Lately I have been wondering about characterization. What is it actually? If an author makes a point of drawing a heroine as self-sufficient and independent but in the middle of the book, she turns needy and clingy, is that a problem with characterization or is the author putting in a touch of realism?
I know an individual’s confidence and self-assurance can vary from situation to situation but I have discovered if an author writes some aspect of a character’s personality down, if I read it, then I expect that character for the most part to act in that manner. Rightly or wrongly, if an author draws a character in the beginning one way, then while they may grow as people, I don’t expect them to regress for no good reason. When I say this, I am not talking about situational reactions. I can easily give an author a lot of leeway if I understand why a character is acting a certain way. For instance, Deborah Smith’s heroine Cathryn Deen from The Crossroads Cafe goes from gorgeous, self-assured, and privileged to isolated, solitary, and desolate after a horrific car crash destroys her movie star looks. Instead of people looking at her in awe they turn away in horror. Her personality and her feelings about herself make a dramatic change, but it’s one that makes sense under the circumstances.
While many of you are aware of “copywriting boobos”, I tend to be more aware of descriptive information. I want it to seep into my subconscious setting the scene, showing me the action but not be a part of the story. I think of adjectives and adverbs as the structure or foundation of a novel. You know that it there and it makes an impression but it doesn’t scream out at you.
I am not saying that stark and unadorned writing doesn’t have its place, but adjectives and adverbs are wonderful things when used correctly. They take you from, “See Leigh run,” to “See exhausted but unwavering Leigh stagger wheezily to the finish line.” They change a simple black and white thought by adding vibrant color to it(albeit sometimes purple color), and crafting an image that comes alive in our mind. And having stories come alive is of critical importance.
Remember the early days of eBooks? I do. I was so excited about my Kindle. No more waiting until the books were shelved. I could just wake up on the release date and there it would be, ready to read. Except it wasn’t that way -so many of my favorite author’s books weren’t available as a digital release. Sometimes I had to wait a couple of weeks, and sometimes months. Then when that issue was resolved, I had to deal with the fact that I could buy the paper copy of the book for less than the digital copy. Now that these issues are getting taken care of for the most part, I have another request, simultaneous book release dates. Oh, I know it a pie in the sky wish right now, but surely it can be done.
Let’s start with a definition: Per Wikipedia “foreshadowing or adumbrating is a literary device in which an author indistinctly suggests certain plot developments that will come later in the story.”
Usually when you think of foreshadowing, you think of a plot device that is used in mystery or suspense, but as more and more authors are writing series books, I am discovering that it is being utilized more in the romance genre.
In the mystery genre foreshadowing is used typically as a precursor to pending doom and build suspense for the great pièce de résistance. I remember racing through the pages of Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games desperate to find out what was going to happen to Jack Ryan’s family.
In the romance genre it can be used for a mystery within the story, however many authors use it to create desire for the next book in the series. It is like a movie trailer broadcasting coming attractions. It can be about a character and a potential relationship or it can be a plot device. But no matter what it is about the author creates a hook for the reader and gives them a reason to buy the next book.
Sometimes behind the scenes some of us at AAR like to compare notes on books we’ve read or urge our friends to read some of the books we’ve enjoyed the most. Leigh and Maggie started chatting about their shared love of YA and of women’s fiction recently and this is what they had to say about it:
Leigh:The series of blogs on diversity lately had me wondering about why I am drawn to a certain type of book. While I enjoy contemporary romances, I am also drawn to Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction. Continue reading
I have never read a book by Tana French and the first time I saw her name was in the Eagerly Awaited August Books where both Dabney and Lynn indicate that they are looking forward to her new release Broken Harbor. Then while surfing the Web, I came across her name again. She wrote an article for Publishers Weekly outlining her writing tips.
A few of them didn’t resonate, but this one did:
There’s no such thing as ‘men’ or ‘women’. There’s only the individual character you’re writing. One guy emailed me asking me how to write women, and I couldn’t answer, because I had no idea which woman he meant: me? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Lady Gaga? If you’re thinking of ‘men’ or ‘women’ as a monolithic group defined primarily by their sex, then you’re not thinking of them as individuals; so your character isn’t going to come out as an individual, but as a collection of stereotypes. Sure, there are differences between men and women on average – but you’re writing an individual, not an average. If your individual character is chatty on the phone or refuses to ask for directions, that needs to be because of who he or she is, not because of what he or she is. Write the person, not the genitalia.
Three years ago I was very vocal when another reviewer here at AAR reviewed a highly anticipated book without having read the previous books, stating how can a reviewer judge a book if they don’t know the characters’ history and conflicts. I still think it is important and my preferred way of reading a book, being able to start a series with the very first book is becoming more and more difficult. While I really want to break out a little from my preferred genres of women’s fiction, contemporary, and chick lit to read more science fiction and fantasy – genres that incorporate a lot of worldbuilding – I am stymied because so many of the interesting-sounding books I find end up being mid-series books. Is it unreasonable to expect a series book to stand on its own? I feel ambivalent about that. I don’t think I should have to read an author’s whole backlist to enjoy a book, but I have also seen the amount of anticipation that certain authors build over five or six books. Is there really a right answer? I asked fellow reviewers Maggie and Pat to share their opinions as we discuss this debatable topic.
Recently I have started volunteering as an advocate for Sexual Assault Crisis Response group in my community. Since I believe the more information and training I have the more effective I can be, I dragged myself out of bed this week on my day off to attend police training on sexual violence – The Dynamics and Cultural Myths, and Improving Sexual Assault Investigations. Thanks to Jen Carson of the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Mike Hammons of the Fayetteville Police Department for allowing me to use their material in writing this article.
Let me just say upfront that back in the 80’s I was right there with most of the romance reader population in reading and enjoying the so-called “bodice ripper” novels written by authors such as Shirlee Busbee, Rosemary Rogers,and Kathleen Woodiwiss. And I am not knocking these authors now. That was the culture and the fantasy of that time. Just read the joke that John McCain told in 1986: Continue reading
You probably have already heard about the Wall Street Journal breaking the story of the Department of Justice plans to sue Apple and Simon & Schuster Inc., Hachette Book Group; Penguin Group (USA); Macmillan and HarperCollins Publishers Inc for price fixing related to e-books. And you might have read their response that they only did it to keep the market competitive. And you might be rolling your eyes thinking “not another blog about e-book pricing”. And I agree with you. I am talked out on the subject. There is only so many way you can say that agency pricing is wrong. So for something new, I thought I would write an article with a positive slant. To be honest, I had planned on writing about all the things that publishers do right. But it was a very short list. Maybe it’s because when I look at things, it seems as if the publishers focus more on profits. We have seen that over and over again with gluts of similar types of books. And authors have relayed that they want to write something different but are told that doesn’t sell. However, I easily feel the love for authors. For over a year now, I wanted to have an author appreciation day on the blog.
Last week, I mentioned that certain publishers won’t let libraries lend their eBooks. To bring it home more, if you are looking for romance eBooks by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh, Keiran Kramer published by Macmillan Publishing at your local library or Simon & Schuster’s authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz or Sabrina Jeffries, don’t waste your time looking because their eBooks are not available for lending. If that is not enough, Penguin, which only offered backlist eBook titles for library lending, announced that it is terminating its contract with OverDrive, the library digital vendor, and starting February 10 will cease to offer any of its eBooks to libraries.