Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Telling the Story FTW!

Not counting the Fabio books I read when I was too young, my first real romance novel experience was with Stephanie Laurens' The Promise in a Kiss.  My mother recommended it to me.  It had been recommended to her from my aunt.  I honestly enjoyed it and should probably dig it out to re-read it.

The Promise in a Kiss opened up a whole world to me.  Prior to that book, believe it or not, I had been a loyal sci-fi/fantasy reader.  Romances had the same escape, adventure, and promise of a happy ending (let's face it, the hero of the fantasy novel will always save the day) plus sex.  The passion rekindled feelings that complacency had replaced.  I'm sure this is TMI, but reading romance was good for my marriage.

Sex aside, it also taught me something about writing.  Grammar rules could be bent and remolded in order to suit the pacing of the story.  As a history major, I was used to churning out research reports and papers bursting with analysis based on cited sources.  My writing was with thick with credibility, scholarly vocabulary, and strict adherence to grammar and format rules.  Stephanie Laurens' writing reflected the mood of a scene with the use of sentence fragments - -sometimes just a single word.  She started sentences with 'and' and 'but' because the heroine thought that way.  This was her story and she was telling it her way.

As I write, I know I have been influenced by these formative romance experiences.  Sometimes a scene is too fast paced to write a beautiful, descriptive sentence.  Sometimes a word paint is too much and detracts.  Sometimes repetition is good for flow.  And a sentence that would never pass an English teacher's muster is exactly what it needed.

I gave myself permission to use and abuse fragment sentences. It was hard to shift gears from scholarly to fiction so dramatically, but it has been done and there is no going back.  I will mangle grammar if that is what is needed to tell the story.

By the way, "FTW" means "For the Win" in leet speak (which is gaming lingo).


Misha Gerrick said...


Nothing like butchering sentences to make them fit into the story.


Erin Kane Spock said...

The purpose of language is to communicate. The purpose of grammar rules is to standardize our use of language.
The purpose of story telling is to elicit an emotional response, in which case grammar rules are sometimes irrelevant.

Example #1:
She ran, her flimsy heels sharp against the concrete, echoing throughout the dark structure. Faster. Her heart pounded in her throat. Screaming would not help now. He was so close -- behind her. Laughing.

The above section is poorly written by any English teacher's standards, but it does give a sense of urgency that the section below does not.

Example #2: In her delicate kitten heels, she ran for her life throughout the dark parking structure. Each time her heel hit the pavement a sharp sound echoed throughout the ominous building as if a chiming clock were counting down the moments until her demise. She ran faster and tried to call for help, but her breathing was too heavy. She knew no one was there to help; her assailant was too close. He was probably following at a leisurely pace, laughing at her fear.

The sense of urgency was not there.

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