Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Which Comes First? The Beginning or The End?

Thanks, Helen, for those gorgeous pictures (and for making me hungry—except for the Vegemite. I can pass on that one!)

I've got another autographed copy of What's in a Name? to give away. There's a contest on my website. Check it out. US/Canada/Mexico residents only – although I'll give a download if the winner is from outside North America. Contest runs through the end of June.

Robyn won an autographed copy of What's in a Name? in my May contest, and Kim won my grab bag of goodies. Congrats, ladies. And thanks for entering.

I've been watching (too much) French Open tennis. I'm not a tennis player, and I don't hang on every racquet stroke, but I do enjoy the overall competition. I have a tendency to root for the underdog.

Given the time difference, the broadcasts are part live, part tape. There's an entirely different mindset for me if I know the outcome. In a sporting event, it is a genuine spoiler. Yet I know people who skip to the end of a book because they want to know how it turns out before they get past chapter three.

Keep Reading...

Me—I don't even like suspense that much, because the reader's got more information than the protagonist. Give me a standard whodunit any day. So, what about reading genre fiction, where the outcome is determined by 'convention.' Romances will end up with the hero and heroine getting together. Otherwise, they're not romances. Mysteries will end up with someone solving the crime.

How is reading one of these genres different from watching a tennis match, or any sporting event where you know who wins?

In a mystery, it's watching the detective arrive at the solution. The outcome that he will solve the case isn't as important as figuring it out. So it's a surprise when I read it. (I admit it; I'm easily led astray!)

In a romance, it's watching how the hero and heroine's relationship develops alongside the plot. Since I tend to gravitate toward romantic suspense in my romance reading, I'm still caught up in solving the external problem. But even a straight romance has questions beyond, "Will he get the girl?" In romance, I have to care about the characters. I have to watch the relationship grow. I have to feel what they're feeling when things go wrong, even though I know they're going to have to go wrong before they can go right.

If the structure shows, then it's not an enjoyable read. If I'm going down a mental checklist – first meet, first kiss (likely interrupted), first love scene (definitely interrupted), real first love scene, black moment and the final HEA, then it's a boring book. When the author can slide all these expectations seamlessly into the story, then I'm right there with the characters.

I'm not a tennis player (or basketball, or football, or any other kind of ball). I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate some of the subtleties of the journey, so perhaps that's why knowing the outcome spoils it for me. Or maybe, it's because the goal of a sporting event is so narrow. Win. Period. It's not who makes the cleanest passing shot, or serves the most aces. It's about winning the match. In fiction, the goal has more depth.

What about you? Do you like knowing the end before you get there?


Unknown said...

Other than knowing that the crime will be solved, or the couple will get together...knowing the end takes all the initial fun out of it! But since I read good stories over and over....the "guts" of the novel have to be good, too. The journey has to be exciting.

I would never read the end first. That just seems so fatalistic. :)

Lisa Logan said...

Since I read and write a lot of romance, I guess I must. But for me, it's not about the comfort zone of knowing a HEA awaits; it's seeing how the challenge of creating an interesting twist on the formula pans out. Or to be less clinical, what kinds of barriers the characters face and how they solve them. It's about the journey, not the destination.


Terry Odell said...

Jess, Lisa - yep - it's the journey. When you get on a train, you're fairly confident you know where it's taking you, but you want a fun ride.