It’s no secret that I write mostly for women.
Mostly. Not entirely.
When I was little and read books written for boys–and there were many–in my head, if there wasn’t one, I always inserted a girl. IMHO, girl perspectives brought something extra to those stories. While boy books made me think, I looked for books that also made me feel. Those weren’t as common as you’d expect.
As a teenager I was reading westerns I borrowed from my father and Harlequin romances supplied my grandmother. That’s how I got my thinking/feeling fix. (I once referred to Louis L’Amours as romances for guys and I thought the male librarian was going to have a stroke.)
I got my start reading fantasy a little later in life with Thieves’ World. Those books had female protagonists. They were kickass. I was hooked. I moved on to Piers Anthony’s Chronicles of Immortality. After that it was Guy Gavriel Kay, David Eddings, and Terry Goodkind.
But that’s not all I read. Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and M.M. Kaye all factored in.
These days, as a writer, my optimal mix is 50% romance and 50% plot. While I write primarily for women, I want my books to also appeal to those male readers who want a story that makes them feel as well as think.
All of this brings me to the point of my post. Yes, I write for profit. This is my career and I love it. But I also write for fun. I want to share what I love with my reades, and I love ideas (and apparently cowboys). I love exploring “What ifs.” I have enough story outlines to take me through the next decade.
I hope you’ll join me.
A trope is a recurring literary device that’s been proven to appeal to a broad audience. In romance writing, authors often rely on particular tropes when outlining their stories. Some authors do it consciously, others, instinctively. The point is, tropes tend to crop up in stories, particularly successful ones, whether an author means for them to or not.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
(Yeah. That might be going too far.)
I consciously choose tropes for my contemporary romances. I don’t for my fantasy and paranormal stories though, because I prefer for the romance to grow from the story’s plot and theme. I’m sure the tropes are there–I just don’t make a point of paying attention to them.
You can find dozens of tropes lists on the internet, but to save you some time, you can check one of them out here.
My latest contemporary release Her Spy to Have utilizes three romantic tropes–Enemies to Lovers, Damsel in Distress, and Different Worlds. I also added an Ugly Duckling trope, but it’s not as obvious and is mixed in with Different Worlds and Damsel in Distress. Garrett first sees Isabelle as plain, but later realizes she chooses to make herself inconspicuous. As the attraction between them grows he realizes she’s a chameleon. People presenting themselves as something they’re not is a recurring theme in the story.
Damsel in Distress is actually one of my least favourite tropes. I like my women with backbone. So, while Isabelle in Her Spy to Have definitely starts off in distress, that’s not who she really is. She’s actually very resourceful. She was getting herself out of a bad situation when Garrett enters the picture. To be fair, he’s not really charging to her rescue. He’s suffering from morbid curiosity more than anything.
You can read Chapter One to see what I mean.
This is why tropes are such successful storytelling devices. When an author uses them properly, they’re a starting point only. The whole point of creative writing is to be, well, creative. Don’t have your heroine spending the whole story internally whining about how she’s not beautiful enough for the hero, or the hero obsessing over how she’s not as pretty as his usual type. That’s why using more than one trope gives a story a better effect. Isabelle’s biggest problem really is that she’s a Damsel in Distress, but she’s actively trying to resolve it on her own. Garrett’s biggest problem is that they’re from Different Worlds–he’s a CSIS agent and she’s the daughter of a criminal involved in international espionage. The Enemies to Lovers trope is a problem for them both. They somehow have to resolve the problems the tropes cause them.
If you’ve already read Her Spy to Have, you can get a sneak preview of the second book in the series, Her Spy to Hold, which is coming in May. You can also stay in touch by signing up for my newsletter here to be among the first to find out about upcoming releases.
The fact I’m reading on a Sunday is only worthy of comment because this is the day I normally do administrative work, like pay bills and update the Foreign Guy’s bookkeeping, and plot the expansion of the universe.
Today, I’m reading The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. I’ve read it before, but it was a long time ago and I never fail to learn new things by re-reading old favourites. I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was a teenager, then as a twenty-something, and again in my thirties. By the third time, it finally sank in that there were some sexual references I’d totally missed.
I’m fairly confident I’m not in for the same sort of surprise in The Last of the Mohicans. As I was reading the book, however, it occurred to me that the story wasn’t unfolding quite how I remembered it. And then I realized I’d also seen the movie. In my head, I had an image of Daniel Day Lewis as Nathaniel Poe.
Cooper’s hero, however, is Natty Bumppo. I hate to give spoilers, but when the main character’s name is changed to sound more … I don’t know, romantic? … you can pretty much guess other details will change too. Let’s just say I’ve already figured out that the ending of the book isn’t going to be at all what I thought I remembered. When I finish re-reading it, I’ll have to re-watch the movie.
All of this makes me very curious about people’s entertainment preferences. I’m well aware that the audiences for the book and the movie are separate entities. I like the book, and I liked the movie (at least I think I did, since it seems to be what I remember), but my expectations for each of them are now vastly different.
So. When you watch a movie that’s based on a book you enjoyed, are you really disappointed when it turns out to be for a different audience? Can you get past that?
Leave a comment and let me know your opinion.