I’m posting from Orlando, where I am at the Romance Writers of America National Convention, along with ever-lovelier Murderati lovelies JT and Allison.
I don’t suppose it’s even much of a surprise any more that a good chunk of this Rati lineup attends one or both of the major romance conventions a year, and smaller ones on the side as well. And it’s not just because we can’t bear to go more than a few months without seeing each other in person, although that’s part of it.
Many of us have said this here before, but it bears repeating. ANY writer in publishing today ignores the romance market at their own peril. Industry insiders openly admitted that romance kept the book business afloat during the bleakest times of the recession, and continues to. And it’s no longer the case that mystery and thriller writers are just outsider guests, mere curiosities at these conferences. Just in the last four years that I’ve been a published author, I’ve seen the huge tent that romance is take in more and more subgenres, some of which tilt darker and darker – and I’m talking dark like in zombie apocalypse stories – to the point that I’m not sure you can realistically call romance ANY kind of genre at all, as much as it is simply a marketing strategy.
(Okay, all right, I can hear romance purists howling out there, but I’m looking at this from a mystery/thriller perspective.).
ALL the publishers are here, some of them with dozens of reps, from divisions all over the world. You can’t walk two steps without tripping over an editor or agent from a major company, And not to be crass, but you can tell how romance ranks with our publishers not just from that overwhelming presence, but also from the sheer amount of money the agents and publishers spend on parties, marketing, and book giveaways (staggering…).
Because of that overwhelmingly professional slant, RWA is not the free-for-all that Thrillerfest and Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime – and Romantic Times – tend to be. (Although nothing beats that Harlequin dance party – I’m so sore this morning I can barely type…). It’s a working conference; many, many aspiring authors come to pitch to agents and editors (and do come away with representation and book deals), and the very cool thing is that RWA chapters all over the country prep their chapter members for conferences with practice pitch sessions and conference how-to in the months before “nationals”, as they call it.
One feature I really love about RWA (besides being able to wear all my dressiest clothes and changing outfits three times a day) is the daily luncheons with keynote speakers. Not only do they feed us (which means I actually eat, something I often forget to do at other conferences), but there’s always a fascinating keynote speaker at the lunches – yesterday Jane Ann Krentz, who has published 160 books under three different names, giving us a wry breakdown of how she has sabotaged her own career over and over and over again over the years, and always managed to reinvent herself. You can’t help but learn – and find comfort – from a pro with that much life and career experience.
But the greatest thing for me about this conference, as really any of the good ones, is hearing aspiring writers all around me say in a way that makes me know they mean it – “That’s it – no more fucking around. I’m finishing this book by —-“ (Oh, all right, it’s Nationals, they’re not saying “fucking”.) And they mean it. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again – a conference like this is what gets people past those last internal blocks and gets the book finished, repped and out there.
Something to think about.
Okay, so while I’ve been here I’ve taught two Screenwriting Tricks For Authors workshops, SRO, and because I saw INCEPTION last week I kept using that as an example, and I want to make a couple of comments without discussing in-depth until more people have seen it.
The movie is a great one to see not just because anything Christopher Nolan does is worth seeing, but also because it illustrates how useful it is to watch movies and read books with story structures specific to what you’re writing yourself. I’m going to do a full post on it next month, and if you want to play along, there are two things especially I wanted to suggest you guys keep in mind when you see it.
First of all – the movie is about the nature of dreams and reality, sure, but while you’re watching it, ask yourself – “What KIND of story is it? (See here if you don’t know what I’m talking about). It’s a very specific sub-genre that Nolan uses to tell this story, and all the conventions of that genre are used and laid out very -conventionally. Instead of giving you the answer, though, I think I’ll let you see it and tell me.
But it’s absolutely textbook how all the story elements I keep talking about are laid out in this movie (watch particularly for how the PLAN is articulated over and over and over again…)
Also, the movie is interesting structurally because it uses a convention we haven’t talked about yet – a Point Of View character. Even though DiCaprio is the protagonist, we maintain a certain distance from him because he is so unreliable. So there is also a character who carries the emotional investment of the audience – a character who observes DiCaprio, worries about his mental state, and steps in at a crucial moment with a plan of her own. Ooops, there, I gave it away, but it’s not really a spoiler – I just wanted to mention that Ellen Page is serving as the point of view character, and you can see how that works. (Actually I think the Ellen Page character is a very weak character, and it’s a weak performance, but the presence of that character as written still works to build suspense about DiCaprio as a dangerous character, unsuited to do the job he’s supposed to be doing.).
This is a storytelling trick used when you want to build in a whole other layer to your protagonist, and observe her or him as a character instead of simply being inside the character as a vehicle for your experience of the story. Often this character will actually BE the protagonist, the one with the biggest emotional arc.
Also, this is a great movie to watch for the outlining of the PLAN.
And oh, all right – what class MYTHS do you see working in this one? (One is too easy for words, but not ALL on the nose…)
There are some classic Point Of View characters in literature, and some not so famous – any examples for us?
And yes, I want to hear what KIND of story you think INCEPTION is!
And of course – anyone else have a take on romance conferences?
Back to the trenches, now… where are those spike heels?