Character and vs Voice

Friday, November 11, 2005

I was exchanging emails with some writing buddies today and part of the discussion touched upon a couple of surprising statements I’d come across that seemed to indicate the uber-hot trend of vampire paranormal romances was waning.

In the latest issue of the Romance Writers Report, in the Market Update column--'Changes to Currently Seeking'--Lucia Macro of AVON requested: 'no vampires please!' (exclamation point hers) regarding any submission directed to her.

Then, in a recent interview, this was part of Nephele Tempest's (The Knight Agency) reply to where she saw the (romance) market heading: "It's really difficult to say where the market is going. In the next year or so I suspect we'll continue to see these crossover type genres that are becoming so popular: fantasy with romance, paranormal everything, maybe fewer vampires but more witches, psychics, shape-shifters, time-travelers, etc."

Only 2 throw away comments, yes, but just a couple of months ago pretty much everyone was hungry for paranormal submissions *especially* vamps. So it's interesting to see these public statements (one editor, one agent--who is probably picking up on general editorial vibes).

My writing buds and I all agreed we were generally feeling a bit meh on the whole vampire paranormal romance. I went further to say I'd pretty much been feeling meh on them for a year or more, and that a vamp/romance had to be really different and unique to draw my attention, never mind that the author's voice had to resonate with me, plus I required a certain level of craftsmanship in the writing.

Well, this is part of the reply I got from one gal: "Voice will get me definitely every time over anything except characterization." And that kinda blew my mind; I had to stop and think about that statement, and here's why (my reply):

"That's an interesting distinction you make between 'voice' and 'characterization'. I'd have to go with voice over characterization. If I'm not into with the writer's voice, it doesn't matter what else he/she may be doing pitch perfect or how awesome the premise may be etc. I just can't read someone's voice that doesn't 'click' with me. But until you said this I would have said voice and characterization go hand-in-hand for me. I think it's because if I don't get the voice I'm always at a distance from everything else in the story. Whereas if I do click with the author's voice I'm sucked right into the story, there's an intimacy there from bonding with the voice I guess."

It's funny the things you assume, until you're forced to really think about them. As for vampire romances, I should point out that there will always be a hardcore audience for these books who are not swayed by 'trends'. And, I'll also state the obvious: good writing, good stories, well rendered emotions and strong characterization will always be the 'trend' that's published, no matter what the marketer's flavour-of-the-day may be.
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Danica said...

You know, I think that's why I've never followed "trends". Someone breaks out with a good vamp book, suddenly vamps are hot, and then the market is flooded with them. Within a couple months, it's not so hot anymore. So just write the best book you can, the story you're compelled to tell, and uh... yeah... lol

Michelle said...

A very thought-provoking post. I love historicals, but I am so tired of the same old Regencies, Ton stories, etc. But give me an author with a fabulous voice, and she can suck me right in. There really is a difference.

raine said...

I'm with ya on the 'voice' issue, Jaye & co. A writer who hooks me with that has me from jump. However, I must click with your characters if ya wanna KEEP me.

As for the vampires (and yeah, I'll probably do one someday--just because I think they're sexy)...well, it's the old story, isn't it? By the time you get on the bandwagon, you've already missed the parade. :-/

Sasha said...

Great post! I agree. Voice is the thing. There are only so mnay base stories outther, and in order to make them stand out, techinique and craft aside, voice is what does it.

Raine's right. It's hard with trends. Liekthe whoel HOT issue right now. So many people are tryingto heat up their sex scenes because sex is selling. But really, if the author is uncomfortable with the sex scenes they're writing, I think it shows. It's just not their voice, and writers need to stay true to their voice. It's what amkes them special and unique. If they dont't, then they coudl actually lose potential fans. (I think.)

As for Vamps. The only one's I really like are the Dark Hunters, and really, it's not that they're vamps, it's the Greek Mythology angle...and the fact that they're all over 6 feet and gorgeous. LOL

Amie Stuart said...

I think Raine nailed it for me: However, I must click with your characters if ya wanna KEEP me.

I just picked up a new author-- recommended from a couple people including my boss-- and you know, I had to go through four books to find one I liked. All written in first person by a NY Times bestselling author and the first few pages of the first few books were like chewing glass.

I think first person is a great example of voice that works/doesn't work.

GREAT first person will suck you in but bad first person will just SUCK.

Jaye said...

Lol, Danica. Get back to work on that ms!

Michelle, ditto. The most tired, cliched story will turn into a keeper if I love the author's voice.

Now the point made in the last 3 comments is why my friend's statement/distinction made me go, 'huh?' I can't think of one instance where I loved the author's voice, but the characters *didn't click* to the degree that I put the book down.

I've read stories where I've actively disliked the main protagonist (because they were written to be disliked, or very flawed), but the author's voice, phrasing, etc., kept me reading.

On the other hand I can think of many many books with kick ass premises, intriguing (sounding) characters and which showed great skill of craftmanship (upon a quick perusal) that left me cold from the first sentence. I've *never* finished any of those books, even though I tried and I tried--thinking I just needed to push past the first couple of hapters to really get into it.

Nine times of out ten if I find a character 'irritating' the author never meant for it to be so, it was just that author's voice that made the character suck rocks.

Diana Peterfreund said...

The thing with trends is that it starts out that something hits really hard and all of a sudden people can't get enough of it. As many books as Christine Feehand and Sherrilyn Kenyon write, that's not enough to satisfy the rabid readers every day for a year. So other people want to publish books like that, that will sell so much. And they do, and they sell well. And so the publishers are like, "tally ho! This sells Buy anything you see with THIS in it!" and they do. And then the stuff comes out, and some of it is not that good, just has the trendy thing in it, and worse, is really derivative of the stuff already out there (no more soulmmates, please!). And some people read that, and they go, hmmm, vamps suck. I'm not reading them anymore. So they buy fewer vamps, and the market peaks, and there's backlash, and then poof, there goes the trend.

Jaye said...

You've nailed 'market correction' in a nutshell, Diana. :-P It happens with all (sub)genres and trends.

The good thing about hot trends, is that they give fans a plethora of choice where before they may have gone begging on the one hand, and on the other hand many writers gain that one opportunity they needed to get their foot in the door. It's just the lead up to the shake down and the immediate aftermath that things get kinda hairy for both writer and reader.

Jordan Summers said...

Lucia's never wanted vampires. She doesn't like them, if I remember correctly. I do think the market is fairly saturated with them, but there are only a handful of good ones out there. IMO.

I'm with you on voice. Nothing kills a story quicker for me.

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