Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Romantic Comedy and Fairy Tales

We dodged a bullet with yesterday's storms. According to the local TV weather geek (actually, his detailed Facebook posts, since he wasn't on the air yesterday), the rain-cooled air from the approaching storm rushed out just far enough ahead to keep the warm, humid air that was already in place from fueling the storm, so we ended up just getting rain and wind, with no hail or tornadoes. It was such an atmospherically blustery day that I started re-reading Wuthering Heights.

Then I went back to the New Project, which is really more of an experiment. I still don't know what it will end up being, a short story, a novella or even a novel. I suspect, given my patterns, that it'll either end up being a full novel, or I'll get to a certain point where it's on the verge of being too long to be "short" fiction and then I'll suddenly wrap it up quickly. It started as a fairy tale rewrite -- fleshing out the traditional story -- but turned into a fairy tale twist of looking at what was going on behind the scenes with the other people who were present when that story was taking place, and that turned into a sort of revisionist thing of the way those other people would have really reacted to those events (like, take the Cinderella story -- when a mystery woman no one has ever seen before shows up as a prospective bride for the heir to the throne and instantly has him wrapped around her little finger, wouldn't someone get a wee bit suspicious of her maybe being a foreign spy infiltrating herself into the court or an enchantress getting him under her thrall?). And then it turned into all of the above: a fleshed-out fairy tale in which the characters are given some dimension, but then also a behind-the-scenes story in which the traditional characters aren't the main characters and the well-known story is playing in the background, and a revision in which the main characters are dealing in a reasonably realistic way with the fairy tale events. It's loads of fun to play with, but I'm not sure what the result will look like or if it will fall apart halfway through.

As for the book already written and published, here's a little background on the genesis of Kiss and Spell. I'll keep this vague enough to avoid spoilers since the book is still trickling out and I don't think everyone's read it yet (insert usual plea to post, tweet, skywrite, blog, write reviews, etc. about it to help spread the word because I don't want anyone to miss it). I thought I'd wrapped up the series with Much Ado About Magic. Obviously, I left some major loose ends dangling, and I wanted to do something with that potential story line, but I didn't know for sure what, and I didn't think I'd get the chance. I only wrote Much Ado because the Japanese publisher thought it was already written and offered to publish it, not realizing that I'd only written a proposal. But then the Japanese publisher asked if I wanted to write more books. At the time, I didn't have any solid ideas. I'd already defeated the main villains. I said I'd have to think about it.

The same day I met with my agent and discussed this possibility, I attended a convention panel (I saw my agent because I was in Denver for a convention) in which several authors, including Katherine Kurtz (OMG!!!!) and Carrie Vaughn, discussed writing series. Carrie Vaughn said that the way she kept her series interesting for herself was by essentially writing a different kind of book for each book in the series. One might be a mystery, another a romantic comedy, another a caper. The readers might not necessarily notice this because the books were in her usual style, with her usual characters, dealing with the established situations in the series, but it was the way she approached the writing, so that even though she was dealing with the same stuff, to her she was doing something totally new. That clicked for me, and I found myself mentally scrolling through my literary bucket list of the kinds of books I've wanted to write, and I came up with the quest story.

But another thing I've always wanted to write was a straight romantic comedy. I loved the chick lit genre because it seemed to me to be closer to romantic comedy films than romance novels were, but I never managed to sell a straightforward (non-fantasy) chick lit novel before the market tanked, and there isn't much of a market for the kind of romantic comedy I would write. Was there a way to do that in this series? I've also always wanted to write some kind of resistance movement story, and I was researching that sort of thing for another idea I have spinning around in the back of my head. It all came together to create the rather crazy plot for this book.

The more I thought about romantic comedies, the more I realized that they are, in their own way, fairy tales. They even have their patterns and motifs. Mr./Miss Wrong, the reveal of the Big Deception/Lie, and the Mad Dash Across Town are as common in romantic comedy as getting magical help due to kindness and the reveal of the true identity are in fairy tales. Each genre also has its typical stock characters you expect to show up. Since this series was essentially about inserting magical elements into a romantic comedy world, why couldn't I flip that and insert romantic comedy elements into a (literal) fantasy world? I thought I had something different planned for the aftermath of what happened to Katie at the end of No Quest, but that ended up being the set-up that was necessary for this to happen. It also gave me a chance to revisit the romantic relationship. That mostly happened in the background of all the saving the world stuff, and it happened maybe more quickly than I'd originally imagined, since I didn't know how many books I'd get to write. This situation gave me the chance to go back to the beginning and focus on it for a while. I also love the idea that if two people are really suited for each other, they'll be suited for each other no matter what the circumstances are. All they have to do is find each other again, and then the same things they always loved about each other will still be there.

It was fun throwing my characters into a When Harry Met Sally/You've Got Mail world, and even more fun once they came to realize that's what was happening. Genre awareness is used all the time in horror and science fiction, where the characters have seen enough movies to at least try to cope with the situation on that basis (the whole Scream franchise), but I don't think I've seen too many cases of a character coping with a situation because she knows what always happens in a romantic comedy.

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