Thursday, September 10, 2009

Imagine with your imagination

I know, cheesy title, silly really. What on earth is she gonna ramble about today, eh? Bear with me for a little while, you'll see what I'm getting at.

Yesterday, my six year old son must've been really bored out of his senses to come to my bedroom and plop himself down on the bed while I was blow-drying my hair. Usually one to talk the hind leg off a donkey, after a few minutes, he got bored again that we both had to shout over the noise of the hair dryer. So he did what every self-respecting little boy would do - look for something to do. Now, my room ain't exactly girly (remember I share it with the hubby, who's best described as a caveman of sorts) but it ain't exactly a little boy's heaven either. So there my little one goes, making tons of noise like the sound of a gunning engine, and with all things, a bottle of body lotion in his hands. As I usually do if he isn't breaking anything, I humor him, and ask, is that a car (he's obsessed by racing)? Little one rolls his big eyes and shakes his head (yeah, his mom's a hopeless basket case according to him!) and goes, it's a speedboat, Ma! Can't you see that's the engine and the propeller? And true enough, it was one of those pump bottles, the pump bit was turned in such a way that it really looked like the engine of a boat.

What I'm getting at is this - who'd have thought a pump bottle of lotion would make a great speedboat?

The answer is, imagination!

As a writer, it got me thinking then - where has our imagination gone? When you see the amount of templated work out there (which Sandy touched upon yesterday in her post), you wonder what happened to originality and twists and turns. It's as if writing, especially in the romance category, has gotten as cliche and as predictable as soapies. You always know in a soapie that the guy who loves this one is gonna marry someone else and this first love may try to break them up or they both pine for each other and blah blah blah. Same for romance with its rehashed stories.

But what's even worse, and that T.J. touched upon on Tuesday, is that there is no emotional drive behind the stories you get. Even if you lay your hands on a romance that is not loaded chock-full of mindless sex, you hardly ever have a plot and even more rare is good characterization.

Let's come to the mindless sex bit (sorry, this kinda sticks in my throat, and I know it's the case for many other unfortunate readers and writers of my acquaintance). Let's use our imagination, and let's use our common sense too.

So imagine you're a girl who's out in the big bad dating world. One of the big rules you would follow, as a sane and sensible person, is no sex on the first date. Why? You risk coming across as a cheap shag who has no respect for herself. How then do you expect a guy to respect you?

Makes sense, right?

So why then does the heroine of your book jump a guy's bones, not even on the first date, but within minutes of meeting him?

Okay, lust-driven attraction can happen, but it doesn't just happen bam, bang, boom out of nowhere. There's a buildup to this lust-driven state. So where is that in your story?

Another dating rule: don't shag everyone and everything. Come across otherwise as a no better than a brainless idiot who thinks with her libido. Now think of that girl you may know who shagged everyone and everything. Did you like her, respect her, want to know what happened to her? I'd bet on a big fat no!

So why then should we as readers like, respect, and want to know what happens to your heroine if she is like this?

Dating rule to never forget: a man who thinks with his crotch may be a good shag but he ain't ever worth it. Yes, he may have money, looks, a penthouse in the hippest part of town, drives fast and expensive cars, wears hand-stitched suits and shoes. So what? He shags you, shags the girl at work, the woman who hit on him in the wine bar, the woman he met in the elevator, basically he shags everything that catches the attention of his groin!

That's supposed to be a hero? We're supposed to cheer for him?

Oh, I forgot - the heroine is the one who's gonna change him and make him monogamous, right? How will she do this? By sending him into andropause thirty years before he's due to hit it?

Think, and use some common sense first and then lead that on with your imagination.

I don't say sex cannot be integrated in a romance, or in any other story for that matter. Take a very good example and you'll see what I'm getting at. Basic Instinct. Michael Douglas as tough cop. Sharon Stone as wicked temptress. Everyone will agree that movie is chock-full of sex and sexual innuendo (the interrogation scene, holy cow!). But, but, but - is the movie a string of mindless sex scenes? No! Why? Because the characters are involved, they're building up the tension, taking you along with them along that feverish, rising pitch of lust, emotion, and denial. In some places, you can cut the tension with a knife, and nothing more than a long, steady look is taking place between the protagonists.

Basic Instinct is hot, sexy, sultry. No one can say that isn't an erotic-inclined movie. But was it cheap? No! Was it hare-brained? No! Did it make sense? A resounding Yes!!

Why? Because there was thought, emotion, involvement, imagination that were all used in equal measure in that story.

Where has the imagination of writers gone then today? Into the gutter?

I'd love to know what you think.

As always, any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out July 2, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over


Julia Smith said...

'So what? He shags you, shags the girl at work, the woman who hit on him in the wine bar, the woman he met in the elevator, basically he shags everything that catches the attention of his groin!'


I think the newly-presented romance heroine who wants sex on her own terms - perhaps even within hours of meeting the hero - is part of the fantasy of romance. There are tons of women who might fantasize about having sex immediately with someone she's massively attracted to - but won't because of the reasons you've described.

But she can live vicariously through the fictional character in a spicier romance novel.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Julia

Yup, this can be very true indeed, but the real thing lacking behind it all is sense. It's as if stories nowadays are just sex sex and more sex with no humanity, no personality, in there.

Another point is, spicier romance novels - you know what to expect in there. Sex. But this too should be incorporated into a plot with well-fleshed characters. However, a good many writers don't know or don't bother to know the difference between spicier romance and porn. A string of sex encounters with some setting and some thoughts thrown in do not make a romance, and that's what we're seeing more and more into the writing world lately.

Thnaks for the comment, I really appreciate that it provided another side of the argument! Now that's what I call constructive comments!



Sandy said...


I loved your post.

Hey, do you think Adam is going to be a writer since he has this gifted imagination, and he's a great conversationalist like mom? lol

I agree with you on everything you said, but there are some great authors out there, too. Smile.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Sandy

Thanks darling. Lol, yeah, he's got the imagination and the gift of the glib, but so far he's shown more affinities towards art and drawing. Takes after my dad, I think, who's a great artist who even exposed some paintings here and in the UK too. He definitely loves to read though, so time will tell.

I agree too, some great authors out there. Too bad they're overshadowed by the not-so-good ones though. Let's just hope the great ones can push through the glass ceiling and shine out!



Rae Lori said...

LOVE this post, Z.

Where has the imagination of writers gone then today? Into the gutter?

LOL so true! I had to take a romance break because I was tired of all the lust filled storylines. Where's the emotion? Where's the actual ROMANCE?? I recently had to put down a story that had the hero and heroine lusting after each other and wanting to rip each other's clothes off within seconds of meeting. Um, where's the buildup? Do we even know these folks? Just like real people I need to care about who these people are before I can invest in anything further. Otherwise it's TMI and I push back.

I nodded through your whole post. I haven't been reading romance as long as you guys but I have noticed the quick change in the recent years from traditional romance to spicy porn-like writing. A shame because I'm seeing so much story and characterization sacrificed for the cheap and easy thrill. :-( Rather sad in a way. Hope we do see an upsurge in strong storytelling return!