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:~: Thursday, February 08, 2007 :~:

The Forever After

Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for not announcing the winners of last Thursday’s contest earlier. I actually have a very good excuse. Up until this morning I haven’t been able to get into any of the comment windows on this blog. Yet suddenly this morning, the window loaded instantly. Go figure. So, now that I have the names of the non-Romance worth Killing For bloggers who have commented, I’ve drawn our two winners.

Paty Jager and Danita Cahill—Come on down!! Or at least email me at theresa.monsey@verizon.net, with your snail mail address so I can get these puppies personally autographed by Karin Tabke and mailed directly to you.

Okay—now that our contest business is taken care of, lets take a look at Happy Ever After. We’ve been talking about this all week and everyone has made some excellent points (and stolen all my wonderful blogging ideas, wah!)

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of romantic fiction is because of the Happy Ever After. When I pick up a book, I know going into it that I will end the book with a satisfied Ahhhhh. Now granted, depending on the book and the skill of the author, some of the satisfied Ahhhhs are much more satisfied than others. But the promise in each book—from the moment I open that first page—is that the characters will be alive, and happy and at least emotionally connected by the last page. I don’t care if the hero/heroine are engaged, or if they’ve declared their love for each other. All that matters to me is that they have obvious feelings for each other by the final scene, and that I’m left with the strong sense that these feelings will blossom into a serious commitment.

Now lets take a look at authors that trick readers. Authors that draw the reader into the story, into the characters, get them emotionally invested in the main characters and then kill one of them off—bringing up a secondary character to act as the hero/heroine. I’ve read two books where the author did this. Hated them. Hated them. Hated them. Now granted, both books were romantic suspense. Both authors were in the process of making the shift from romance romantic suspense—to more suspense with just a hint of romance. But I picked these books up on the promise they’d upheld in their earlier work. I picked them up believing that the two characters (hero and heroine) in the first half of the book would be happy and healthy and in love by that last scene. I let myself become emotionally invested in these people and their budding relationship because I was so blindly certain I was reading a romance. And then BOOM. The hero is killed. I couldn’t believe it. No way. It’s a trick. He can’t really be dead. The author is obviously going to bring him back to life somehow. So I kept reading, waiting to be surprised by how cleverly she resurrected him. Only she didn’t. He really was dead. And that’s when I got pissed. That’s when the book hit the wall and I never picked that author up again.

Now I love suspense. I love it even without the romance involved. And this author has made the shift to pretty much straight suspense. But I still won’t read her. Because I don’t trust her. I don’t trust that she won’t let me down again. I don’t trust that she won’t let me get emotionally invested in her characters again, and then kill one of them off.

Linda Howard is keenly aware of the promise an author makes to her readers, just as she is aware of how emotionally invested readers get in her characters. During an online chat at Writerspace—she mentioned that she got tons of mail asking her to set more books in the McKenzie clan. Everyone wanted her to take up the stories of Zane and Chance’s children. But she said that she couldn’t, that the timeline wouldn’t allow it. Wolf and Mary had been in their 30’s when she wrote about them. And then their sons Zane and Chance had been in their mid-30’s when she wrote about them. Which meant that Wolf and Mary by the end of Chance’s book were already in their late sixties, or even early seventies. If she wrote about their grown grandchildren, (another 30 years in the future)Wolf and Mary would have to be dead. She said the reader wouldn’t forgive her if she killed Wolf and Mary off, (even through old age) they were too emotionally invested in them.

And she’s right. I love the McKenzie books, but I would have hated knowing that Wolf and Mary had died. That happy ever after to me means forever. They don’t grown old, they don’t die, their love doesn’t falter. After I close that last page, the hero and heroine remain frozen in that state of bliss eternally.

Sure it’s a fantasy—but then that’s the whole reason I read romance. For the fantasy. For the feel good ending. There’s enough sadness in real life, in the world around me. When I want to escape, I want to escape into happiness and I want that happiness to last forever.

9Comments:

Blogger Joan Swan said...

Like you said, T, when you read romance, you're getting a certain level of guarantee. And, as I mentioned in my post, when I'm invested in a character, feeling their feelings, taking the emotional ride with them...what do you think happens to me when they get dumped, or heartbroken...or die?

Death is fine. I kill off characters regularly. But not the hero. Not the heroine. It's even difficult for me to kill of the mentors that Vogler and Dixon insists must die because the hero/heroine must take the final steps of their journey alone to be truly heroic.

Even in a thriller or a suspense or mainstream, I don't want the protagonist dying. It's just too emotional for me. I read for entertainment. Hurting is not entertaining.

This is simply my opinion. I'm just one person with a limited scope of literature knowledge behind me and I'm speaking of what appeals to me personally. Every reader is different. That's what makes writing so great -- one person may hate your book, but another will love it.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I'm like you, T. If an author pulls a slick one like that and kills off a main character I'm invested in, I want to toss the book. While I don't believe in "rules" when it comes to writing, there are a few things I expect in a romance - mainly that the hero and heroine at the beginning of the book stay the hero and heroine at the end of the book, and that there's a HEA.

Glad you're able to get into the blog now. :)

4:15 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

Joan, I didn't know Vogler and Dixon say the mentors must die? I read both books but don't remember that. I'll have to look them over again.

Theresa, you said this exactly right. The authors made a promise to the readers, and they broke the promise. That would've lost me as a reader for their future books.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Liz Kreger said...

I'm with you on this, Theresa. If I'm going to invest time in a book and allow myself to care about the characters, I'm going to be majorly pissed if an author pulls a stunt like killing off the hero and/or heroine. I'm not a huge suspense fan to begin with, but I have been known to read them upon occasion.

If I wanted to lose a loved character, I'd read Stephen King. He kills off main characters all the time. I want that HEA when I read a romance.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Joan,

I kill off people all the time in my books. (grin) I have one secondary character in YC who I killed off and man, you should have seen the emails I got.

Not as bad as when everyone thought I'd killed the heroine's dog though. lol

But I'd never kill the hero or heroine off. I'd never read my own stuff again. lol

And I'm with you--even in suspense I don't want the hero/heroine dying. I've got too much emotion invested in them. That's one of the things I always liked about Dean Koontz. His hero and heroine always survived. I could count on that in his books.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

eli,

I'm still having trouble getting in. I don't know what the heck is going on. It took me at least two hours of trying before it finally loaded this time. It's driving me crazy.

I don't believe in rules, either. But I do believe that if you're writing a romance, you need to keep the hero/heroine alive. And they need to be the same hero and heroine that started the book out.

I have a huge problem with timetravels, where the h/h go back in time, met their love and then come forward in time again without their love. (he/she has died 100s of years earlier) And once in present time they met their lost loves descendents. And we're suppose to believe their love has been reincarnated.

Only this isn't the same hero. This is a completely differen't person. I absolutely hate that premise.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Edie,

Wouldn't you think these authors would know the kind of reactions their readers would have?

It seems so obvious.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Liz,

Stephen King's books just seem to get darker and darker. I haven't read him for years, if I'm going to read a suspense I want an author I can trust to keep the hero/heroine alive. Like Koontz. I've read alot of books where they kill the main characters off in the end-- but there was this one book, called Sumer of Nights, where the author killed the main character off half way through the book. I couldn't believe it, it was so unexpected.

I will say that it really upped the tension. In this case the main character was the only reason the rest of the protaganists had survived to that point. So with him gone the rest of the gang were in immediate and horrible danger. And because the author had killed the main character off, you knew no one was safe.

It was one of the most tense books I've ever read. But, I never picked that author up again. Dam it--I'd grown to love the guy he killed.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

I agree with you on the time travels, Theresa. I don't want a different hero or heroine, or a reincarnated version. For the story to work for me, the author has to keep the real H/h together.

10:29 AM  

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