Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Predictability: Good or Bad?

I have a confession: I think about writing all the time. For example, the other morning I pulled up at McDonald’s drive-thru window and the girl had my order ready. I laughingly asked her if I’m that predictable, and she said ‘yes’. That got me thinking...about writing.
Romance novels are, by and large, predictable. As recently as a few years ago, when authors were submitting their books to the few major publishers in the romance field, we were told how many words to write, what level of sensuality was suitable to their line and how quickly the heroine should meet her hero. These are just a few things, but they show you how restricted an author used to be.
Don’t get me wrong. Many readers want to know what to expect when they buy a romance novel. But let’s be honest; the availability of e-books has caused a seismic shift in the romance genre.
Nowadays, with the rising popularity of independent authors, the reader can expect to be delightfully surprised by the fresh new directions of romance fiction. For example, some of the main characters in my books have actually died, and the book didn’t suffer for it. As a matter of fact, readers have commented that such realistic storylines have made their reading experience richer.
And yet, predictability in a romance novel is comforting. We know that we’ll almost always get a ‘happily ever after’ ending. If we don’t, we’re usually disappointed. But what’s to stop today’s authors from stepping a little outside the box? Happily, nothing. If the readers don’t like it, they’ll let us know soon enough.
Are we authors walking a tightrope here? Not really. Thanks to the new freedoms, we’re able to break free from former restrictions thrust upon us and fly free. Yet we know not to go too far; that beyond this place there be dragons. I enjoy keeping my stories fresh by inserting interesting twists and surprises. The reader and I are usually on the same page at this point. She (or he) has an inkling that something is being held back, but we go hand in hand to the end of the book, delighted when our suspicions are proven to be true. As a bonus, we’re left with the warm, fuzzy feeling of a happy ending.
Ah, romance. Predictable or not, there’s nothing like it.

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