority of romance novels (and novels of most genres except Chick Lit) tend to be written in third person. In some cases, you still maintain a tight focus on the main character and do not switch viewpoints, but more and more romances have begun to trade perspective between the two leads. Sometimes you can also get the point of view of secondary characters (such as the villain in a romantic suspense novel); opinions vary as to whether this adds extra tension or tends to dilute the dynamic between the hero and heroine. In grand, sweeping epics, there can be literally dozens of viewpoint characters; the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is an example of this. All those viewpoints are necessary because of the scope of the story being told, but in romance you’re probably safer sticking with no more than two or three.
The term “head-hopping” gets thrown around a lot, and I have to say it’s one of my pet peeves and the one thing that almost always prevents me from finishing a book. I sometimes make exceptions if the rest of the story is compelling enough, but those tend to be pretty rare. Head-hopping occurs when you’re in the point of view of the heroine in one paragraph (or even sentence, if you really want to get mental whiplash) and then in the hero’s head in the next paragraph or sentence. For example:
“Melinda stared up into Byron’s eyes and wondered if he had any idea how much he had just hurt her.
Byron looked at Melinda and thought she had never appeared as fetching as she did now, with tears tangled in her sooty lashes.”
Okay, besides the deliberately purple prose, you can see at once that we’re getting Melinda’s thoughts in the first paragraph and Byron’s in the second. Effectively, we’ve hopped from her head into his. This weakens the writing because you’re not in one character’s perspective long enough to get caught up in his or her emotions. If it were written this way:
“Melinda stared up into Byron’s eyes and wondered if he had any idea how much he had just hurt her. Why he was just standing there and looking down at her without saying anything? She blinked at the sudden tears that started in her eyes and knew she’d never be able to explain.”
In this paragraph, we’re staying with Melinda. All we’re getting is her feelings of hurt and confusion. Because we’ve remained firmly in her head, we have a better idea of how much pain she’s in at the moment.
Head-hopping shouldn’t be confused with omniscient point of view, which is an entirely different concept. This p.o.v. was popular in the writing of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and can still be used effectively when a detached, godlike narrator suits the purposes of the story (the Lemony Snicket books and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are good examples of this style). In omniscient point of view, the narrator stands outside the action and often comments on it; we can be inside more than one character’s head at once, but the effect isn’t as jarring as head-hopping because there’s still an over-arching narrator describing the events of the novel.
Most editors these days tend to frown on head-hopping, so writers who find they have difficulties with staying in one character’s point of view during a scene might want to try a little exercise: rewrite the scene in first person. By focusing on that one character and describing events through their eyes, it’s much more difficult to inadvertently “hop” into the head of the other character or characters in that scene. While having more than one point of view in a novel is perfectly acceptable (and almost expected by some readers), most editors agree you should not have more than one character’s p.o.v. per scene.
I usually know from almost the moment I get an idea for a story how I’m going to tell it — first person; tight third (as with a steampunk romance I’m in the process of writing now); or alternating third, which is what I chose for a paranormal novella I have coming out in August 2010 from Pink Petal Books.
I believe the story should dictate the p.o.v. you choose, not necessarily what you think is most popular with readers or editors. You can never please all of the people all of the time, but if you’re not happy with your writing — or the point of view you’re writing it from — then probably no one else will be, either.
—Originally posted on the Avoid Writer’s Hell blog
Gee, I can't imagine what might have prompted this particular writer's block question. :-P
My answer to this question should be pretty obvious, but it is true that I'm a writer of fanfic, not a reader. Heck, I barely find the time to read pro novels. It's also true that I'm not writing as much fic as I used to, but I love the idea of fanfic. I love that it exists. I love that I can explore the more obscure areas of canon, or write "what-ifs," or bring characters back from the dead if I want to (yeah, I'm looking at you, JKR and Terminator and 24 writers).
I still don't quite know why some authors have such an issue with it. I'd like to think I'd be honored if someone ever wrote fanfic for one of my novels...although I'm pretty sure I wouldn't read it, for a variety of reasons. Doesn't mean I'd stop someone from writing it, though.
I don't know what I'm going to do with myself after the current TV season is over. Two of the three shows I watch religiously are ending (24 and Lost). I'll still have Doctor Who, but...
Now available at Pink Petal Books!
It'll be available through the PPB website for approximately the first month, and starting on May 1, you can buy the book at All Romance Ebooks, My Bookstore and More, 1Romance Ebooks, Mobipocket, the Kindle Store, and Smashwords.
Also, my publisher is offering a promotion for the first ten days of release -- use the code "magicfringe" to get 10% off at the Pink Petal Books site! PPB is a secure site, but you can also use PayPal for your purchases. Spread the word...I need the sales! ;-)
Despite all that, I did manage to get some productive things done. I completely retooled my website, and I got the book trailer for Fringe Benefits done. Of course, what this really taught me is that iMovie is too wimpy to do what I really wanted it to do, but you gotta start somewhere. However, that doesn't mean I don't have a bunch of versions of Final Cut Express (I figured I really didn't need Pro) bookmarked on eBay.
Here's the trailer:
Also, as part of my new website, I have a blog. Today I blogged about the heavy emphasis on sex in today's romance novels (we discussed this here on my LJ awhile go, but I got some fresh anecdata via a poll on Bitten by Books, so I figured it was a good time to revisit the topic). I'd love it if some of you could pop over there when you get a chance...my blog is lonely since it's so new. Not many people on the web even know I exist. o.O
Dark Valentine magazine is, to quote the publisher, a quarterly journal devoted entirely to dark fiction, which we define as any story in any genre that is disturbing, provocative, haunting, scary, dangerous, or any combination of those things. Think of classic stories like The Mummy’s Paw, The Open Window, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Lady or the Tiger? Think of Jack London’s To Build a Fire, William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, J.D. Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Tanith Lee’s Because Our Skins are Finer.
I'm the third part of the evil triumvirate running this dark venture -- Katherine Tomlinson is our illustrious publisher, and Joanne Renaud (suburbanbeatnik ) is the art director. I'm the editor.
We're looking for the following: Short stories in any genre so long as they fit under the overall heading of “dark.” Here are just a few genres we want to see: black humor, dark romance, urban fantasy, horror, mystery, SF, paranormal, dark fantasy, speculative, slipstream, surrealism, magical realism, lit fic, steampunk, splatterpunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and so forth. Surprise us with your take on a famous fairy tale or an urban legend. You can go to the submission guidelines to get the full story. We do pay for stories and art ($10 each, but at least you can say you got paid for your work!).
I know I have a lot of fellow authors (and some artists) on my f-list, and I encourage any and all of you to submit if this sounds like it's up your alley. Spread the word!
See you on the other side.
Anyway, I love this picture because it's so hard to get her to stay still when I'm trying to take a photo!
Also, for once she didn't get doggie devil-eyes from the flash. :-P
Frankly, I had a feeling it was going to be kind of a train wreck ever since I heard they were using the story from Frederick Forsythe's Phantom of Manhattan (which as been pretty much universally panned, as far as I can tell), but it's one thing to have misgivings and another to know for sure that it's a total train wreck.
Sigh. POTO was a huge part of my life for a very long time, and I have to say I'm not terribly thrilled with ALW for distorting its legacy this way. Oh, well, guess I can put my fingers in my ears and go "LALALALALALALALA CAN'T HEAR YOU" and pretend LND doesn't exist...
Overall, I'm enjoying the book, but...
HEAD-HOPPING. Holy crap, head-hopping all over the place. Did this suddenly become okay again, and I just didn't get the memo? I'm trying to roll with it and pretend that the book is written that way because omniscient p.o.v. was totally kosher in Victorian literature, but still.
Tremendous doings this weekend, and I need to put up a proper picspam and write-up, but I actually had to do real work this afternoon after I got done being hubby's P.A. this morning, and I'm tired.
But I'm never too tired to bitch about p.o.v. issues. Heh.
Voice recognition software would be awesome, but I'm not willing to drop $200 on something I'd only need for about a month. :-(