Friday, April 12, 2013

In What Way Does Your Writing Define You?

I got this question from a fellow author and blogger, and it made me think. Yes, authors do tend to define who they are and what they think and believe in their writing. How can they avoid it? Well, I guess they could avoid it if they tried. Reporters of yesteryear tried hard to write so that their views were invisible. But today, unless you're writing formula fiction, you are probably defining yourself in your writing, at least to a certain extent.

My approach to writing romance fiction starts with a proposition. Or I guess it’s really a question. Wouldn’t it be a nicer world if people could remain enthusiastic about the romantic commitment they’ve chosen to fill the rest of their lives? No, I’m not talking about those breathtaking days of courtship. Everyone is in heaven at that brief stage. And I’m not referring to the months after marriage or move-in that define the “honeymoon” period. Rather I’m talking about after that, after parenting and career pressures pulverize so many married romances into a mush that’s humdrum at best, uptight or failing at worst. What if you had characters who look around at the average for relationships in our culture and decide they want something better? They want something better for the courtship period, yes, something stronger, something higher than what others will settle for. Plus they want it to go on being better; they want it to stay vibrant for decades after marriage, instead of just months. Well, even in fiction, mere wishing won’t do it. Our characters are going to have to do something different than the rest of us, otherwise they’ll end up with the same humdrum outcome. They’re going to have to plan for what they want. In order to make love better and longer lasting, they’re going to have to understand its nature: what can make it better, what will make it fall short?

But analyzing and understanding love’s potential is only the starting challenge for our characters. For if they’re smart enough, they’ll realize that the stratospheric love they yearn for is not going to be feasible with just anyone. No, it’s only going to be possible with someone who shares the same dream, who’s willing to plan and sacrifice and work for it just as hard. How do you find such a soul mate? How do you verify that it’s really them? This process of searching and refining is the point where the plot possibilities get really interesting. Now if you add to the plot mix a love triangle of epic drama, one featuring rival paths to the stratospheric love we are seeking, and if you bring that triangle through a surprise ending of shattering impact, one both unique and cathartic, then we should have the potential for a very special story indeed. And unlocking that exact story potential is what I’ve tried to achieve in the second edition of my novel, Coinage of Commitment.

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