Today's quote is from filmmaker David Cronenberg: "Working in any genre has the same problem," says Cronenberg, whose work includes such twists on science fiction as The Fly and eXistenZ. "You gain great strength from the genre, great power, because the audience instantly knows where you are. They've seen that; they get it; you don't have to waste time establishing the conventions. But then the conventions can come back to kill you because, if you follow them absolutely, you will be boring and predictable. So you have to overturn them, even as you use them."
This quote really resonates with me, because I'm struggling now to tell my own stories within the more rigid framework of a particular line of books. In order to do that, I need to understand what the audience is expecting from those books, and be sure I give it to them, while still being true to my own voice, and not being predictable.
I'm struggling right now with the idea of being aware of the genre conventions, but finding a way not to bore people with a predictable story. During our discussion at the last chapter meeting someone said she gets tired of stories that are so obviously leading to a happy ending. I think the problem isn't the happy ending per se; I think it's that you really don't believe in the reality of the characters--you don't think they really have such strong conflicts and such deep motivations that they have any question about getting together. Nothing is surprising, or new, and it's boring.
I'm not saying that clearly. I think it's like reading a mystery: you know what the mystery is. You know it will be solved. You know the villain will get his/her comeuppance. But that doesn't make a mystery boring. You read to figure out how and why all these things will happen, and a good mystery author can have you questioning just how the story can possibly get to the resolution--because it's not predictable.
In a romance, you know the two characters will end up together. The question is, how can people with such deep conflicts, with so much standing in their way, end up happy together? If you don't believe in the characters, feel they're real and that they have pasts and wounds and beliefs and opinions of their own, you won't care about how they get to their happy ending. If you believe in them, if you are rooting for them, then it's like watching someone you care about falling in love--you are filled with joy that they finally got the happy ending they so richly deserve.
Now all I have to do is make that happen in my books....