Thursday, June 19, 2008

Contemporary romances scare me.

I’ve been reading romance a long time, but the one area I am abysmally poorly read in is contemp romance. Which is strange, because I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Ain’t She Sweet is definitely in my top ten romances.

But apart from some wonderfully charming and sexy Susan Donovan romances, Jenny Crusie and a couple of Deb Smiths(amazing) none came to mind when I sat down to write this post.

And I know editors are asking to see more of them. It’s time for this market to be rejuvenated and the only way it will happen, as with the historical market, is if amazing contemp romances find their way into editor’s hands.

And never in a million years could I write one. They scare me. I’m a historical romantic suspense writer. I might someday branch into contemp suspense, even paranormals, but a straight romance over 400 pages.
I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I rely on my suspense to move the plot, to create action and forward momentum and to give me added tension to the romance plot.

Without it, I’d be lost. I know Susan Elizabeth Phillips (from now on to be referred to as SEP) does it. She usually has about two subplots, one involving another romance, but otherwise, everything moves along at a really nice pace, it’s compelling, completely involving and to me it seems like magic.

I keep meaning to read one of her books with the purpose of evaluating it on a scene level, but before I know it, I’m caught up in the book. Even her lesser books.

I think there are so few well known authors in this field because it’s so hard to do well. 400 pages about two people just falling in love, and to make all those pages tense and dramatic and never repetitious.

Makes me sweat just thinking about it.

And on an unrelated topic. Anyone see the end of Battlestar. It won’t be back until 2009, but I have to say, hell of an ending. Loved that no way did I see that coming.


Kristin said...

The way to write contemporary successfully is to put two people together who absolutely NO WAY can fall in love. That is the best place to start, IMHO.

A few examples, the tv show "Scarecrow & Mrs. King." She was a housewife who was conservative and a little on the ditzy side. He was a spy who was suave and fast-thinking. How do you get these two together? Lots of obstacles to overcome there. Even without suspense or action.

Or how about "Veronica Mars"? Veronica, smart sassy chick from a 'working class' background. Logan, rich, spoiled actor's son with women aplenty to swoon over him. How do you convince Veronica that Logan's affections are real?

Anyway, I think it's much easier than you think! Just have to get the 'wrong' two people together and make them right.

The most boring romances are when the people clearly are perfect for each other, but there's some weak obstacle between them. A misunderstanding or something silly. When there are clear reasons to the reader WHY a romance can't be, then you have fodder for a really great contemporary romance!

Um, have I mentioned that I'm not published yet? So take my words with a grain of salt!

Maureen McGowan said...

Attempting a single title contemporary scares me too, Sinead... And my fear seems odd to me considering I've written a couple of women's fiction contemporaries... I suppose I might be able to pull one off as long as the heroine had a huge plot/character arc in addition to the romance... But obviously it'd have to be connected in some way... Dunno. But if my UF doesn't fly, that might be my next genre leap.

And I'm still thinking about that BSG episode. I guess it answered the "is this the past of the future" question that's been on my mind since watching episode one, season one... but opens lots of other questions, too...

I loved the expressions on all of their faces right at the end... Can't wait until the final episodes air.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and I totally agree with your comments Kristin. But that's true of any genre of romance. A great romance stems on having real conflict/problems separating the hero and heroine, not silliness or misunderstandings. (Like the flimsy plots of so many rom/com movies. Even if those thin conflicts can sometimes carry a film, no way can they carry a novel.)

I think what scares Sinead and I about straight contemps is the absence of any suspense or other big plot elements. The idea of carrying an entire 100K plus novel on the back of the romance alone, like SEP and Jennifer Crusie have done so well...

Sinead M said...

You're right, Kristin, if you start with great characters and the right conflict, you're more than half way to writing a wonderful contemp.
Even still, it scares me. Every scene would be hard for me. But because of that, the people who make it effortless awe me.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Oh I love it Kristin! Take the wrong people and make them right -- you actually just fixed my current novella issue. Thank you!

You know, I loved the BSG episode but slightly pissed off that the fracking solution was to TURN ON the viper???? Like no one did that before? Weak, BSG writers - very weak. But yes, the rest of it - the big questions raised - fabulous!!!

Margaret Moore said...

With a contemp, I can get a set up, but then... nuthin'. I figure that's a Sign that I am not meant to write them.

As for Battlestar, I was having Planet of the Apes flashbacks, and then the Simpson version of Planet of the Apes: "Oh, no, I was wrong, it was earth all along..."

On another note, anybody else think (okay, hope) Lee Adama was going to strip right down to his skivvies when he jumped up on the console?

Kristin said...

Gee, thanks, Molly!

I think romance seems hard when in a contemporary setting for some b/c it's too close to home. But it really is just the same as any historical or suspense romance, really it is! :-)

As for BSG (which I love, love, love), I didn't get the impression they never turned the viper on. In fact, when she first landed, they were looking at the instruments and such...remember? She swore that she took pictures or something? And that is when they said the viper was 'clean.'

Anyway, I thought that something *happened* to the viper that all the final four cylons sensed. A change. Something new. Why it happened was never explained. Not sure if it will be. But maybe next season they may reveal where exactly this perfect viper came from.

I am not convinced it is Earth in our future at all. There are arguments going on about that last shot being of Brooklyn Bridge and NY, but I don't believe it...yet.

Sinead M said...

Margaret, they are missing that great part from Season 2, we all remember the Lee towel scene?

I loved that last scene and how wonderfully bleak it was.
I am such a fan girl.

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