Saturday, September 02, 2006

This Ain't Funny -- Jay

I recently asked two of the most loyal Disco Mermaid readers for the number one reason they keep coming back. Both of them gave the same answer: to laugh. And that’s great. But this particular post ain’t funny. So, Robin and Eve, I hope you’re not too disappointed.

I love books about the writing biz. For inspiration, I re-read Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard S. Marcus or On Writing by Stephen King. For tips, I’ll review The Elements of Style by Strunk and White or Screenwriting by Richard Walter (seriously, the get-to-the-point and cut-the-fat approach of screenwriting helped my novel writing tremendously).

When tackling a new genre, I read as many books in that genre…or how-to books about that genre…as possible. Right now I’m thinking of writing a YA love story because there's NO emotion stronger than a teenager in love. My two favorite novels in that area are Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. But I’m having trouble finding a book about writing a teen romance. And that’s where things get very un-funny. I recently requested a novel from the library called How to Write Romance Novels That Sell. I’m not writing an adult romance, but I thumbed through it anyway and holy…frickin’…cow!

Here are a few of my favorite…actually, least favorite…passages:

  • This intoxication is a way of including him in a rape scene and minimizing his responsibility so that the heroine--and readers--can remain sympathetic to him. Moreover, we do not blame the heroine for losing her virtue.
  • The reader must not feel disgusted by the actual rape scene. Early in the “bodice-ripper” romance plot, the heroine is usually raped by the hero; and we must remain sympathetic with both characters.
  • Though the reader feels good about the scene, the heroine feels guilt and anger. Her emotions make her at odds with the hero, who has caused her to lose control.
  • Remember to keep rapes sensuous rather than explicit. Even committed by the villain, they should not outrage the reader. They are not presented as the acts of violence they actually are. Instead, they help to indicate that the heroine is a woman all men passionately desire.

When I was younger, I remember sitting in my grandma’s den with my brother and female cousin while the adults conversed in the living room. We attacked her bookshelves of romance novels and flipped through them till we came upon passages containing words like throbbing, plunged, quivered, and arched. Then we read them out loud, punctuated by giggles. But I don’t remember reading about rape. Maybe Grandma knew how to avoid those particular books, but obviously they were out there. So far, I’ve yet to find any YA books that treat rape as anything but the act of violence that it is.

Granted, this book was first published about twenty years ago. So while it may have little direct effect on today's literature, it does reflect what was read by the women who raised today's readers and writers. No wonder, when I was in high school, we had such a hard time agreeing on definitions for date rape and No!

Sorry. I’ll step off my feminist soapbox now.

- Jay

5 comments:

Nancy said...

Um....WOW.

Lisa Yee said...

I second Nancy's comment.

harried mom said...

You said this was written 20 years ago. Maybe you're too young to remember the popular TV love couple Luke and Laura from General Hospital. The storyline was this: he raped her and she was traumatized, but still fell in love with him. I remember my Grandma, who was hooked on the show, stopped watching after that--she was so angry at the writers.

Disco Mermaids said...

Really!? I LOVED Luke and Laura! I mean, both their names started with L! How cute is that!?
But I didn't know that's how they "got together". Yuck!
Thanks for the insight!
-Robin

Nancy said...

I was 10 years old when Luke raped Laura in the disco on GH. I still ended up loving the show, loving Luke and Laura, and rooting for them as a couple. Again, I was 10. Scary.