Monday, September 22, 2008

Real people through a characterization lens

I entered the Romance Divas WAW contest--I rarely do anymore. I guess I was just at that stage in my writing where I needed some totally objective, you don't know me feedback. Jen--of course, knew who I was, and had some very constructive things to say. Other people, who didn't, said pretty much the same thing, so I'm leaning toward stripping the beginning and condensing it all into Jacey's point of view--I dunno, or doing something that increases the "impact" of Connor's pov first.

I also submitted the beginning of my category--which to my surprise, did better than my real-stuff.

People say it's stripped, but score wise, it did consistently better.

Earlier, I cruised through the entries--some I commented on, and some I didn't. Some genres I don't feel qualified to judge. In the ones I commented on, I noticed a few issues. Nothing big--just normal stuff. Instant lust, and the dialog to support it. White room syndrome. (I'm guilty, what can I say--it's the way my rough comes out.) Couple grammar mistakes. Threadbare plot. Imho--getting to sex, isn't a plot unless it's an erotica.

Maybe I focused on the categories because that's where "I" had been focused for awhile, but if I can't pick out the line--the story isn't working for me.

One thing that stood out--and this made me think of people as characters, is that people judge through their backgrounds. Like Seger says in her book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, you have to know where a person's been, to know where they're going and how they'll react.

A good example would be this story where the h/h meet, and they want to get it on immediately. Sure, it's true life. People do that, but they usually don't say it up front. However, in certain sub-genres it's accepted practice.

Coming as I do from a non-erotic romantic suspense pov, it hits all my buttons in the wrong way. To another person, coming from the same sub-genre background as the writer--it sounds like a perfect score. For me--the story and construction take precedence over "what's going on", because I automatically ignore the instant attraction. For another person--having sexual attraction on the first page puts a gloss on anything else that might be wrong, because the focus is in the right place.

For that person.

It's why romance writers don't belong--okay, personal opinion coming up--with the fiction writers at Nano get-together groups. The focus of a fiction writer's personal beliefs cause instant cataracts. They can't see the writing because, to them, the focus in a romance is wrong. Although I think that goes across the genre board, and applies equally to sci-fi writers and mystery mavens. Each genre, like each sub-genre, has it's given conventions.


Alice Audrey said...

I think it's very important to remember that our readers bring to the table certain expectations. I noticed in myself when I pick up a Romance, I have certain expectations for the book. If the book has been labled incorrectly, I might not enjoy a book I would have not problem with had I picked it up with a different set of expectations.

Kaige said...

Definitely. Those lenses can be pesky things at times when they don't line up.

I must have hidden my entries well, you didn't comment on mine, Cup. LOL

Unhinged said...

Wait, wait, wait.

WAW? Wet and Wild?

As a romance reader, nothing turns me off faster than two people who JUST MEET and then HAVE HOT, PERFECT SEX. The whole point (for me) behind a romance is getting to know the characters and seeing all of that sexual tension.

Kaige said...

WAW = We All Win -- Divas "contest" for Best First 5 Pages this time around.

jodi said...

lol, Kaige. I'm working my way through. I think it might take another few days.

And that's very true, Alice. If I had picked up the Kassandra Sims as an urban fantasy, I'd have probably liked it. But it didn't work for me as a romance.

(Andi!! You didn't enter *wah*)

Wet and wild is a good title. Yeah--the sex sometimes turns me off too. It's like that new thing I learned

Maslow's hierarchy says that people will not be thinking of sex, but thinking of survival (and no you can't just say this is an emotional release in a time of tension).

That's a cut and paste, btw, from Scott Eagen. I'd never heard of Maslow before and had to wiki it. Very good point.

Kaige said...

I was *NOT* trying to rush you or complaining in the least. I just thought it was funny. You can probably finger mine right away anyhow. I need to score some too.

Maslow's an old friend from my Business degree days. Just another lens on looking at what motivates people. A lot of people take issue with his philosophy, but it's a good a generalization as any.

Unhinged said...

How cool! Oh, I am so JEALOUS that I missed out on that contest. Wah, indeed.

Thanks, Kaige, for providing the linky. I gotta go read and see!

Jennifer McKenzie said...

I instantly noticed this with the Women's Fiction entry. I was convinced the prologue wouldn't work, but later realized that this isn't ROMANCE. Lori informed me it was literary women's fiction. NOT a genre I read.
I was pretty tough on the contemporaries too. I think that one is filtered through the "I want something different" lens.
I tried very hard, even if I knew the Diva who entered, to give the most helpful suggestions possible.
I know many did that for me when I first entered the WAW contest. I wanted to return the favor.
I entered too and I hadn't for a while. It was a blast.

Jeanna said...

I see your point. What about comedy writers?