Jeanne: Romance vs. Love Story

Matrix Analysis of Romance vs. Love Story

When I got The Demon Always Wins, the the first book in my Touched by a Demon series back from my editor, Karen Harris, she said my story didn’t know whether it was a romance or a love story.

I was mystified. A romance is a love story and vice versa, right?

Wrong.

Karen explained that romances always have happy endings, while love stories don’t.

As part of the general background she provided on how she analyzes story, she also explained that the issues keeping the couple apart in a romance might be internal to the characters, or their external circumstances. The same polarity exists in love stories.

Eight Lady Jilly and I spent the next couple of weeks puzzling over this and sending each other dozens of emails with examples, and where we thought those examples fell along the two continuums.

Then, of course, given my background in working alongside computer geeks and statisticians, it occurred to me that this conundrum really lends itself to a matrix analysis. If you make the vertical axis internal vs. external circumstances and the happy/unhappy ending the horizontal axis, you come up with a matrix like you see above.

Once I had the matrix set up, I plotted in a few well-known stories along the axes.

On the Happy Endings end of the scale, I plotted romances. At the top, where the issues keeping the lovers apart are primarily internal, I put a couple of books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (It Had to be You and Nobody’s Baby But Mine) and Jenny Crusie (Bet Me).

As you move down the chart, external circumstances start to play a larger role. In Twilight, I treat Edward’s vampirism as an external circumstance–it was forced onto him from an outside agency. However, his controlling behavior and insistence that Bella can’t become a vampire, too, is an internal, character-based issue, and that plays a large role in why they can’t be together.

Most romantic suspense novels–think early Suzanne Brockman–fall into that bottom left quadrant–whatever creates the suspense serves to keep the couple apart, but generally, so do their own character flaws. At the very bottom of that axis, I put Princess Bride–Wesley and Buttercup would be perfectly happy to be together but circumstances force them apart.

Since happy endings are binary–they either are or they aren’t, there’s nothing in the middle of the diagram.

Over on the right, though, we have all the stories with unhappy endings. The issues keeping Rhett and Scarlet apart are internal (except when she’s married, and that never lasts long).

In Wuthering Heights, class-ism keeps Heathcliff and Cathy apart, but so does their wildness.

Still further down the axis, we find Brokeback Mountain. Ennis and Jack are held apart by the danger of being openly homosexual in a profoundly homophobic world, but also by Ennis’ commitment to his family.

At the bottom of the axis lies Romeo and Juliet,  another pair of teenagers kept apart by the world.

Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? If you write romance/love stories, where does you work fall on this matrix?

Michille: Procrasti Nation

Spring1I live there. In Procrasti Nation. Actually, I live at the place pictured to the left. That is a picture of the first day of Spring. So I had most of yesterday off, all of today, and part of tomorrow due to all that white stuff (15+ inches and some heavy snow showers still to come tonight). Did I write? No, I did not. I read. I did the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, the mini, sudoku, and 4 levels of KenKen. I shoveled. I made chili (I always do on snow days). I inventoried the freezers (we have an embarrassing number of refrigerators and freezers and an even more embarrassing amount of food in them – someone should shoot me if I buy any meat for the next 3 months [except the hog I just ordered – we’re low on pork and they only slaughter once a year]). I read some more. In case any of you didn’t notice, I will point out to you that I had most of yesterday and all of today off from my day job but nowhere in the list of activities is the word ‘write’ except in the rhetorical question. Continue reading

Michille: Gifts for Writers (and Readers)

Writers Charm BraceletWe’re heading into a big holiday season for many. Personally, I celebrate Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate something in December, you likely have other times of year when you do, like birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. I’ve gathered a few ideas for the writer or reader in your life that are a little different than, say, an Amazon gift card. Last year’s edition of this included Aqua Notes. I have since found Eureka Shower Idea Whiteboard. Amazon also has The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain and I love this bracelet. Continue reading

Jeanne: Getting It Out of My System

I’m currently working on the second book in my Touched by a Demon series, The Demon’s in the Details. 

So far I’m liking it. (Which is good, because that is not always the case.)

One thing that I suspect isn’t so good are the jokes I’m writing into it.

Some of you are now thinking, “Jokes are good. And Jeanne’s pretty funny, so they’re probably good jokes.”

These jokes are really goofy. They take a dopey premise (the physical act of a demon possessing a human–have you ever given any thought to just what that choreography would look like?) and wring every last drop of comedy gold (and silver and copper and tin and lead and that grody stuff you have to scrape from the the crack between the stove and the countertop) out of it before I let it go. Continue reading

Jilly: Relaxed, Entertained, Informed, Inspired

How do you like to spend your evenings?

I’ve always been a morning person. I find that I do my best writing from breakfast time until early afternoon, when I slow down and eventually grind to a halt. Then I’m usually good for business or household challenges until dinnertime. After that I have an hour, maybe two or three, when my brain doesn’t seem to want to work, but is oddly susceptible to ideas and impressions. If I use this downtime well, it can be incredibly useful later.

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Kay: Maps Tell You More Than Where You’re Going

A medieval depiction of the Ecumene (1482, Johannes Schnitzer, engraver), constructed after the coordinates in Ptolemy’s Geography and using his second map projection.

I recently had to take a trip out of state to an unfamiliar area. I’m a recent convert to the delights of GPS, so I traveled without fear or fore planning. I just got in that rental car and drove.

I got to my destination safely and without confusion, but I was also a little disconcerted. I hadn’t used a map, so I hadn’t known even the direction in which I headed, since a downpour obscured the sun. If it hadn’t been for the road signs, I wouldn’t have known if I was driving north or south.

I thought of a blog post by Barbara O’Neal that I’d read recently. She describes how novelists draw maps of their fictional worlds so they know what everything looks like and how everything and everyone is placed. I’ve done that myself. I once used graph paper to draw in scale the room where my characters were going to have a shootout. If they stood this far apart, what were the odds that the villain’s gun would shoot straight at that range? I moved the furniture around to give my hero more cover (would it work if the doorway was a little more to the left?), and I drew lines in different colors to show how everyone moved in the course of the scene.

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