At this point in time, stories about small town communities are selling very well. Many attribute this to the current economy. Readers are looking for a soft place to land amidst the chaos of job loss, runaway national debt and cataclysmic natural disasters. These community based stories are a throwback to a different time, when families lived close by and neighbors looked after each other. When we grew our own food and made our own clothes. When we shared food and crafts in giddy proportions.
It’s a good theory, but I think something else might be at work here as well. At the same time community oriented stories are on the rise, romantic suspense, a once red-hot genre has slumped into the doldrums. Romantic suspense and action/adventure stories are by and large external stories with the focus on the puzzle, the mystery, escaping villains, solving crimes, surviving danger or having adventures.
Now, this isn’t to say there’s not an internal story in romantic suspense and action/adventure. All romances have internal stories, but for the most part, romantic suspense and action/adventure are more focused on the external plot. The external plot is what makes the subgenre so exciting. Something is always happening.
But now we’ve seen a shift away from action-packed stories to more emotional, more internal tales. Is it because our hectic lives are making readers hanker for a more reflective read? Are they looking for uplifting stories in times of turmoil? Is a slower pace the big draw of small-town, community based reads? Or is it because it’s easier to connect with stories that mirror our own lives?
I have to confess. I love writing romantic comedy adventures. What brings readers to those types of stories is a high-tension, taut-action plot. But even though it is my favorite genre, I made a decision to turn away from external plotlines and focus more on writing internal stories. And that decision made all the difference in my career.
Some of it is luck. I recognize that. And timing. Plus, writing an internal story cannot become an excuse to neglect plotting and pacing. You still need to deliver tension and conflict, no matter what kind of book you’re writing. Descriptions of food, homes and friends having a good time isn’t going to carry a book.
So how does the writer of quieter stories create a page-turner to compete with the high-octane suspense, thrillers, mysteries and action/adventure?
The answer lies at the very core of these quieter stories. There’s a one-word answer as to why they work.
Internal stories have time to fully delve beneath the surface.
When you’re writing a suspense, the plot is pulling you along at break-neck speed. And yes, the characters in these books experience emotion. But, it’s all in relationship to the external plot. The authors of romantic suspense and action/adventure simply can’t spare valuable page time to nurturing and blooming deeper emotion.
Quiet stories are all about emotions. It is their strength. Their profound gift to the readers.
It’s important not to confuse emotion with melodrama and sentimentality. With real emotion, the emotional reactions of the characters must be motivated, reasonable and honest.
But far more important than the characters’ emotions are the emotional responses your story generates in the reader. Visceral emotions are the feelings your reader experiences as they immerse themselves in the story. In order to achieve that, the author must create vulnerable characters that readers can root for.
Put your characters in real life circumstances. Make them have hard choices with no easy way out. Do this and you’ll hold readers’ interest as surely as serial killer and stories of survival. Let’s say it again for emphasis.
The key to writing strong internal stories is emotion.
Deliver emotion and readers will follow you anywhere.
Lori, thanks so much for a great post! Are any of you writing a quiet, emotion-packed story? Two lucky commenters will win a copy of Lori’s new book, THE WELCOME HOME GARDEN CLUB: A Twilight, Texas Novel.
Join us on Wednesday, when Julia Coblentz, Senior Marketing Manager at PubIt!, explains how to get your book on the Nook – and market it, too!
Bio: LORI WILDE is the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty-five books. A former RITA finalist, Lori has received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers’ Choice, and numerous other honors. She lives in Weatherford, Texas, with her husband and a wide assortment of pets.
For more information visit www.loriwilde.com.
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