Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Writing craft

Characterization, how real is real enough?

The answer to this question may well be one of those all depends things. So frustrating for those, like me, who prefer nice tidy rules with limited exceptions.

Here are the factors that I think determine to the answer to this question:

1) Sub-genre or line being targeted

2) Reader preference

3) Writer preference

Romance readers want a hero to fall in love with. This still leaves a broad band of acceptable heroes. There are readers who love beta boys, those who want gamma guys, and adoring fan who are hooked on alphas.

I've read lots of romance, I've never read a single hero who I'd confuse with a real life man.

When I read romance this lack of realism disturbs me to the extent of eye rolling and occasional wall bangers (where the book is tossed violently across the room), more usually this reaction was triggered by heroines who IMHO were too stupid to live.

None of the men I've read were anywhere near real.

Over and over I would be reminded that a woman wrote this love scene. Occasionally, I've been convinced that the woman writing had never experienced whatever sex act she was describing.

I've mellowed a bit. There's room for more than one truth in the big world of romantic fiction. There are women who live a different reality from me and have sex with a different kind of man. These women experience an orgasm every time they have sex, including the first time. They are confident, yet humble, beautiful, but modest and unassuming, smart, thrifty, kind. I'm drawing a curtain over this paragon, I will refrain from further description. I'm sure you already know lots of them. They have perfect spouses,and perfect children. They are kind to the elderly and small animals. When not busy caring for their perfect familites they work to save the planet.

The more romance I read, the more understanding I have of the appeal of certain conventions and why authors make the choices they do. Women do not want to read about real men who drink beer, watch sports, and fart. They do not want to real about real women with dirty bathrooms, bratty kids and belching spouses. There's plenty of those in real life. Women want to read about men who are better than real.

Despite the universal appeal of the larger than life hero, if he is too perfect he loses points. Even superman is vulnerable to kryptonite and Lois Lane.

So how real do you like your heroes?


Blogger Avery Beck said...

I don't have too many problems with heroes. I find most of them totally hot men I'd definitely want ;-)

Honestly, I think the heroines are much more unrealistic. All those women who are skinny and gorgeous, and still single w/no kids (in other words, free!!!) as they approach 30, and get their thang on within three seconds of their man breathing on them (you know what I mean!)...

Okay, well, in Blaze that's how they are. LOL! But I don't mind. It's called fiction/fantasy/escapism for a reason!

9:38 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Avery, You're right that is part of the Blaze fantasy.

I agree the heroine irritates me much more frequently than the hero. With the yummy fantasy man I'm willing to overlook his lack of realism. ;)

10:11 AM  
Anonymous T. J. Killian said...

Personally, I'm an alpha kind of girl. Love em. Love em. Love em. Probably why I write them.

As you've probably realized with me. I want real heroes, real heroines, and fantastic plots. That's me.

Give me a story I can sink my teeth into, not characters who just float all over the place according to the author's prescribed story line.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Evanne said...

T.J., I'd love to deliver perfection - but it remains an elusive goal. I am working on making all the characters more authentic.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Lori Borrill said...

LOL Evanne. You crack me up.

Okay (ahem) I know you were trying to be serious. It's the 8-year-old in me who can't see the word "fart" without rolling with hysterics.

I'm with the group, however, in that I am more particular about the heroines than I am the heroes. I think your point is one of the most difficult things when it comes to writing characters. I've yet to figure that out and continually struggle. It seems when I try to really write a "deep" character who stands out vividly to the reader and has flaws and opinions and all those things, I get rejected for being too over the top. Writing that balance is what eludes me; the ability to make a memorable, relatable character without overplaying the hand.

It's hard. I'm reading a book right now where I don't like ANY of the character, primary or secondary. The story was written "corny" IMO, insulting my intelligence. But the book got 4 1/2 stars from Romantic Times. Go figure.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

LOL Lori, I'm glad you got a laugh out of my struggles. I've been slapped for too real and not real enough. Sheesh - in all fairness the conflicting advice came from different opinions. What it comes down to is listening to my own voice. I'm going for more real - obviously too heavy for category but the current story is aimed at a different market. ;)

I do have read highly recommended stories that I found disappointing. All I can tell you about that is all fiction judgements are subjective.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Avery Beck said...

Subjective, definitely. I just tried to read a different kind of book--a category novel written by a highly successful author that was heavy on the suspense. Normally I stay far away from suspense...

And now I know why. I'm probably the only person who doesn't like the book, but I couldn't get past 30 pages. The writing itself was fabulous, as this person has published a few dozen novels. But the storyline was **not** for me. Too much danger, too much suspense, too much negativity and violence. Should probably be a single-title. I'm reminded of why I love category romance--because I love the expectation that nothing too depressing will occur. This is why I don't like it when category lines try to be "un-category". Even if the author is fabulous, the story doesn't meet my expectations.

Since I'm a suspense wimp, I think I'll go back to my regularly scheduled less dramatic reading. :-)

10:02 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Avery, I think all writing is about fulfilling reader expectations. Blaze and Superromance both have such a wide range of editorial that they are challenging for both the writer and the reader.

I do remember your reading preferences ;) I appreciate your support and encouragement all the more since most of what I write includes a strong suspense element.

For me, I'm normally a moody reader, but since the TBR shelves are sagging, I'm making an effort to be more organized.

9:32 AM  

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