MusingsPersonalWritersWriting

Contemporary Authors, My Hat Is Off To You

I’ve been listening to the first in La Nora’s Bridal Quartet on audiobook.  Vision in White marks her first return back to straight contemporary (as in without a paranormal or suspense element) in quite some time.  It’s a fairly low key read (no high stakes murder investigation or end of the world crisis to avert), but I’m enjoying it.  I’ve read a handful of other contemporaries this year.  Not too many, as that’s not my usual schtick, but I reach for them when I want a relaxing read.

The thing that always strikes me when I do read contemporaries is that I don’t think I could ever write one.   I write paranormal or romantic suspense or mystery.  Never straight contemporary.  Why?  Because if there’s a murder or a creature or an end of the world disaster going on, I’m never at a lack for plot.  If I don’t have those to fall back on, I have no idea what I would do to keep my readers hooked and interested in something that could happen in every day life.

And that’s the thing about when I read contemporary romance.  I enjoy it, but after it’s over, I generally can’t tell you what happened beyond who fell in love with who and what the primary conflict was.  I can’t look at a contemporary and automatically analyze it in terms of story structure to tell you what the first plot point was, the midpoint, second plot point, pinch points, or the like.  I can’t say “this was the call to adventure and this is why s/he wanted to refuse it” because without an obvious adventure, I simply can’t identify it.  Which is one of the reasons I am in absolutely no hurry to get started on the culinary paranormal series I have in the wings.  It’s far more light-hearted and contemporary than anything I’ve ever written.  By necessity, it must be character driven.  And I’m just not there yet in terms of capability of writing it.

So to those of you who write contemporary romance and manage to figure out and write out an entertaining plot without having to resort to the dramatic killing somebody off or threatening the end of the world, I take off my hat and bow.  I sure can’t do it.

8 thoughts on “Contemporary Authors, My Hat Is Off To You

  1. Totally agree — contemporary is hard. That’s why the few contemporaries I do have/plan to write, the main story arc deals with the sexual conflicts between the characters. So I still wouldn’t call them “straight” contemporaries, thanks to the more “erotic” elements. I haven’t read a Nora story in years, but I remember reading a contemporary a few years ago where the heroine moved to Ireland. I really enjoyed it. I think the key (for me) would be a major life change. Quitting a job and starting something risky, moving to a new country, dealing with some significant health issue, etc.

    1. Yeah that was probably Jewels of the Sun. One of my favorites. I think part of my own resistance about writing contemporary would be that it’s too much like real life and I write to AVOID real life.

  2. Hi Kait:
    One book I have ties in nicely with your discussion – Robert McKee’s STORY. He outlines in explicit detail what many of us deal with daily – but only in the abstract, and more instictively. Seeing the elements of plot, character, suspense and types of story itself put into words really helped me to begin thinking about what stories work and why – and how my own work fit within genre and market. Granted, this is more a book about writing for the camera, but the premise holds. You might find it interesting.

  3. Sorry, meant to say also that I agree – my stories always have a paranormal element. I like the higher stakes, as well.

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