Friday, January 24, 2014

Liking the Idea of It

Of course I'd have to get one of those "ooh!" ideas for a project that will take a lot of research and world building before I can even start writing just as I'm at the point in a project where I need to be totally focused. But I should finish this round of revision today. I could have probably finished yesterday, but I'd done my time for the day and caught myself starting to drift, so I figured I could do the last two chapters today. Then it will rest and I may send to Mom for a sanity check, and then I'll do a quick read-through before sending back to the editor and moving on to the next book. The "resting" time falls on the weekend, and I've got a convention meeting and kick-off party. Meanwhile, I think I need to muck out the living room. It's looking rather tragic.

I was thinking more about those old gothic books, the ones from the 60s and 70s that always seemed to have the woman in a white nightgown fleeing the spooky old house/castle at night during a storm, and I've realized that what I mainly liked was the idea of that kind of book, the potential of it. I love the idea of the atmosphere, the old houses, the secrets and lies and having to figure out who to trust, the romance amidst the danger. The books themselves, however, usually drove me nuts.

For one thing, it seemed to be practically a rule that the heroine had to be a complete ninny with absolutely no common sense and zero self-preservation instinct. The villain could be twirling a mustache and cackling, and the heroine would be convinced that no one so well-placed in the community and so well-dressed could possibly be wicked. Actually, she wouldn't even suspect enough to go through that thought process. She'd completely miss all signs of villainy without having to rationalize it. The fleeing in a nightgown scene on the cover was probably never in the books because fleeing in a nightgown during a storm would be too sensible an action for these idiots to take. That would mean they figured out that there was a danger and fled, even if it was a poorly planned departure. Nope, these chicks usually bumbled right into the danger and had to be rescued.

I also didn't like the romantic heroes, the guys the ninnies ended up with. They were all dark and brooding and behaved in such a way that they were the first suspects. When a man's previous four wives have all died mysteriously and he loses his cool whenever anyone dares challenge him about anything, you do start to wonder about him. But after the heroine's gotten herself in terrible danger by hanging around even after suspecting him, it's all okay once it turns out that the jealous housekeeper has been killing his wives. The brooding and anger is no longer a problem, and it never seems to occur to anyone that maybe he should have started looking into things after the first couple of mysterious deaths. Meanwhile, there's usually the nice "safety net" guy who helps the heroine out of terrible danger, is levelheaded enough to figure out that something's wrong and alerts someone in time to save her and who she trusts absolutely when she doesn't know where else to turn. Although he always seemed like far better boyfriend material, this guy never gets the girl.

There were a few authors who could deliver the kind of book I hoped for. Mary Stewart's heroines usually had a few functioning brain cells, although they did have an alarming tendency to fall for the guys with all the potential abuser red flags while ignoring the trustworthy, reliable guys. Madeleine Brent played with the genre by keeping the spooky house of secrets while turning the whole thing into an adventure and giving the heroine mad skills. She (he, really -- pen name) also played with that good guy/bad guy thing by sometimes making the dark, brooding guy actually be under cover and playing a role, while the seemingly nice guy wasn't that reliable. Or sometimes the nice best-friend type would get the girl. At any rate, I was always satisfied with the outcome.

Maybe that's why I've always wanted to write this kind of book, to write the book I wanted to read but seldom found. My steampunk book (the one I'm currently editing) initially started out as this kind of thing, but all the gothic trappings fell by the wayside once the story developed. There are only a few remnants left.

Now, though, I need to get a few things written even as I start the research reading.

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