“Don’t mistake a good setup for a satisfying conclusion.”
So I’ve had soda on my mind.
You know the feel of a cold can, slick with condensation? There’s nothing like picking up your favorite soda, feeling the coolness, and anticipating that first crisp POP! of the top. I love the way it feels when the first sip explodes over your tongue and fizzes in your mouth. Those first several tastes are perfect—in every way satisfying.
You know what isn’t satisfying? When the soda can is cool and crisp, ready for that perfect pop! and then you have to put it down before you can have the first electric taste. It sits for a while, gently fizzing, and the carbonation flattens. You take several sips and while they’re still carbonated, the fizz isn’t very strong and the soda’s gotten warm.
Disappointing, yes? [Forewarning: L.T. is going to be opinionated here.]
Well, that’s exactly how I feel when reading a story with the element of romance and the characters pop the top way before the tension’s gotten right—or the can isn’t cold. That’s exactly how it feels to me when the characters “get what they want” before the story is near the end. (No, I’m not talking about sex.)
Let me make it a bit more clear. I think the element of romance is necessary in any well crafted story, be it romance between people or between a hero and an ideal. That said, let’s pretend that I’m referring to the romance between a Hero and Heroine.
A story really falls flat for me when the Hero declares his undying love way too early. It’s kind of like someone sprayed cheez whiz all over the last 50 pages of a book. I hate it when the “struggle” between the love interests is resolved and then the Hero goes from Hawt to Naught.
What happened to that sexy guy who pushed all the wrong buttons and yet did it so right? What happened to that strong, well-formed character (not just in body) who had a definitive personality? I didn’t just spend 250 pages reading about a lion to end up with a beanie baby instead.
And the heroine? I hate it when she’s feisty, strong, and determined to get to the bottom of things only to settle for half-truths and forget all about the danger they’re currently in just because he gives her a peck and a “love ya, babe.” She’ll then spend the next 20 pages ruminating on what their kids names should be and if she can embroider “Snufflekins” on all of the hero’s pillowcases.
Likewise, I’m not a fan of the shaken soda can that doubles as an afternoon shower and makeup remover. The tension’s pretty great throughout the story and then BAM! It’s over. No resolution. I know I sound contradictory here but let’s put it this way: It’s all about the timing.
I went to a great conference last year where an author talked about the elements of romance and when to end things right. She said that you should end near the declaration but with enough space for minor wrap-up. Resolution without cheese.
In my own words, chill the can, open it up, and give me a first explosive taste. Follow it up with a few delectable sips and let me relax with a pleased, “Ahh. That hit the spot.”
And please, whatever you do, don’t put my hero in a Snuggie. (Sorry, Kristina.)
Phew! Did you survive that rant? Tell me, what are your opinions on this issue?