Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Joy of Soap

There's nothing quite like realizing at 12:20 AM Tuesday night that your Wednesday post hasn't been written yet, and also that you won't have the chance to write it on the morrow. Not only that, but you have no topic, no ideas, no inspiration.

Then, you take a shower and feel the creamy soap on your skin, the delicate fragrance, the hot water flowing over your tired muscles, soothing the soul and freeing the mind.

And thus it came to me. My blog topic.


That's what we write about. Feelings, desires, attitudes, and beliefs. A friend of mine who is in the process of reading The Cat Star Chronicles series told me a few days ago that she was reading Outcast and was enjoying it even more than the previous three. She wasn't sure why, exactly, but thought it might be because the story had more emotions in it.

"Ah hah!" I said. "That's because it's written in third person. You're getting the male point of view, seeing Lynx's emotions along with Bonnie's, and understanding why he is the brooding, surly fellow that he is in the beginning."

She didn't disagree with me. The more emotion contained within a story, the more the reader can feel what is happening to the characters. This is what makes one book better than another. Did I laugh, did I cry, did I feel some little tingles running up and down my spine? If so, then the writer has done their job. Do I keep turning the pages? In short, do I CARE what happens to these people, or can I toss the book aside and never wonder whether they live happily ever after or not?

In a romance novel, it's a given that there will be a happy ending; that the hero and heroine will solve their dilemmas and find love everlasting. That ending may be preordained, but it's the ride that makes the story, and the more ups and downs, the better. I attended several workshops at the RWA conference on adding suspense and keeping the reader in the story. I learned some new tricks, but most of the time I actually feel what I'm writing--the tingles and the tears--and I try to convey those feelings to my readers. I may not connect with every reader, but, apparently, sometimes the magic works.

What keeps you reading? The twists and turns of an intricate plot? The dark, but compelling hero? Or is it that you care enough about the characters to keep going? Inquiring minds want to know!


  1. Yes, Cheryl,
    You know how to Lather on the Emotions. I agree Outcast was my favorite because I really felt all the characters pain and joy so much more intensely. And look forward to Fugitiv and Hero.
    Just for the record. The first three books written in first person were wonderful too. They were Ripe with emotions. We maybe didn't feel everyones emotions. We heard the purring. And that reached my nerve endings. I would do anything when a Man purrs at me like that. Thank You Cat Master.

  2. I agree that emotions really put a reader on edge and make you really open your eyes and think, "Wow!" I always used to think that I like just one type of guy in books but now I've expanded that thought and like all sorts of characters, complex or simple as long as they have plenty of emotion to make the story really pop :D

  3. Characters I care about keep me reading... when I care about characters, I want to read about them again and again! And yes, engaging my emotions is a BIG part of that.

  4. Emotions are where it's at. I love when I read an amazing book and I lose myself to the characters. It's not that I can relate to a character - lord knows I just finished Rachel Gibson's book True Love and Other Disasters and I don't see myself as slipping into the heroine's skin--the ex-stripper, billionaire's widow, owner of a hockey team. But I felt her pain after her husband's death, her insecurities and her love. That's what keeps me turning the pages.

  5. Wow, soap gave you the inspiration for a blog? What kind of soap are you using, Cheryl??? LOL I'm expecting a blog on soaps in soap. :) Speaking of soap, on Wickedly Romantic, Darien Silver or Devlyn Greystoke is doing laundry at the moment, if you want to take a look. But great post, Cheryl! Definitely deeper emotions help to hook!

  6. I agree. A story works for me only if I have been engaged emotionally.

    When my writing is going well, I feel everything that is happening on the page. When I don't feel what's happening I know I've gone off track. I cried and cried for about three days as I wrote the ending of SEALed With a Promise.

  7. I think we all agree that emotional involvement with the characters is the key, and inspiration can be found in some rather unusual places. And for the record, Terry, that was some mighty fine soap! It's something I've begun looking forward to when I'm feeling stressed out. Just the thought of it relaxes me. It's the one on the left in the photo.

  8. Yes, I want that soap, too.

    A gangbusters beginning pulls me into a story--wild premise, characters that jump off the page, transcendent writing. But to keep me moving through the story, I need to feel emotionally invested in it, liking or disliking the characters so much that I can't wait to see what happens to them.

  9. It's always the characters that keep me reading a book, Cheryl. Charlotte's Web is still one of my favorite books of all time. Now there is a stroy with characters and tons of emotion!


  10. Yes, it's true. I think I definitely become emotionally invested while I'm reading a book. Especially with a series, where characters reappear. It's my own personal alternate reality for a time-and I love it. I laugh and cry and often fall in love with the hero/heroine.

    Isn't that why we love romance????

  11. I'd never thought about third person maybe including more emotion. Interesting.

  12. I think it's unanimous! I must be invested in the characters in order to keep reading. And I definitely feel everything my characters are going through when I'm writing about it. WHEW! Makes for some exhausting writing sessions... Plus, I think I need to buy stock in Kleenex tissues. LOL!

    Oh and please pass that soap, Cheryl! My blog is coming up in a couple of days and I'm semi-comatose at the moment.


  13. Sheila,
    I think third person would include more emotion because you're seeing the story from more than one POV and you get the chance to experience more than one person's emotions.
    Also, Outcast probably did have a bit more sadness in it than some of my other books. You had two lonely people who had sworn off the opposite sex, but felt an attraction to each other that they tried to deny at first. Then, when Bonnie realized she was falling in love with Lynx and he didn't want anything to do with her, it was pretty heartbreaking. But, boy, does he make it up to her later on!

  14. Hi AC!
    I frequently go through a lot of Kleenex when I'm writing, too. It's funny, though, because some places will hit me very emotionally while I'm writing them, but have no effect when I go back to edit. It's like the initial writing is the actual event for me, and the re-reading is like most of us are about something that's happened to us: we get over it in time. However, there are those scenes that affect me no matter how many times I read them. The endings to Slave and Outcast make me cry every time!

  15. Hi Lisa!
    It was fun for me to bring the characters from Slave and Warrior back into the story, which was something I couldn't do very effectively when I was writing in first person. You simply can't jump halfway across the galaxy to another group of people when writing in first, but in third, you can go anywhere you like. It's very liberating, and you can create that sense of community that you get by meeting up with old friends.
    And, yes, emotions are why we read romance--good emotions, that is. I know there are plenty of readers who love the emotions they feel when reading mysteries and horror stories, but I'd much rather read about love and laughter!

  16. Libby,
    You like a strong hook, don't you? But I agree, no matter how strong the hook, if I don't care about the characters, I stop reading.

  17. Amelia,
    Charlotte's Web! I'd forgotten about that one. Yes, it had great characters and plenty of emotion. My fifth grade teacher read that to us, and we were all crying at the end, but it certainly kept our attention!

  18. Robin,
    It takes a really good writer to keep me in a story about billionaire strippers--can't relate to that type at all! But, in the end, we're all people and we all face the same challenges--just on a different scale.

  19. Would someone please pass the Kleenex to MM?

  20. Thank YOU, Diva Donna! I'm glad you've able to feel the emotions when reading my books, because that means I've done my job!

  21. Hi Ana!
    Coming up with different kinds of heroes is one thing I've tried very hard to do. Some of the old stereotypes have been done to death, and I'm glad we're seeing a wider variety these days.

  22. Donna Lea,
    Your comment demonstrates why series fiction is so popular. It not only lets you revisit old friends, but meet new ones in each installment. My characters are very real to me, and I hear their voices when I write. I know their personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses and I love them all; even the bad guys!

  23. Ah, I just finished Don't Tell by Karen Rose and man, talk about the emotions! She uses a really tough subject (spousal abuse) so you immediately feel for the heroine. And the hero's reactions and how he deals with it when he finds out... it definitely is all about the emotions.

  24. Definitely emotions. Even little things can trigger them.