Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Action and Romance


When I started writing this story, Terri told me that she thought I might be an action writer who likes romance instead of a romance writer who likes a little action. 

This assessment made me laugh.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think she might be right. I love a plot-driven story. At least the writer me likes a plot-driven story. I love when things are life or death and the characters are running and fighting and DOING things. In fact, most of the stuff I’ve written is like that.  Full of movement and suspense.

But, not at the expense of the emotion in the story. Because I think that big life events, of any kind, bring out the emotion in everyone. Heck, when I’m in transitions in my life I become a huge emotional mess.  And most of those transitions aren’t life or death. I can’t imagine going through some of the stuff I put my characters through without becoming a wreck. Neglecting those emotions in the story would do it a disservice.

So maybe I write action stories full of romance and emotion.  I have no idea.  I just know that in my mind, it’s very much connected. I have tried to write character-driven stories and I don’t think I do it well.  Not that I couldn’t do it if I wanted to. I just don’t think my voice is as happy there.


How about you?  Do you prefer to read more action-based, plot driven romances or more internally-conflicted, character-driven romances?  How about in your writing?

11 comments:

MsHellion said...

I love both...just depends on the story. *LOL* I think when I write though, I prefer character over action, but only because I feel I'm so terrible at action but great at angst and Hamlet like behavior. But that might be a self-perception; others might think I can do action when I want to just fine.

I'm a woman. I want it all. I don't want just a big diamond ring OR the right man--I want both. *LOL* And I think being able to write excellent action scenes but being able to dig down into the emotional aspects of the characters is a great gift, a great combo.

And as the women's movement has shown--we should be able to have both--or all of it, if we want and can figure out how to balance it all in the right amounts. :)

Terri Osburn said...

I go for the character-driven most of the time. My writing seems to focus more on the quiet moments. I do have scene when they are doing things (as the alternative would be a really boring story) but I like the scenes when it's just two characters sharing something. I like the subtlety of those moments.

But plot driven can be good, so long as there is character consistency. That's been my only complaint in some of the more plot driven stories I've read. If a character is made to behave in a contrary way to the kind of person they have been established to be, just to serve a plot device, then I'm out.

So really, either can work, so long as the characters remain consistent. And to be clear, characters can also be written inconsistently in a character-driven story, I just don't encounter that issue as often.

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - I think the balance is the most important thing. This first draft, I focused on the plot. Now I'm making sure the emotion is just right. It isn't yet. But it's getting there. :)

Ter - Character consistency is key. I think a lot of that comes from lack of emotional development. When the characters aren't fleshed out, then I feel like it's easier to fudge with their reactions and behavior.

I think it's easier to write an inconsistent character in an action-driven story too. Because if you're focusing on plot, it's easier to get lost in the trees.

Janga said...

My sister accuses me of reading books where nothing happens. LOL I think that's an exaggeration, but I do like quiet books. Characters and their relationships are the most important element for me as reader and as writer. In the books I read, I can forgive a lot if I fall in love with the characters.

This is not to say that I can't enjoy some stories with a lot of action. I just don't want the characterization to suffer. Mary Jo Putney's new Lost Lords book, Sometimes a Rogue, is a good example of the kind of action I like. It has real villains, a kidnapping, a chase scene, and the villains resurfacing just when things seem safe, but the characterization is richly developed and the romance is fully satisfying.

P. Kirby said...

I'm a character-driven reader and writer, meaning I want the character's internal conflicts, traits, etc. to drive and be intrinsically connected to the plot. Action, therefore, doesn't require car chases, explosions or space battles, but can be something as mundane as driving your kids to school. (Of course, as a geek, I write/read science fiction and fantasy; action is literal in my case.)

Sort of ties into the stuff we do in my acting class. "Action" is pretty much whatever is happening on the page/stage/screen and it should serve to reveal the character and tell the story. So you really can't have a story without "action."

I guess some of the literary stuff, with all its navel gazing, is absent action, but most stories have some manner of action. Then again, one of our exercises in acting class was to sit in a chair, envisioning ourselves as the accused in a trial awaiting a jury's verdict, and simply thinking about the events of the trial. The point was, that even "thinking" is an action.

Basically, I think good story involves a whole series of actions that give the audience insight into the character and the story.

Maureen said...

This.

Basically, I think good story involves a whole series of actions that give the audience insight into the character and the story.

Of course I'm the action girl...when I read, I'd rather have something happening to push the plot forward than thinking. Conversation is good, but I want it to reveal something.

I find, as I'm editing, my biggest block is the action surrounding plot driven dialogue. Dialogue togs, description of what someone did as they said this or that... I want the dialogue to explain and push things forward...

But I'm a big bonkers right now, too.

Pat, sounds like you're getting a lot out of the acting class!

Marnee Bailey said...

Janga - Characters and their relationships are the most important element for me as reader and as writer. In the books I read, I can forgive a lot if I fall in love with the characters.

I agree with this completely. I love action stories, where lots of stuff happens, but when the characters don't grab me or seem a little vague, it ruins it for me. I think this is something I really need to watch for myself and my story. :)

Pat - I agree with Mo: Basically, I think good story involves a whole series of actions that give the audience insight into the character and the story. This is one of the best things I've read about this.

I think it's where writers get held up too. To me, the action has to all feel like it's purposeful. But that's HARD. LOL!!

Mo - Basically, I think good story involves a whole series of actions that give the audience insight into the character and the story. This is sooo hard. I agree completely. LOL!! There's gotta be a balance between dialogue tags and the actions that are happening and then the dialogue can't overlap.... It's all so difficult!! WHy can't this stuff be easier!?

Terri Osburn said...

In the end, either approach is founded in character. Books/movies like the Harry Potter series and even Star Wars are proof. People love the world Rowling created because they love her characters. And no one would say those stories lacked action.

As a child, I loved Star Wars because I loved the characters. You wanted to know what would happen to them because you cared about them. So Janga's comment applies to the quiet books she mentions, but also to the louder books (for lack of a better term.)

Maybe the reader care about the characters and then you can throw in all the action you want.

Maureen said...

Ah, back to my argument that you don't have to create characters that readers like. You just have to create characters that readers find interesting...

Or maybe that is just me.

The difficulty with likable characters is that their actions aren't always going to reflect what a reader finds likeable. And what a reader likes is often in contrast to what the writer likes...

But I wonder if this conflict, within myself, is a reflection of genre choice... I really don't know! But it's interesting!

Terri Osburn said...

Likability is important, but not always necessary. However, caring enough to want to know what happens to that characters is mandatory IMO. I give up on more books because I realize I don't care what happens. Even when I like a character well enough. He's a good guy or she's a smart girl, you have to make me care beyond that.

Maureen said...

And I find a consistency of character and a rational for behavior is more important to me than whether I like the character.

Fascinating, isn't it?