Friday, May 13, 2005

When Did His Soul Get Full of Passion?

Looking over my entries of the past few days, I'm thinking this looks more like a reader's blog than a writer's blog. I've been reviewing and commenting on books I'm reading with my reader's hat sitting high atop my head.

Except, I honestly believe that a person cannot be a good writer without first having a passionate love for reading. In reading, my writer's brain sees things I like and notices things I don't like. As I've learned more and more about the craft of writing, I've become more capable of identifying both the good and the bad, rather than just having that vague "I liked this book" or "This book didn't work for me" response.

For example, last night I started something new. I'm not going to say the title or the writer because I'm not sure that this one is going to work for me and I don't like to hurt feelings if I can help it. But within the five chapters I've read so far, I can already identify the humongous problem I have with it, and seeing this problem in this particular book is a big flag for me to remember when I write my own stuff.

Particularly, I'm talking about that "Hello, my name is Bob and I love you" syndrome some heroes seem to have. They meet a heroine and within five minutes have developed a deep affection for her, before she's ever had a chance to do anything at all that is love-worthy.

I'm not talking about attraction. I'm all for the their-eyes-met-across-the-crowded-room-and-sparks-flew animal chemistry that first draws heroes and heroines together. Nothing at all wrong with or unusual about admiring a well-formed man or woman. In fact, if the hero and heroine aren't feeling some stirrings fairly soon in the story, I start to wonder what it's going to take. Unless, of course, the story starts when the girl is very young or if the book is an ugly duckling tale. Then I don't mind waiting for the mental lusting to begin.

Either way, I just want the characters to recognize what they are feeling those first few minutes/hours/days after they've met for what it really is. Initial lust.

For example, in this book I'm reading, the hero first sees the heroine on page 15. They have their first conversation on page 17. By page 24, when the hero says something that upsets the heroine, his reaction is this:

"What had he said? His chest ached with the vulnerability, the grief in her eyes. What has caused her such misery? And what made him want to take her into his arms and comfort her?"

To further add fuel to my "WTF? Is this guy a complete wuss?" reaction, by page 61 the hero is really feeling it:

"He tightened his embrace as an overwhelming need to protect her, to care for her, surged through him. He fought the urge to cover her mouth with his and kiss her with as much passion as he had in his soul."

When did that happen? When did he get passion in his soul? And what pages did I skip where the heroine did something or said something that inspired him to have overwhelming needs to protect and care for her? Did I get a defective copy of the book? Is a chapter or twenty missing?

Before you think I'm just an old curmudgeon who doesn't recognize love at first sight when I see it or that I'm just failing to see that this hero has a deep, sensitive beta soul, I should point out the couple engaged in all of one conversation before he started feeling all smooshy inside. And it wasn't a great get-to-know-you/soul-baring conversation but more of an argument about why he was wrongly holding her captive.

Plus, this is a 315-page book, so it's not like we need to get things moving quickly so we can reach our HEA by page 100.

The other thing - this guy is supposed to be a hardened pirate, willing to hold a woman hostage in order to extricate ransom from his most hated enemy. Not exactly the kind of guy you'd find shopping in the Hallmark Special Moments section of the greeting cards aisle.

His internal dialogue is contradicting what the writer is trying to sell me as to what this character is. I would imagine it would take at least two conversations before a pirate would start feeling guilty about hurting the heroine's feelings, especially a heroine who he has never met and who is supposed to be the betrothed of his enemy.

Again, I find myself back to prefering a hero who takes some time to woo. A guy with a hard shell that requires more than a wink to crack. I want to see a couple who has to work for their passion, a heroine who has to earn her man's love (and vice versa!). If this guy is already feeling a need to protect and is overwhelmed by passion filling his soul, what's going to happen by Chapter 10? Should I be expecting explosions?

So, how do I apply this to my own writing. I suppose it's a matter of pacing. Sure, you want to demonstrate some sort of connection between the hero and heroine pretty much from the get go. Call me a traditionalist, but I think I'd tend to go with something physical. Unless the hero and heroine had known each other well before the start of the story, I can't imagine how a single conversation or mere glimpse would fill either characters' heart with love and singing birdies and protective instincts for his or her life-mate.

And I agree that things need to progress steadily. If the characters are not taking steps forward toward that HEA - with the normal amount of half-a-step-back due to whatever form of conflict they encounter - the story stagnates. But there have to be ways to propel this forward momentum that make sense given the types of people the story is presenting.

I imagine a pirate might take a little longer to warm up to the heroine in a real-feelings way than say, maybe, a mild-mannered grocery store clerk who has been searching for someone to love him his whole life and wants nothing more than to settle down and start a family.

Since I like the general premise of this book I'm reading, I'll keep going despite my need for an ice-pack to ease the muscle pain I've gotten from eye-rolling. Perhaps there is something I don't know about this pirate fellow that will explain things. Maybe he really is a soft-hearted guy who just got roped into being a pirate when really, he'd rather be a gardner. And maybe his claims of having a painful past that had hardened his heart means that his parents wouldn't buy him a pony and he's still bitter about it.

Hey, I've got an open mind.

1 comment:

Steph T. said...

LOL - most of my male characters run if they start feeling any kind of soul-thing going on, especially right away...I don't think men talk like that, even to themselves.