Thursday, May 31, 2007

Character vs. Concept

As part of my reading/writing program, I've been reading a number of paranormal romance novels published within the last 10 years. And, I've gleaned an important lesson from all this reading: Never sacrifice characterization to a glitzy concept. The best paranormal romances have strong characters with clearly defined goals and motivation, which then give rise to the conflict. In weaker paranormal romances, the characters seem like cardboard cutouts that are present simply to serve as props for the paranormal element(s).

Recently, I picked up a paranormal romance by a popular author because I was attracted by the concept of the book. When I finished the book, though, I felt that I really understood the world the author had created; however, I never fully understood the characters, which meant I couldn't buy into the conflict that was established between them. Still, the lesson above was reinforced: When I read romances, the characters have to be well-developed so that the conflict between/within the characters sustain the plot and keep me reading. I actually care about the characters and what's going to happen to them. If the author is too focused on some other element other than characterization, the novel's pacing suffers. Although I think witches, mythological creatures, and magic are very interesting in and of themselves, they aren't enough to keep me immersed in the book.

Having said all that, I don't always remember my own advice. So, I posted a little sticky note on my computer with the words, "It's the characters, stupid!" I hope it helps!

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