Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Road Less Traveled

A friend of mine has written two excellent national romances. Although I am not a great judge of romance writing, she has also received very positive feedback from several published authors and English teachers. The thing about the first two books is that they didn’t fit “the mold.” That is, they didn’t follow the standard romance formula. So on her third book, she followed the formula exactly, and guess what? Lots of interest.

We all talk about separating ourselves from the rest of the books currently on the market, but is that really the way to go? Maybe the road less traveled is less traveled because it leads to a dead end. But if that is the case, then why not just republish all of the old stuff?

Is there wiggle room in the middle? I had dinner the other night in a national upper-scale steak house. They offered a NY Strip with mushrooms and Alfredo sauce on top. Of course I’ve had lots of NY strips, but never one with Alfredo sauce on it. I tried it and I liked it. But what if it had been, say, monkey brains covered with Alfredo sauce? Don’t think I’d have tried that.

I guess what I am asking is, do you expect your genre novels to follow a certain pattern? If they don’t follow that pattern do you like it or hate it? What if the woman and the man don’t end up together at the end of the book, or the bad guy gets away? Or what if the story is written from the perspective of the dead victim? Or the story is told in reverse?

When does it get to the point where you throw the book aside and shout, “This isn’t following the rules!”


At 5/23/2006 9:58 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

It reminds me of a quote from Joss Whedon, regarding his TV show Firefly: "I took the road less traveled, and my show got canceled. I should have totally taken the road with all those people on it."

At 5/23/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

It seems most books that break the rules do so in the first chapter so you know what you are getting into. (Like Charly being dead before we meet her.)

I can only think of one book (Passages, by Connie Willis) that really broke the rules. It was indeed a shock, but the writing was so good and the story so compelling that you just had to keep going even though you just couldn't believe she did that.

I also think that the vast majority of authors would not be able to get away with it. Especially if the reason is "I'm bored with the formula."

At 5/23/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

But did Charly really break the rules? Or was it just following the rules of a chick book?

Here's an excerpt of Eric Snider's article defining the difference between a date movie and chick flick: "In a date movie, the couple winds up together at the end. In a chick flick, one of them dies."

At 5/23/2006 1:20 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Eric Snider notwithstanding, this chick doesn't care for weepy movies or books.

But the point about Charly is not that she dies (it is targeted for the weepy adolescent girl crowd, after all) but that you know she's dead from page one. Not only is she dead but had married Sam.

I'm not knocking Jack Weyland, after all I remember how Charly starts and I haven't read it in 20 years. But there was no tension wondering if she would a. marry Sam and b. live happily ever-after.

"Mrs Darcy, dearest Elizabeth, nee Bennet," said her husband, "do you recollect when we met and thoroughly disliked each other because of my pride and your prejudice?"

At 5/23/2006 4:51 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I love books that break the rules, except the ones I don't.

I've typed a few paragraphs and lost them, I can't imagine losing half a book.

I remember when I read Charly and she talks about hating to clean. Somebody said it! I think that was the appeal of Charly, that she was halfway human, not that she died.


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