Remembering Why It Is We Write

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the wip (AKA: The Book From Hell). It’s an RS (obviously), but while I don’t tend to write about dark and depressing subject matter like serial killers and rapists, this book has an overwhelming somberness around it. It’s emotional, there’s lots of worry and angst and lies and betrayal. Serious trust issues at the core of the story. I would classify it as being “lighter RS” in that I don’t document gruesome murder scenes, but it definitely has a “dark” emotional quality to it.

While editing what I’d already written a while back, I tried to pay attention to what it is about my hero or heroine that attracts the other. Yes, characters can be insanely attracted to another amongst a backdrop of murder and mayhem, but sometimes I ask myself, where’s the entertainment in that? Is this person going to look at their significant other and see anything uplifting? Anything that makes them think happy thoughts? A good friend of mine is always reminding me that we write for entertainment purposes. That readers – regardless of the genre they read – read for enjoyment and to have fun. Too much dark and depressing – in my book – isn’t fun.

Nora Roberts does a great job of adding in the daily details of life and turning them around so they strike you as comical or light or sometimes enjoyable. There’s a scene in Angels Fall where the hero (a writer) is running around cleaning up his house before the heroine’s going to come over for dinner. He’s in the kitchen, cleaning like a guy, and thinks to himself, “Why do I bother to put the dirty dishes in the sink? I just have to take them back out again.” Now, that line isn’t in and of itself funny or even that entertaining, but it came at a time when the book could have taken a very dark detour, and it lightened the story enough that I thought to myself, “You know what? That’s so true. Why the heck do I put the dirty dishes in the sink too?” It made me laugh. And yes, it entertained me, and it made me like the hero that much more because I identified with him.

I recently reread one of my favorite books – Perfect by Judith McNaught. The book is way too long (at over 600 pgs), and there are way too many backstory passages and telling sections and times when the author hits you over the head and elaborates for paragraphs and paragraphs when one line would have accomplished the same objective. But amidst this deep, emotional story, she’s taken the time to show the little conversations, the teasing and fun that made the hero and heroine fall in love. It’s not all deep and depressing (though it easily could be). There’s a scene where they’re playing in the snow, another where they’re doing nothing more exciting than watching a movie, and while some would say those scenes seriously slow the pace, I disagree. Those scenes are some of my favorites because they are why I fell in love with this book and these characters, and without them, that book would have fallen flat in my opinion.

While editing the other night, I added in a conversation at the tail end of a scene between the hero and heroine where their angst-filled discussion turns slightly light and teasing. As I was reading that particular scene (before revisions) I realized there was nothing fun between this couple. Why on earth would she want to be with him and him with her if there isn’t some element of fun and intrigue there? Sometimes I think we get so focused on pushing the plot forward and keeping the pace going that we forget the little things that make a romance novel such a fun read to experience.

What about you? What makes a romance novel more entertaining for you? Is it the fast paced, angst-filled plot, or is it the little conversations here and there that show you a glimpse of who each of your characters are?