In Which: Romance: Love is UnLoved

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I love romance novels. There seems to be some inherent reluctance to admit that online, most of all if you also read  classic novels like I do. After all romance novels are a dime a dozen, easy reads, and hardly memorable, right? (Note: I don’t agree with any of this, but that’s a topic or two for my next few blogs). 

But of all the hate aimed at romance, no subject seems to get more internet flames fired up than the romance sub-plot in a normal novel. The common gripe is that romance is unneeded and hurts a story rather than helps, most of all in YA. Sometimes even in books where romance is the actual stories sub-genre, front and center, with no frills or theme masks to hide behind.  But, why? Rather than focus on how romance is a failing in of itself to a story like I’ve seen ranted about many times before, I thought I’d talk about the topic from  my romance fan reader\writer pov of:

Reasons Why Romance Fails To Be Feel Necessary In A Romantic Plot 

1) Characters Are Unrelatable.

This is a big one. Romance is about two characters getting to know and love one another. If the characters are not somehow enduring to the reader, how can they be the same to each other? This doesn’t mean, of course, that the reader has to know first hand about a character’s favorite hobby or pastime. But the basic human emotions and failings that ground all of us should be there somehow in fictional form. Speaking of emotions….

2) The Only Emotion Characters Show Is Love\Love Related

Characters are little fictional people. People are more than just love\lust even when they are in love. When the only thing that the characters talk about\angst about is love, most of all if other things are happening that are equally important that have a long standing in the characters life years before they met their lover, something feels off. Of course, there are cases where they forget everything swept up in the moment, but what makes those moments so great is their momentary coming and going , just like in real life.

3) The Romance In The Story Does Not Match In Tone

A war is raging, soldiers are dying, rebel fighters are firing elemental arrows from their crossbows, and the couple of the story is fighting over a package of jerky in a foxhole because the hero looked at another girl once.  This problem is probably the one that gets to me most in YA fiction with a subplot. I understand a case can be made (and a good one to) for characters acting their age, but I also see it in romance subplots with adults. The main plot is placed on a grand scale, while the romance subplot is treated like a cheerful Saved By The Bell episode of the week. The drama and cold, hard, reality of maybe dying, or at least being badly hurt, seems to have no bearing on how the lovers act or value one another. They could as easily be sharing a milkstake at a diner fighting with each other and the scene would play out no differently.  

4) A Character Says ‘I love you’ But Shows ‘Meh’

The characters say they are in love. They have sex. They call out for each other whenever they’ve been away too long. But that’s it. They go through the motions, and have long talks with themselves in silence about their true love, but their actions fall flatter than a pancake with the word ‘love’ written on it in crayon.  Sometimes the plot tries to throw in characters fighting  over and over and over as a placeholder for hidden passion but this only ends in more sex, and little else. While sex is great, it can become wearing if it is the only gesture of affection characters ever use to show that they are in love and not simply lust. 

5) The Characters Don’t Grow 

Growing up is hard to do. Most of all when you find out that no matter your age you’re still a work in progress. A good romance should foster growth in someway, adding to characters knowledge of not only the other person, but themselves. When romance is at its best it makes people into a newer, fresher, better version of themselves somehow, at its worst, weaker and scarred. Sometimes this growth is so dramatic that even after a romance ends the character will carry  that changed, matured version of themselves onward in life always. But the problem comes when the character we’re introduced to at the beginning of the story is already a fixed personality that never changes. They are already great at everything they try, self assured (even if they have bad self-esteem) and unswayed by any actions of the surrounding world, much less their romantic  partner. The characters spend time with each other and their mindsets are never  challenged. They fight, but afterward act like nothing happened. They have realizations late at night, only to wake up, shrug them off, and  go right back to treating their lover the same way they did on page 5 as page 355. While a ‘perfect’ character can be a placeholder for the everywoman/man reader to see themselves as while reading, this perfection and unchanging pov can also be a placeholder for ‘boring’.

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Feelings on what is good writing and what isn’t varies, of course :). But I still like thinking about it now and then. I will be doing a couple more romance themed posts . One I’ve been stewing on for a while is vampires, which I’ve been a fan of long before they sparkled like snow. Back in my day they sparkled like gold and were half elf! But that’s another story… 

In Which: I Don’t Know Where My Books Are From

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Book stores were a rare thing for me to visit even before the internet. A big part of it was my family did not have a car, and my not-living-with-us family didn’t visit often. 

Books were mostly:  Hand me downs I got as gifts, where I was grateful for anything with pages. Or, well chosen glossy marvels, eating up money from School Book Club tissue paper order forms. ( My promises of any other birthday or Christmas gifts vanishing as soon as they arrived) 

Now, Amazon seems to all but made used book stores in my area as mythical as I once thought them to be. The one shop nearest us that sold brand new books died even sooner, some ten years ago.

But Amazon has not felt like an evil being to me because, well, I never had the freedom without it that I now have with it. In a few clicks I can hear about a book, search for a book, and buy that book, easy peasy. No mess, no fuss, no tissue paper form or  ‘please wait 3-5 weeks for delivery’.

Well, that last part varies. For my cool $3.99 I’ve seen Amazon take anywhere from two days to three months to get a book to me.  Sellers on Amazon, most of all penny sellers, do not seem required to act like the company they say they are and list a location. Even just a notice to say they are in the US somewhere.

I ordered a copy of Taming The Forest King by Claudia Edwards (a rec from a forum I belong to) on the 1st of this month, only to finally get it yesterday. The postmarks proudly proclaimed it had traveled all the way from the UK to my little slice of Nowheresville, CA, USA.

Normally this wouldn’t get to me. I love getting objects from far off places. But the fact that I don’t know where my books are actually coming from anymore hits a nerve I didn’t even know was there  Silly, I guess, really.

Here’s to you Amazon. Please be careful with our books, won’t you? 

In Which: I Wonder Where The Funny Went

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I love puns so much. Picture unrelated. But an owl baker would be a cool idea now that I think of it *scribbling sounds*

Today’s entry is only a snippet of a blog because it’s more of a question. Where have all the funny books gone?
I remember when I was little ,and even well into the late 90’s, you couldn’t throw a goblet without it hitting a book making fun of high fantasy tropes, or a sci-fi tale that was more Spaceballs than Brave New World. Everywhere my bright young writing mind was picking up the message that books could be and should be just as funny as any other type of media.  The best thing about this unspoken feeling was, at the time, it felt like funny fantasy wasn’t looked down upon for not taking itself seriously.

Now…Well things are a little dark. (I have a running pet theory about books growing darker or lighter , but that’s another post. ) Not that this is bad, but it makes me think. Where are the funny fantasies now? Is anyone still writing them? Did funny fantasy and sci-if writer-dom flee from the cloud of grim dark stories to live like a race of fun loving mole people somewhere underground?

I guess I really need to buy a better internet shovel.

In Which: I Accidentally Stole A Book

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I was a serious child. I followed all the rules, and characters that got away with breaking rules in fiction drove me crazy. If there was a system of rules set into place I figured it must be for a good reason. I was the teacher-est of teachers pets, and I took pride in that, because it was one of the few things I could do well.

Nowhere was this clearer than in the library. It was my domain and all the books my well cared for subjects. You could find me there everyday in grade school and jr high. I always returned books back to their homes and was awarded the honor of taking home as many books as I could carry (sometimes more!)

But then, the dark eye of high school fixed its gaze on me (side note: High school, not as scary or as amazing as advertised)  and I panicked. After all, who could think when you’re already hearing horror stories of trash cans and judgment?   I did something I had never done before: I lost a book.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal and even after all my crying it wasn’t, the book was paid for and life goes on…

I still have that book. I found it some years ago and all the memories came flooding back. And by memories I mean guilt. I can’t help but feel that book, that paid for in full book, isn’t really mine. That red ink stamp on the inside page leers at my do gooding, library girl past.

Even though the school switched to being a crout school with a different name years ago.

Even though 6th through 8th grade is now integrated into the elementary school and there is no jr high  where I live.

Still, I love this book, in all it’s dogeared shabbiness.

I wonder what 17 years of late fees would look like…

Oh google, I love you to.

In Which: Taste Is A Matter

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Often people get a little bit testy over book reviews. The unspoken law seems to be,  if you say a book authors’ work is lacking, and you yourself are a writer, something is up.  That you are saying under your breath ‘I could write better than this!’ But is that always true? I’m not sure.

I think, more often than not, the hidden message may be nearer to ‘I see where this book could be more, but came up short.’ Maybe the wording is flat. Maybe the emotional connect to the characters just isn’t there for you as a reader. Maybe the plot falls somewhat short and you’re left at the last page feeling, ‘Wait what? You can’t just leave things here!’

What do you think? Can a writer be a reader and have a clear, unbiased, view of books?                                                   Have you had books that you just didn’t like for one reason or another? Has a bestseller ever left you feeling not your best?

I have to go now, my TBR pile is calling.

In Which: Classics: Books Were Burnt, And Everyone Loved TV Very Much

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Fahrenheit 451 abridged

Montag: *deep inspiring speech about the immortality of humanities wisdom through books*

Mildred: BUT WHERE ARE THE PICTURES?

Another year old quote in my year old abridged series   (New ones to come, I need to get back on this)

I was hoodwinked for a long time. In this case, was about a book that everyone, for as long as I can remember, brought up hand and hand with censorship.

But is it maybe about something more? Now, that isn’t to say book burning isn’t a form of  making sure the public at large doesn’t get its eyes and minds on knowledge, because it is. But what happens when those eyes and ears know but simply don’t care anymore?     What happens when everyone would rather watch a screen than read a book page, and see everything contained in books as either 1) Dangerous 2) Boring or 3) Of no lasting worth without ever actually reading them?

What happens to that human connection preserved in books across the ages when it is thrown out in favor of glossy, agreeable, mass produced virtual interaction  you can have in your home at any time, 24/7?

I’m not sure really. The book was very open ended and hard to pinpoint perfectly.

Well, I’ll be over here watching Netflix and forum posting  if anyone needs me.