Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Category versus Single Title

...and I have no idea why this has become one of my study areas, but I'm leaning toward the idea that it dovetails into my e-pub theory. I spend a lot of time trying to explain why the stories I contract have to stay tight. I used to think my pet peeve was back story drop, but I've come to realize it's word economy and focus.

Scott Eagen, in a post on category versus single title, explains it in plain english.
  • right here

  • In a story with two character arcs--I don't care how many words it is--you need to stay on task. A good example would be the first meeting. If your hero and heroine meet in a garden center, you need to give me a very good reason they're meeting there, what the heroine is doing, what the hero is doing (in a garden center of all places!)and their reactions to each other. Not the plants, not the garden hose, and I really don't care if Aunt Midge calls about the fuschia, which as you know Bob, is something that brings back memories of the night when the Uncle Fred knocked the hanging basket down on the heroine and gave her a lifelong phobia of purple things that dangle.

    It's not about ten dollar words when a dollar word will do, it's about using so many words, which takes the focus off, right--the first meeting.


    Sara Jean bumped into a wall of chest and recoiled back, rubbing her nose. Her gaze traveled up over perfectly sculpted muscles with a light sprinkling of brown hair to a face that made her breath catch. Wow, what a jaw-dropping male, she thought to herself knowingly. She turned, picked up a basket of geraniums, and put them in her rickety old shopping cart with the logo of the Tiredwood garden center on the side.

    uhm. Yeah.

    First, it's telling, not showing. Yes, I can see Sara Jean bump into the guy, but what was she doing? Why is she using the word "male" when she's not JR Ward? Can she stop thinking to herself knowingly, and why on earth does she turn away and put geraniums into her basket with the logo of the Tiredwood garden center on the side? If their meeting is the reason Sara Jean is there, she doesn't need to turn around and pick out geraniums. It downplays the importance of a very important part of the book, and pads the word count.

    Setting details need to flow as logical...I guess the word I'm looking for is interactions.

    The geraniums were her ticket home, and Sara Jean wanted to go home. If she had to spend one more minute in the Allergy Pit of Doom, her eyes were going to fall out. She hurried around a corner and slammed into a cloth-covered wall.

    Her gaze flew up and her jaw dropped. "Uh..."

    The most gorgeous man in the world wiped dirt from his chest and gave her a sour look. "Flowers?" he said. "You shouldn't have."'s three a.m. It's workmanlike.

    Sara Jean now has motivation, she needs geraniums. Why? No clue, but it's important. Why doesn't she see the luscious male? Because she's got allergies, and her reaction to him is a resounding, "uh..." But, since she just smeared flower stuff all over him, they've got something to talk about that doesn't include how hot he is and a description of his chest hair. Although it does leave an opening for chest hair if I make Sara Jean lean forward to brush at the dirt (which, btw, makes it hotter) or have her turn away and mutter, "there's dirt in your," And have her get all red and embarrassed, which says a lot about her personality (if I wanted her more prudish).

    Like Scott says, the words have to do double duty. They need to layer, and inform, and push the plot and set up the conflict all at the same time. So what I'm really doing is editing category romance.

    Which does make sense, because now I'm thinking smaller presses and e-pubs are the new Harlequin, only sideways, because they are doing non-traditional category.


    Unhinged said...

    I hee-hawed like the olden show of the same name (remember Hee Haw?) while reading this example. I know I'VE done this. But it's still funny.

    Great before and after examples.

    And oh geeze, I love my long sentences and narratives. Yikes. I'm in TRUH-ble...

    Prowd said...

    I'm finding your blogs very helpful but some days they intimidate me. I keep thinking, gee maybe I can't write a book.

    Deanna said...

    "what a jaw-dropping male, she thought to herself knowingly"

    You're discouraging people from writing like that? ;o)

    This is good - find the tension; show where we need to focus. Um, not so much the chest hair, maybe (not that there's anything wrong with that). :o)

    jodi said...

    lol--Unhingey, I remember watching Hee-Haw and I can sing the theme song to Petticoat Junction. And I'm dying to see Get Smart the movie.

    Deanna, dialog tags (internal and external) are the bane of my life. One day I'm going to write a tutorial on how to use subtext and action beats to replace tags that tell the reader how to interpret the sentence.

    And then, I'm going to print it on a bookmark and hand them out. :)

    Prowd? I wish I knew who you are. You are one of the few bloggers without info. I'm thinking you're not my kid or mom, and you're definitely not Cowboy.

    a post?

    Alice Audrey said...

    In it's day, Harlequin was cutting edge and sideways. Maybe they have become hide-bound with age, cause ePub is a lot mroe cutting edge now.

    jodi said...

    lol, Alice, that's back when my dream editor was in charge with her super-stable of stars. Now all the stars are single title *sigh*