Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 10 August 2014

And they lived happily ever after...

It has occurred to me, rather belatedly, that it’s my turn to blog. And although that window between the boat trip on the lake and pre-dinner drinks on the terrace is just a little too swimming-pool-shaped the decision to be an easy one, I’ve taken a break from the hard task of holidaying (or as we writers like to call it, research) and jotted down my thoughts.

It’s an easy post this time round, as it happens, because I’m so seduced by Italy that it’s inevitable that I’m thinking about romance and, since Fate seems to have transformed me into a romantic novelist whether I like it or not, it seems equally inevitable that I would end up thinking about Romeo and Juliet.

It isn’t my favourite Shakespeare play, I confess — too many silly decisions made for the plot to be credible although you can’t help but be in thrall to the language. So I was struck by the response to it on a visit to the Casa Giuletta in  Verona. There’s something incongruous about the way that hordes and hordes of people flock to a manufactured attraction, jamming up the narrow entry to pay homage and make desperate pleas to someone who never existed.

Since my last visit some years ago, much has changed. There are love locks on bars fixed to the wall of the courtyard, an authorised area for scrawling your message of dedication to your loved one, the team of sewing machinists in a nearby shop devoted to stitching messages of love onto tea towels and aprons. How many of those who pay over the odds for these mementos will get their happy ending is, of course, unknown.

As a romance writer, I’m driven by the need for a happy ending. That’s what readers want. Most romance writers (and readers) would agree that Romeo and Juliet, like Wuthering Heights isn’t a romance for all its power and passion. The same can be said for other great classic novels (though Jane Eyre, with it’s lip-quivering ‘Reader, I married him,’ unquestionably fits the mould). You can produce a wonderfully passionate story but if the boy doesn’t get the girl — it ain’t a romantic novel.

Sometimes I find this a little constraining, because I’m also impelled to write about real life. (I’ve moaned about this before and I dare say I’ll do so again.) But the message I’ll be taking home from Verona is scrawled on the walls near to Juliet’s balcony. It’s that people — readers — are definitely looking for that happy ending. And because real life might let you down it’s up up to the romantic novelist to deliver.



13 comments:

  1. I can empathise with your need to write about real life as well as the more romantic side. I've always wanted to see Verona as I love Italy and I adored the film, Dear Juliet, which used the letters people left, and were answered, as its premise (one particular letter and ensuing story!).

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    1. Verona is quite beautiful - and there are certainly parts of it where you can imagine Romeo and Mercutio and their mates bowling down the streets and then him suddenly spotting Juliet. It's strange but somehow compelling.

      I like a happy ending myself - it's just that sometimes the realist in me gets loose!

      Must watch Dear Juliet...

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  2. It is strange, isn't it, this need for a happy ever after, paticularly as Rome and Juliet was certainly not that! Really interesting post, Jennifer. Are happy endings written to satisfy a particular group of readers, regardless of what the writer wants to write?

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    1. I think they probably are, Mary. I have written several plots which don't have the traditional happy ending but I don't think they can be called romances, even where they are about romantic relationships.

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  3. I guess all romance readers love an HEA. Personally, I do like them, but so long as there is a proper resolution to the story, I'm okay with that. But whether I'd get away with writing a novel where the heroine chooses the PhD in astrophysics rather than the gorgeous lab assistant, I don't know!

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    1. Can't she have both? ;)

      I think you're right about resolution, though. It has to satisfy.

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  4. I'm a great fan of a HEA Jennifer and never doubted that I would write romance. But I am also aware that I am writing make-believe, you can never know in reality that when X meets Y love will eventually triumph. Maybe that is the joy of reading romance - you know that love will triumph!

    Lovely photos, although the plea for love does seem a little desperate.

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    1. Yes, Gill, I thought it was quite sad in a way. There were a lot like that, lots of people who want not just romance but romance that lasts for ever.

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  5. What a lovely place for a holiday, Jennifer. I'm with you on Romeo and Juliet. It's my least favourite Shakespeare play. I find Romeo a bit of a silly chump. I'm one of the readers who do love a HEA and personally I hope your holiday has inspired you to write more romance (and less real life)!

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  6. As my daughter would say: "That would never have happened if I had been Juliet"!

    Yes, I have the happy ending already written in my head as it happens. Getting the hero and heroine to it will be the hard bit.

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  7. As I'm not a writer of romantic fiction, what on earth is an HEA?
    Margaret P

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    1. It's a Happy Ever After ending, Margaret. And a HFN is a Happy For Now.

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    2. Yes - sorry Margaret, I should have made that clear. Thanks for popping by!

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