Friday, February 12, 2010

Does romance genre dictate pacing?

I'm reading a historical romance right now. I have been reading the same book for two months, which is a bad sign when it comes to a book, but I'm determined to finish this. Mostly because, it's well written, has interesting characters, and as a writer, I know the craft that went into the book.

But I'm still dragging through sections of the book. Part of the problem is we are in the character's heads a lot, every emotion they feel is articulated well, but after a while, it gets a little boring. Now lots of people have disagreed with me, as this book's gotten lots of buzz, (or hype, still trying to decide). It reminds me a lot of the books written by Judith Ivory, an author I admire tremendously, I just wished I'd loved her stories more.

But this is a trait I find now with historical romance, lots of time spent in the character's heads, not repetitious, but detailed, incredibly detailed. We get to know these characters completely. Much more so than in paranormal, where there is usually an external plot to balance the book. But the detail can often kill the pacing, and too often the historicals I'm reading feel long on character and short on story.

My first love in romance was historicals, they are my comfort reads, but lately, I'm having difficulty getting through all but the absolute best. Historical romance was built around luxuriant reads, filled with fantasy and detail, and I don't think they've changed dramatically in the past few years, but perhaps my taste has.

I just want to love historicals again, and expecting Sherry Thomas to write eight books a year is, apparently, unrealistic..


Karen W said...

Try Lisa Kleypas for a good historical. And Lorraine Heath.

I'm with you though, I have difficulty reading a lot of historicals too these days.

Wendy Marcus said...

I am much more into contemporary romance because I like a fast paced book. But when I am in the mood for a historical romance to change things up, there are certain authors whose books, in my opinion, read like contemporaries. Lisa Kleypas and Lorraine Heath are two. Also, Sabrina Jeffries, Teri Brisbin, Kat Martin, and Kasey Michaels.

Maureen McGowan said...

I can't read books that are too much in characters' heads with no action UNLESS the writing is fabulous. I think that's why Sherry Thomas's books work for me, because I want to read every sentence and I smile at least twice a page at the way she's phrased something.
For me, any genre fiction needs to either have page turning action -- a story that won't let go -- or a highly entertaining voice.

I'm reading Soulless by Gail Carriger right now. Not sure it's paced as fast as it could be... but OMG is it funny. The way she words things. I laugh out loud almost on every page. It's historical... but not romance. More a Victorian set UF. (I've seen people call it steampunk... and was puzzled by that because very little "science" or "gadgets" but I think I just hit the part where it becomes more steampunk... TMI Sorry. Rambling...

Simone said...

I so agree.

I took a reading break away from historicals for a few months last year and it cleansed my palate a bit. I came back to them with a fresher eye. I'm not quite in love with historicals again, but I'm in like with them.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm reading Courtney milan's debut and am really loving it right now...will pass that on to you.

I think all the genres need to borrow something from each other - I keep thinking of those fabulous Joanne Bourne books with the plots and the pacing and the whoo hoo!!

Eileen said...

I have been having an internal debate about this question for the last hour. What a great post!

My first reaction was no, pacing isn't different. Your novel should never drag. I don't care what it's about, the pacing should keep the reader moving through the story.

Then, I thought, but what counts as good pacing in one kind of story is different than in another. My chick lit heroines had to move from personal epiphany to personal epiphany which is different than my romantic suspense heroine moving from plot point to plot point to reveal the murderer. I decided what they had in common, however, was tension. There had to be tension in each of those movements.

Then, I thought that maybe historical readers don't want so much tension. Part of the joy of reading a really well-written historical is being swept into the detail of another time. Maybe being swept is anathema to being tense.

THEN I decided that being swept still is boring if you don't care about what's happening to the readers even if it's beautifully written and detailed (The Other Boleyn Girl for me which was absolutely gorgeous and detailed and halfway through I simply did not care what happened to any of those people and put it down).

So I don't know. Which is it? Yes. No. Maybe, but it's different. Yes, but only if I care. No, but it depends on your definition. All of the above.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm going to say no... I think pacing is an intrinsic part of the story regardless of genre.

It doesn't matter if you're solving a murder, or just watching two people fall in love... if you're not pacing it right it will fail.

Great topic right now for me because this is my latest writing fear. I did a Superromance proposal (very scary) and the plot structure is very different from what I've done. No murder to solve, bad guy to kill, no chase scenes.

I was in the head of the heroine - and I kept wondering is this okay? Can I have two pages of her just thinking about shit?

I don't know. My editor will tell me. But I kept what you guys have always said (thank you DWT) in mind and that is - did it move the plot forward? Did I need to know the details about this person? Were the details going to be important to her growth in the end?

Filling in details because you like them about the character doesn't work if it bores the reader. But giving the details in a way that keeps the story moving is fine.

But I really think that is across any genre.

And for pacing - I do think Sherry Thomas is BRILLIANT in that. Her stories move, but feel big and luscious like old historicals. That's a trick.

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen, we really need to figure out a way to transport you here when we go out for drunk writer talk. (Beam me up, Scotty.)

I do think that Sinead's got a point about pacing varying by genre... and what you've said, Eileen, is a good explanation of why. Readers looking for something different, a different experience. Still, there's got to be something to keep the pages turning... And just as readers' tastes vary, so do the reasons for page-turning, I guess.

But personally, I need some tension, even if it's just the tension of me wondering what a character will do/think next. That's why Donald Maass's ideas about writing make so much sense to me. Micro tension rules.

Eileen said...

Actually, I think you should all beam here. It's cold and snowy where you are. Of course, right now, it's gray and rainy where I am. Please tell me we're all going to be in Nashville.

You're right though. This is exactly the kind of discussion that floats my boat.

Maureen McGowan said...

Better yet, if we're beaming, why not have DWT in Hawaii or Paris? Hmmm... Someone needs to invent this transporter device, STAT.

Alli said...

Can I have two pages of her just thinking about shit?

Hahaha - Stephanie, that is hysterical!

I'm not a big fan of historicals just for that point - pacing. Maybe I've picked up the wrong ones. I'm about to start on Michelle Moran's Nefretiti books - so I'm interested to see how that goes.

I think a lot of this has to do with my taste - I like lots of plot and character action. But I'm wiling to give any of the historicals mentioned a go. Not all is lost on me... :-)

Rob said...

It's really about striking a good balance between the pacing of the narrative and character development. There's no point creating complex, interesting characters without telling a story. I think this could be why you're struggling to get through this book. I try to take the story away from the characters in my writing, if they start to become too involved in the story's telling.

Eileen said...

You all could come meet me in American Canyon this weekend. I'm planning a writing weekend at a hotel there with a little break to watch my kid's soccer game.

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