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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - Make it Universal

I found this on Pinterest yesterday, and though it reads as a simple truth, I think it's something important to note. Whatever the genre, the best books speak to the parts of us that feel Other. The parts of us that feel like outsiders; like unpopular, misunderstood creatures walking alone. And then, those books help us see that we are in fact not alone. They shine a light on other outsiders - they're fighting different battles, maybe, but they share the dark thoughts that swim in our own minds. When the author can forge this link between reader and character, then the plot and setting become secondary. No matter how fantastical or foreign the tale, that shared sense of Other bonds a reader to a character and bridges the gap, facilitates an understanding of some other way of life.

Take it a step further, as an author: Highlight the imperfections. Let your readers know that your characters are imperfect, just as they are. Make them human. And then, have the other characters react to them as fellow humans. The friends and mates of even the most stunning specimens roll their eyes and delight in the little age lines on their faces.

I think there's an ever-widening schism in romantic fiction these days, and I fall down on the realism side of things. I love love stories, but my idols are Shakespeare and Austen and Bronte; I believe there's room for literary passages and universal themes in fiction about love. After all, there always used to be. I think romance can be a genre in which we address Otherness; I think it has the potential to be true literature.

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