How different is too different?

Romance readers, in large part, like things different but the same. I’ve noticed this in comments on romance stories and in reading them. I’ve long since decided that the issue is not whether there will be a happy ending, but how to get there, and what kind of happy ending there is. Many, if not most romances end with a marriage or marriage proposal. This is fine and dandy — I like happy endings as much as anyone else and if that’s what it takes for the characters to be happy, then have at it.

I have yet to end a story that way. I’m not sure I’ve even touched that much on marriage in stories except to have characters discuss it in kind of an abstract way. I’ve found that my goal is to get to the “I love you,” to get my characters past whatever obstacles I’ve placed in front of them and realize that they have to take that risk and let themselves love. The closest I believe I’ve come is in my were stories, where marriage is a matter of agreeing to “mate.” The characters have sex, mark each other somehow, and presto — they’re married.

It’s different in my contemporary hockey romances. In Nothing Gets Through, I don’t even get to the I love you. At the end of that story, the guy simply decides to take a chance and open up.

What do people think of this? Judging by comments, they’re okay with it by and large. I think the biggest backlash came with the conclusion to Rhythm and the Blue Line. Many, many readers wanted (as I wrote a few weeks ago) something different. They wanted Ryan and Brody engaged if not married and they wanted Ryan’s family issues resolved, neither of which happened. It didn’t happen because I didn’t feel it worked with the story I’d written. Then I ran smack up against the wall of readers’ expectations and wishes.

Well, I win, because I’m the author. What I say in the story goes.

So how far outside these little boxes can an author go? How far within the themes of a certain category or genre do you have to stay?

I’ve been toying with a plot for a nonhuman story. A common plotline in a story like that follows these points:

  • Alpha male shapeshifter meets mate, usually a human woman; this knowledge is instinctive
  • Human woman is feisty and resists, but not much, and falls for alpha male
  • Human woman and alpha male mate, and now human woman is also a shapeshifter
  • Problems ensue, often involving the separation of the new mates, often b/c the woman is kidnapped or otherwise forced to leave
  • Alpha male wreaks havoc to get mate back
  • HEA

Nothing wrong with this, and I’ve stuck with many of these themes myself or played with them only a little. Any story can be good even with familiar elements if it’s well written and we can relate to the characters, or at least I think so. How did I play with this? Well, in Exiled, there were no humans involved in the primary relationships (easy out!). Much the same in Young Blood, where the two protagonists were a weretiger and a vampire. In All Too Human, a were woman mates with a human man, but he doesn’t become a were himself. In The Hunted Key, when I finally wrote about werewolves, the alpha male is a little too full of himself, and the quiet woman he’s set his sights on rejects him in no uncertain terms.

But it all works out in the end. 🙂

So what’s my idea for the next one? It was put into my head by a friend — what if a male werewolf (let’s just go with wolf here) set his sights on a human woman, BUT she wants to be with a — da da dum! — human male. I’m really curious as to how such a story would be received. Would it be okay if it was well-written? Or would I have gone too far outside the box?

I think such a story would, in part, be a reaction to this story, Bound to my Mate, which is on Literotica. The author is a woman who goes by DoctorWolf. I think this story is well done, although I think the plot is a little overstuffed, but it never drags (as I recall). One thing always bothered me about this story, though, and that was the casual rejection by the male lead, Joel, of any concerns the female lead, Elizabeth, had over the changes in her life. They argued, and that was good, because it’s tiresome when the woman just says, “Oh, you’re right.” And that’s tiresome in any genre.

Still, I wanted Elizabeth to fight back a bit more, because I thought she had some legitimate complaints. I don’t want to go into a ton of detail — don’t want to spoil the story 🙂 — but I resented what the werewolves wanted, even demanded and expected, from Elizabeth. I felt they had no sympathy for her and that made me like them less. Their actions are explained in some detail, and again that’s good, because I think it’s too easy in fantasy-type stories like this to gloss over things like that.

And I’m not complaining, because I don’t need to and because DoctorWolf wrote the story she wanted to tell. As my English SF prof told us (and I paraphrase): don’t bitch. If you don’t like a story, then write the one you want.

Do I care about the reaction to such a story? Sure I do. I write stories because I have ideas, and I write them the way I want them, but I want other people to like them, too. On the other hand, I  can’t say it isn’t frustrating when readers are displeased because I didn’t do what they wanted. But they’re entitled to their opinions and I can only hope when I write something that people will like that.

Will they like a human going for a human over a werewolf? Guess I’ll find out when I get there.

Advertisements

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lady Falcon on August 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

    If the story is written well and the motivations of the characters are written well then it will work. So, given you are the author, I see no problem in that regard.

    My only question is how are you going to get past that wolves KNOW their mate instinctively and the drive to secure that mate. It seems intrinsic to the were; a sort of survival instinct for the were to secure his/her mate. Darwinism at work; only the strong in mind, body, and spirit survive to perpetuate the species.

    Reply

    • That know-your-mate instinct is prevalent in were stories, but it’s not imperative, I don’t think. In The Hunted Key, I left it out and no one complained. 🙂 That’s about the only gauge I can use. So yes, in a story like I describe above, that mating instinct would have to not be there, or I’d have to figure another work-around. Perhaps, for example, the instinct kicks in with any good mate, not just one person. Then it would go dormant while two mates are together, perhaps reactivating when one of them dies.

      I have no problem with that instant knowledge used in so many stories, and I used it myself in the Exiled series, but I think you need to be able to change that stuff up. It keeps any genre interesting when you play with the rules a little. Look how many vampire stories have dispensed with the idea of garlic, crosses, even sunlight or holy water. But we still read them and like them. I would just be changing one aspect.

      Reply

      • Posted by Lady Falcon on August 19, 2012 at 11:32 pm

        Yes, we as readers adapt to the different “universes” our favorite authors create and the different rules for those creatures. Part of being a reader is going on whatever journey the author takes us and if the writing, like I said earlier, is good then we willingly go on that journey. I look forward to reading your aspect change and seeing where you take me.

        As for no complaint about their being no ‘pull’ in “The Hunted Key” well, personally I was so caught up in the key business I didn’t even think about it really. So, there you have it. If the story is good then, enh, change whatever you like. 🙂

  2. Posted by blue on August 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

    as you have written above – it is YOUR story hence, YOU’re the driver and you can take it anywhere you wanna go in whatever way you wanna take the story…personally, i’ve encountered several variations in the were and vampire themes on Lit and what keeps me reading and “accepting” the author’s version is if it was well written and that includes grammar and such :p (i’m weird that way heh)…of course i’ve got my own prejudices and expectations how a theme should be but if the author is skillful enough to make me suspend those expectations and accept their version, i got no problem reading it (i just wish though said authors finish them! arrggh!)…anyways, i liked RATBL…do i wish there was more chapters? yes…did i wish ryan’s family sitch ended better? no…i figured it was a lost cause when her dad accosted her on the street…but i sure wished there was more of brody and ryan’s story 🙂

    i read bound to my mate…wasn’t as captivated by it as slave to the servants…in that story, there is group sex – now i am NOT into group sex scenes (skipped it on BTM, too) but the story was written in such a way that i was intrigued by the storyline itself in spite of my initial aversion to the multiple partners sex scenes…i still flinch whenever it goes to the bedroom but it’s, like, integral to the story that you accept it as natural bec it IS natural in that world (i hope i’m being coherent abt my explanation here lol).

    i guess, bottomline, as long as it was beautifully written and the premise isn’t so far off as to be implausible, i think readers will definitely embrace your story whatever “spin” you might make on a tried-and-true theme.

    Reply

    • Good points all, blue. 🙂

      I agree that I think whatever a story contains, it comes down to the author setting their rules and making their characters behave accordingly. That, I think, makes it believable. Not necessarily realistic, which I think is another issue. You don’t always need realism, but I do think you need (as I wrote in a forum on Lit) to make your story plausible within its bubble.

      I was put off a bit in BTM (didn’t read STTS) by the group and public sex, probably more the latter. And not because it can’t be sexy for people to do things in public, especially if that public — say, a wolf pack — accepts and even expects those things. Probably what I didn’t like was the whole submissive thing of Elizabeth performing sexually to prop up Joel’s prowess. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it fit in the world the author created, but it just didn’t do it for me, and the scenes were well-written.

      And if I don’t like that, well, I don’t have to write it. 🙂

      Reply

      • Posted by blue on August 23, 2012 at 2:10 am

        i think the author explained it as that joel, being alpha, there are certain expectations and traditions, rituals, what-have-you, he has to do to affirm his status within the pack (at least that’s how i understood it)…he could’ve changed rules, as, again, he IS the alpha and can do whatever he damn well pleased but i guess joel was written that way – a man who needs to be in control and obeyed even by his mate…it is off-putting (for me, at least) that type of character…one can show strength and authority without having to subjugate everyone’s will to one’s own…it smacks too close to tyranny…well, i guess that’s another topic altogether LOL…am still eagerly awaiting any new stories you post on Lit and may i say, i am extremely grateful you still post free stories even though you’re published…i know of a couple of authors who have stopped submitting on Lit as soon as they got published.

  3. Posted by Lady Falcon on August 23, 2012 at 7:01 am

    here here on still publishing free stories even after publishing…and wonder of wonders…I haven’t bought any of the published stories from the authors who don’t write free ones anymore….but, I have bought several of Eve’s. Now is that more due to quality and the cord her stories struck with me? Probably, but I like the other point as well. 🙂

    One of the themes in some of the were stories that is a bit weird for me is after the group sex while the alpha pair are still knotted the whole pack has to come up and sniff and get a taste of the combined smell…..*shivering* that is a little too weird for me but its usually only a few sentences.

    I do like it when the newly created were alpha woman needs to show her strength before she is truly cemented as the alpha. It doesn’t have to be a fight with the current alpha female because while its important she can protect her pack it takes more than strength and a willingness to kill to be a leader. In short, I like the leadership being earned in some well rounded way instead of just given and that goes for male or female alpha.

    Reply

    • I like writing and wish I could do more of it — just a lot of time constraints. But thank you both for the kind words. 🙂

      LadyF, I’m with you on the sniffing. I understand it, and perhaps that’s the way it works with real wolf packs (I’ve looked a few things up but not that), and if the writer lays the rules out, then fine, that’s a rule within their world.

      I’m also with you on the alpha female. I think it’s important. If you’re going to be an alpha anything, then you must prove yourself. Whether they prove that in a physical confrontation, or by their actions in protecting the pack or certain people within it, the idea is to earn respect and that’s what I like anyone to do in a story, male or female. So I believe that’s something a writer must include, somehow, if that’s the way they lay things out. I also like it when the alpha himself (or herself, in certain stories) continues to earn his keep.

      I have to admit I skirted/ignored these issues in my tiger series, but then, that’s why I made them tigers. Tigers are more solitary animals, so the idea of a tiger “pack” isn’t correct, exactly, but to my mind, they were people as well and people are social creatures. So that was the animal nature compromising with the human. In Hunted Key, I was more conventional with the idea of the alpha female.

      Reply

  4. This is for Blue’s comment — I guess I need a different theme that allows more branches for replies. 🙂

    Blue, you’re right, the author did explain in BTMM why Elizabeth was doing what she did — submitting to Joel, etc. I understood it, but didn’t care for it. I guess that was too submissive for my tastes. I suppose in a way, Joel was too arrogant for me, although I expect a fair amount of arrogance in an alpha male in these stories (and the women, too, really). I suspect I don’t make my alphas arrogant or domineering enough for some people, and that’s fine. In fact, in Hunted Key, I had Jamie (the alpha) confronted by a few characters — Chesca, his brother, and even his sister.

    I think there is arrogance that in a way is earned, that comes from confidence and a track record of success. But arrogance that is not tempered somehow with a little humility or love gets annoying, or tiresome.

    BTW, for other stories about nonhumans — weres, angels, more — you could read something by whitesabretooth at Lit. This author goes lots of places. I actually found myself overwhelmed by the plot and characters, but they were well-written.

    Reply

    • Posted by blue on August 24, 2012 at 12:22 am

      yup! got her on my fave list :)…the series WAS quite overwhelming for me in that its characters were so many and the lives so intertwined with past, present and future i sometimes got lost…i think, for me at least, to better appreciate her works i need to sit down and read ALL of them in one period just to not get lost when reading another “book” in the series…other authors i liked are alecrire (but he stopped his story for some reason…it was so promising), pandarus (again, not yet finished but his other stories under another name is also good and they’re finished) and jazcullen…now that lady’s series is really something and they were written in such a way that one can read them one by one and not get lost when one reads another “book” in the series.

      Reply

      • Posted by Lady Falcon on August 24, 2012 at 7:02 am

        I’ve read Whitesabretooth, Pandarus and I adore Jazcullen. I’ve mentioned Jaz to Eve before and 🙂 Eve gets annoyed with repetition…what was it…something about Jaz’s description of her male vamps always being the same. I went back and reread the first couple stories in the series and yeah she needed a thesaurus, but, she has gotten better. And I really like the “universe” she has created. She has an editor she thanks all the time but there are still quite a few things mikothebaby (I think that’s how its spelled) misses.

        Anyway, Eve, your very welcome. The compliments are well deserved. I understand time constraints; I think any mom does. Oh, change of subject and maybe you will post another thread, but, have you taken your little one to see “…Timothy Green” yet? What was your critique of it? My youngest and I went to see it and really enjoyed it…we both teared up a little but it wasn’t too sad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: