Love does not equal romance. Or at least, it doesn’t always equal romance. It certainly is part of the traditional story-telling formula, but love can be present between characters that isn’t the romantic kind.
Generally love gets shown in two ways in stories. It’s either the aforementioned Romantic Love (the one that usually involves sex, kissing, etc.) or Familial Love (between mothers/fathers and their children or between siblings). The Greeks had words for seven different types of love, but love can come in so many shades of meaning and permutations of expression that I doubt there are names for them all. But the point I’m trying to make is that when we use the word “love” it can apply to far more than the Traditional Two of Romance and Family.
Why are we drawn to the past? Why do we love period pieces and costume dramas, especially relating to England? Why do we use the Georgian/Regency Era (1714-1830s) and Victorian Era (1840s-1900) as the setting for so many historical romances or as the building blocks of Steampunk? Why do I spend a great deal of my time with Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, William Garrow, and Sherlock Holmes? Continue reading “Enamored with Etiquette”→
For the last few weeks, I’ve been living in the world of Jane Austen. As of today I have read all of her novels except for Emma, which I’m about halfway through. She is not my favorite 19th century author (that distinction goes to Charlotte Brontë), but I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the literary mastery and elegance of craft that her work exhibits.
However, I will admit that I prefer seeing the film adaptations of her novels, particularly the ones with the screenplay written by Andrew Davies: Pride and Prejudice (1995) with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Northanger Abbey (2007) with J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, and Sense & Sensibility (2008) with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Right now I’m just a little bit obsessed with Northanger Abbey (and yes, I am totally blaming that on J.J. Feild’s Mr. Tilney.)
I like fantasy. I like paranormal stories. I like the Regency subset of romances. But when a romance is placed in a paranormal or fantastical setting with characters who are not human, or only part human, it tends to fall apart. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to irritate me. Too often the fantasy element becomes a short-handed excuse to get to the sex. Magical explanations cut through a lot of the natural uncertainty, trials, and discomfort that comes with forming and navigating a relationship. It’s an easy out. True love, impossibly orgasmic sex, lack of self control… magic is used to exacerbate romantic myths, justify a lot of shady behavior, and to mask unhealthy relationships.
Let me be clear: I am not against having magical or paranormal elements in romances. I’m also not opposed to having romance or sex in fantasy stories. There are all kinds of interesting combinations one can create. I’m also aware that these are indeed fantasies; they are not going to reflect real life. Most don’t even come close. Escapism is nice, and erotica has its place on the bookshelves. The problem arises when magic is used to disguise lazy writing and to perpetuate harmful myths.
I try not to get excited about new movies and this is why. I love the original animated Disney Beauty & the Beast (which I have mentioned before in my Favored Fairytales entry on the subject). But I also love the idea of a Beauty humanizing a Beast in general. It’s such a compelling story, so I was looking forward to seeing a live action adaptation. I was curious to see how they would play the story, what kind of depth would be imparted to the characters, a new spin on a “tale as old as time.”
What I got was an often inferior carbon copy of the original animated version.
I cannot express how much this disappoints me. Don’t get me wrong; the movie isn’t bad per se. I don’t feel like I should demand my money back or that I wasted my time. It’s competently done. The singing (for the most part) is good, the CGI passable, the sets rich and ornate (albeit over-Baroqued), the costumes were pretty, and I enjoyed the talking furniture. There are some good moments between Belle and her father, both Gaston and LeFou were entertaining, and some of the plot holes from the animated film were explained (like how Gaston knew where the castle was, what happened to Belle’s mother, and why everyone didn’t seem to know that a giant, impossible-to-miss castle was sitting within a day’s ride of the village).
There were so many things they could have done to enrich the characters, to deepen the story, that were missed. What depth the animated version had was mostly lost in the translation to live action, and what backstory there was felt pasted in as an afterthought rather than integrated into the film.
The word “melodrama” has taken a rather sorry turn in modern usage. Today, if someone or something is called “melodramatic” it is viewed as “over the top” in a bad, silly, or unbelieveable way. It suggests a lack of subtlety or character or a firm relationship with reality. Generally, if someone calls your work “melodramatic,” it isn’t a compliment. (And yet the word “dramatic” hasn’t quite descended to the same depths as its longer cousin.)
This saddens me, because in the classical sense, I love melodramas. The work of Dickens or the Brontë sisters and even Jane Austen can be called melodramas because they appeal to emotion and are sensationalized to heighten those feelings. So many of my favorite stories are technically melodramas, from Little Dorrit and Jane Eyre to more modern incarnations like Ripper Street and Doctor Who. (The argument could be made that these are technically dramas, but I personally feel like “drama” is just short for “good melodrama.”)
Hi folks! Sorry I missed posting an entry last week, but I was in the final stretch of editing the second draft of All’s Fair and could not be derailed for anything. Let me just say that it’s been a trip, and it ain’t over yet, but I’m enjoying this slight breather. Back in February, I sent All’s Fair through it’s first round of beta readers. This resulted in a major overhaul for my manuscript: 1/3 had to be cut entirely, 1/3 needed extensive reworking, 1/4 needed to be moved and/or have minor editing, and 1/12 could be kept as it was. And Draft 2 is easily 100 pages longer than Draft 1 due to all of the stuff that was missing during my first attempt. Needless to say, it’s been quite the learning curve, especially since I have never written in these two genres before; normally I stick with high fantasy. So, what are some of the things that I learned at this juncture?
Greetings to you all from the beginning of Week 3 in NaNoWriMo! I have to say, this month’s writing has gone a lot better than it has for quite a while. You may have noticed that my last few entries (although few and far between) contained a note of despondency. Or maybe a healthy dose of it. Or perhaps entire buckets of the stuff. At any rate, I’d essentially stalled out on Ravens and Roses, which I’ve been working on pretty much non-stop for longer than I care to remember. I know that I swore (again) that I’d have a finished draft at the end of this year (sound familiar?) and I still might. It just may not be the project I was expecting it to be.
My 2015 NaNo project, “code-named” AFiLaW (pronounced A-F-I-Law), also referred to as All’s Fair, has gained a lot of momentum, despite containing two genres that I’ve never worked with before: Romance and Steampunk. I’ll admit that at this point the prose is a little light on both; I keep forgetting to add steampunk descriptive details and I haven’t touched the sex scenes. In fact, I may decide not to write any of the latter at all. Scenes with that particular kind of intimacy are alien to me, and every piece of advice I can find about writing in the romance genre says: “If you are uncomfortable writing sex scenes, then don’t write them because your discomfort will show through.” So we’ll see. Still, even with those quibbles, I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words each day and often pass the 1,500- and 2,000-word marks. That’s practically unheard of for me; I don’t recall doing that well even when I began Ravens and Roses in earnest back in 2010 for my first NaNo.
I think the reason I’ve been doing so well lately is threefold:
Granted, it’s supposed to be an OEL (Original English Language) manga, and most anime and manga lack people of color. I have no problem featuring white characters, but what surprised me is that the idea of any of the cast of Astral Rain being anything but fair-skinned never occurred to me. And that concerns me.