Monday, June 2, 2014

Dangling Participles and Other Erotic Tales: Part Three

Dealing with romance and sex in a novel is tricky.  As Keith illustrated in his last post, many readers expect evocative sex.

However, our small group of forging writers have discussed ways in which we explore the expectations of our genres while attempting to make them new.

Let me try to explain.

In my latest project that I have mentioned (Clary of Cape May), two sisters travel with their parents to their childhood vacation home to spend a summer in the resort town of Cape May in New Jersey.  The two sisters, Clarissa (Clary) and Annabelle (Anna), live their lives differently: Clary, our protagonist, is a hard-working idealistic teacher while Anna works hard as a manager for a clothing store and takes money from men.  Their parents, in very different ways, help the two daughters to find better lives.

Certainly, I am playing with Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen in many direct and indirect ways, and just like those earlier novels, sex and romance indirectly play in the games of position and marriage.  The two sisters, as in so many Austen novels, play off of each other.  Anna goes out for the night, and the family laughs it off quietly.  Her two sons come from an illegitimate relationship that the family does not talk about much but supports Anna's cries for more child support.  Clary stands by her Christian morals and despite her attraction to a mysterious man, she attempts to remain celibate.

Two sisters at a beachfront resort with parents who want them to find comfortable marriages--it's the plot line out of Jane Austen novel--echo some of the relationships you might see in Victorian novels.  While this novel plays with some of the continued American discomfort with sex, the novel plays with the women's relationships and romances.

In a contemporary romance, readers might expect eroticism and sex.  It sells, we all know this.  On the other hand, I want to create a world of Victorian charm that mocks this a bit.

How does this work?  I don't really know.  Ask anyone that knows me, and I'm not overly prone to emotional or romantic impressions.  Will I overanalyze the Victorian themes and prudish American tendencies?  Certainly.  A romantic and frivolous setting like Cape May helps.  An irrational love with unrealistic expectations can't hurt a plot at all.  Throw in some wedding plans, lots of sisterly tension, conflicting sexual tensions, a frivolous party or two, some gothic undertones (more of this in a future post?), and of course a mysterious, handsome, secretive man.

Sprinkle in a few days at the beach, and I hope to create a recipe for a romance.  I'm not sure if the romance should be set two hundred years ago or, as it is now, in modern day Cape May.

Is it effective?  Hmmm.

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