Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Made for Each Other

I’ve been caught up in the administration of writing for the last couple of weeks, and am so thrilled to be back working on my current story. Thanks, Pam, for posting the link to the article by Martin Amis. I was really struck by this passage of Mr. Amis’ about Pride and Prejudice:

"Even now, as I open the book, I feel the same panic of unsatisfied expectation, despite five or six rereadings. How can this be, when the genre itself guarantees consummation ? The simple answer is that the lovers really are made for each other - by their creator. They are constructed for each other: interlocked for wedlock."

How can an author make the reader believe in the happily-ever-after, i.e. make the reader beliebe the hero and heroine will be sixty (or so) and still finding passion together? Passion heightened by the long understanding of lovers, and made all the more intriguing by the secrets kept for a lifetime. (Honestly, would anyone admit to their spouse what they really fantasize about?)

Mr. Amis’ idea intrigued me because one of my critiquers said the same thing of my first Bantam Dell book. She told me that she felt I created heroines and heroes who belonged together. And the truth is, I consciously want to do that. The hero has to give the heroine something that she can’t find in herself. He has to challenge her to grow. He has to complement her. On the fundamentals of life—money, morals, children, dreams and hopes, they have to be on the same page, at least eventually. In short, they have to be capable of having a strong partnership through life.

As Mr. Amis states, why are am I, as reader, on the edge of my seat, wondering whether there will be a happily ever after, even though I know there must be one? I think the mystery and excitement is in the process—and in the waiting for those moments of revelation. What I’m hanging on for is to see how each character will grow—because that’s the way they will complete each other. Unless the character changes, there can’t be the partnership. What keeps me turning the pages is the excitement of each step in the process and the pain/reluctance of each character to take that step. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizze could have accepted Mr. Darcy’s first proposal with money and security in mind. She doesn’t because he hasn’t grown yet. We might know there will be a marriage at the end, but the mystery to me is: will it be made for the right reasons, or the wrong ones? Will there be happiness? Will it last?

Now I’m preparing to work on my second book for Bantam Dell. I’m writing an erotic vampire romance right now for Aphrodisia and letting my next sensual historical romance percolate. A while ago I talked with my agent about book 1. She mentioned that I could choose a titled hero for book 2. And I could. But my heroine has survived an abusive marriage, attended a sex club for couples with her late husband, and is generally steeped in scandal. She was championed by her best friend even when everything looked black against her—did she murder her husband or not?

Even so, she could have fallen in love with an earl or a duke. How, after all, could a gentleman bring a scandalous widow into his family? But suddenly the hero stepped into my story. He’s not titled—he’s a bastard son. As a youth, he was involved in a horrible murder (he’s still heroic, though, as will be seen). He is tormented and at the start of the story, he has a death wish. These are two people I believe can believe in each other, even when the rest of their world doesn’t. It’s early days yet, and things may change for this story, but this hero and heroine are calling to me. And if I’m passionate about them, I know they are going to be passionate about each other.

What keeps you turning the pages of romance when you know there’s going to be a happily ever after ending?


Kate Pearce said...

I think I agree with you-I like to see growth in my h/h I like to see that they have found solutions to the problems they have, or begun to, and I want to be able to imagine them moving on together, not perfect, but definitely in tune :)

And btw-the Regency sounds fabulous!

Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm glad you liked the Amis piece, Sharon. I was so charmed that this extremely ascerbic novelist's boyhood response to P&P was to need the characters to wind up together. Here's the link again.

I think we romance writers and readers fall in love with couples rather than characters. Which may perhaps be easier for female readers, but is clearly not impossible for good male readers encountering good writers of any gender (as the Amis/Austen example demonstrates).

Sharon Page said...

Hi Kate,
I think I know as a reader that no path will be perfectly smooth for a couple, but a romance that works for me always leaves me believing that the hero and heroine are there to support, and that support will help them overcome the tribulations.

Thanks so much for you comment on the Regency. It's the story that's calling to me now. Seductive little things, stories, when you have other other commitments and can't work on them!

Sharon Page said...

Hi Pam,
I loved the Amis piece--thanks so much for putting the link up. I've also noticed how many non-romantic movies are driven by romance (having watched a rather bad mainstream comedy on t.v. last night).

That's a very interesting point you make about readers falling in love with couples. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but I think it really explains why we need that "right ending" of a union.

Pam Rosenthal said...

And about falling in love with couples -- maybe that's why we our fiction is open to the notion of threesomes.

Caffey said...

Oh I love this cover Sharon!!! Must go check your site for more info on it. Sharon is your Bantam Dell book out or something that you have coming out?

I know as a reader, I come in knowing there is going to be a HEA. And I tend to believe as the story flows that they belonged together. I really found that to be true as the majority of the books I read. Its been forever since I read P&P so I'm not sure where some may not see that in that book. But too I consider the time period when she wrote that, that it may be true for that time, you know? Interesting to read. Makes me want to get out P&P to read. Its been too many years to count!