Friday, May 02, 2008

It Depends

Someone posted a question to one of the writer’s lists I’m on, actually, the only one right now. When should the hero and heroine meet? A bunch of people popped in with an answer and the first four answers were, immediately, definitely before the end of the first chapter. One answeree went on to say, she’d put down a book where the hero and heroine hadn’t met before the end of Chapter Three.

I’m pretty silent on this list, and remained that way, but in my head, I was waiting for someone to pop in with It Depends.

The answer to almost all writing related, general question is, for me, almost always, It Depends.

Finally, one, really successful and very smart author piped in with ‘it depends on the kind of book you’re writing’ answer.

Five years ago, I would have read the first answers and taken them as gospel. Three years ago, I would have piped in with the ‘immediately’ answer.

Now, well, the title of this blog answers the question. But really, the answer is whatever serves the story. And a lot of it comes down to the inciting incident.

Where does the story begin?

A short romance, would probably begin with the hero and heroine meeting and one, if not both, their worlds being thrown into chaos.
A paranormal romance, romantic suspense, even historical might have several plots running through the book. The hero and heroine might not meet till chapter six and if the book is written well, those six chapters would still be riveting and completely satisfying. It all depends on where the central plot begins.

If I pick up a book and the beginning is riveting, then I don’t care when the hero and heroine meet, as long as they do at some point.

Maybe the next time someone posts a question, I’ll pop in with a ‘It Depends’, probably the most frustrating answer to a question there is and the only these days that makes sense to me..


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead.

I was just listening to the tapes from RWA Nationals from last summer. (Listening in the car on my way to Boston...) and the talk that was playing as I exited the turnpike into Boston... was the Susan Elizabeth Phillips/ Jayne Ann Krentz one that I think they do most years... One of SEP's pieces of advice is: Do not listen to the romance nazis.

People who think they have to meet in the first chapter, or who declare that they'd put down a book if the H & H hadn't met by the third are clear examples, in my mind, of romance nazis. And as SEP said... people who say stuff like that are almost always either not published, or published with less-than-successful careers.

Molly O'Keefe said...

OMG! I was thinking about the first time I went to go see the SEP/JAK talk and I walked away so disappointed. I was a VERY new writer and the talk was called the Secrets of The Bestselling Sisterhood -- and I thought, here we go. Here comes the wisdom, the insider tricks and tips - and the whole talk was about It Depends. It depends on you as a writer, on the book you're writing, the genre you're writing it, what you want from your career.

And I left going -- but when should the H/H meet? and when do I reveal backstory? And when do I - whatever. I think the It Depends answer only starts to make sense to you once you claw your way through a few books and get a sense of you as a writer. Until then you NEED those clues. That's my take anyway.

I think lots of people get steered in the wrong direction and a lot of people hang onto those clues WAAAAY too long - but that's the nature of a learning curve.

Anonymous said...

Too true, everyone needs a starting point.
I remember the same sense of disappointment coming out of that talk, funny, we were probably in the same room and didn't know each other.
Maureen, how was the drive to Boston?

Leah Braemel said...

Coming in late here (been on vacation) but I just read a book by Sharon Sala where the heroine hadn't even been introduced until chapter three, and she didn't meet the hero for quite a few chapters more. And it was a terrific romance.

(And I'm on a course with Angela Knight who just posted something similar to what SEP said about ignoring some of the 'purists' who insist things have to be done their way.)

So yeah, "It Depends" sounds like the most sensible answer - if you try to force a meeting then, yeah, it'll read as a forced meeting.

Wylie Kinson said...

In my current WIP, I don't have the h/h meet until chapter 3 (and even then, not really - it's just a flicker) and I've been stressing to the point of wanting to rewrite everything. Maybe now I won't.

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