How can contemporary fiction cope with the rapid changes of today’s world?
January’s question in the UK could hardly be more pertinent. As a writer of romance, I am grounded in its favourite tropes. Take ‘rags-to-riches’: think Cinderella.
Fast forward to 21st century and many publishing houses will welcome a rags-to-riches story with delight. Look at real life where, for example, two beautiful young women married into the House of Windsor. Neither were in rags, but both were commoners and they both got their prince.
And now the trope may have to have a twist because, for the younger prince at least, the Happy ending of the romance turned out to be a ‘Happy for Now’ ending. Apparently, he can’t have both the woman and the job. He’s chosen the woman.
In terms of romantic tropes, there have been other seismic shifts in recent years. The ‘Me-too’ movement has caused a lot of re-assessment. I find it particularly difficult to navigate as I like to write historic fiction. Is it acceptable any longer to write your story as you know it would have played out (from the many written sources available to us)? Do you have to create each new hero as a person with today’s sensibilities?
If we look at the theme in the scientific and technological fields, then there’s other coping to be done, too. My colleagues who write romantic suspense or straightforward detective fiction, can be heard muttering about mobile phones. How often can you have your heroine out of reception or battery charge, or both? Does DNA analysis remove all doubt over guilt? Well, no, as it turns out. Secondary transfer can creat doubt – at least enough for a competent lawyer to work with.
Personally, I think writers are about character and character is always there for us to describe, to use, to exploit. Regardless of how they do it, or did it, there will always be people whose will prevails and there will always be natural victims. There will always be people with minds open to persuasion and those whose minds are shut like a clam.
The writer does have to watch out for the detail. If it was possible to ask a female candidate whether she expected to have children in a 1950s job interview, it isn’t in today’s world. But then, detail always was the Devil.
Other views on this topic can be found by clicking on the links below.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1OK
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Anne Stenhouse https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com
Actually I’m very proud of Prince Harry, and I think his mother would be also! He’s chosen his woman, and to h ell with conventions. I just hope they manage to get their HEA, because he certainly deserves props for protecting his woman, his child, and his personal life. Just because he was born into royalty, doesn’t mean that he has no right to be a private person. Good on him for making that choice! I wish them well!
Hi Fiona, Yes, huge difficuties of off-setting duty and personal. I, too, wish them well. Anne
Anne, you make a really good point about the #metoo movement. Our thinking these days on many subjects has changed for the better – but how do you have your historical heroes and heroines think? Realistically for their time, or as modern readers might want to see them portrayed? I can see how this must be a dilemma for historical romance writers. Thanks for your interesting take on this!
Hi Helena, It is a problem. i think they have to think realistically for their time. In itself, where a character is thoughtful and emotionally intelligent, that will give rise to much useful (for the writer) angst and plot twists. It’s also a great source of plot for those who write about issues. Thanks for dropping by, Anne
I think, most definitely, a man in the period your write about had better have the unspoken beliefs and automatic actions of his time. Women’s lib or Me Too in the Regency period would ring false.
In fact, one of the fascinations of historical fiction is bringing long-past times to life.
Hi Bob, Great to see you here, thanks. I agree with you although I have found myself a bit conflicted and have been writing contemporary magazine stuff for a while now. I really hate reading something where the characters spout 21st century thinking in the 17th. 18th or 19th century setting of their story. Meantime, an opportunity has arisen, so I’m giving myself a stern talking to, supported by your opinion here. and working on a proposal. thanks again, Anne
I enjoyed your post. You presented some interesting scenarios and once again it’s about writing the best characters and hopefully the small details won’t upset a reader. And as a Canadian, we’re thrilled to have Harry and Megan living in our country part-time and raising their son here. Beverley
Hi Beverley, thank you. i do think character is paramount, Anne