Welcome to the new site and the first of its blogs. The reason why it was needed is too tedious to relate and involves those bizarre creatures who get some incomprehensible pleasure from slipping malware into sites and making life difficult and unpleasant for people they don’t even know. But the blog’s not about them. It’s mainly to introduce the site, ask for feedback about what works and what doesn’t, especially from those looking at or listening to the various pages on different phones, tablets, PCs, then ask questions relating to a specific writing ‘problem’ I’m facing.
The main elements of the old site (which have been stripped of the bubonic plague, typhoid and whatever else the hackers injected into them) are still here, the layout is different, and there’s a new page of what I’ve called podcasts. In fact, at the moment they’re all recordings of me reading short extracts from my novels. Gradually, I’ll be adding short stories to them.
But now, this is really where I need your help, especially if you’re a reader or writer of Romantic fiction. The WIP I’ve been living with for ages now is over 70,000 words long and just about to speed into various climaxes. In the past couple of chapters, things have been coming together nicely:
- three of its characters have helped me to devise a much better solution to the crime than the one I’d been planning,
- my heroine has faced the challenge she set herself,
- and opening night for the theatre troupe in one of the story’s main threads is just two days away.
So, with the end in sight, I know all the mechanics of how the various ‘clues’ I’ve spread around about the book’s crime will be brought together to reveal who or what dunnit and why they/he/she/it dunnit. But then I have the final scene to write and that’s where you come in.
In simple terms, the two genres – crime and romance – have clearly different agendas.
In the abstract, their narrative arcs aren’t dissimilar and they share many ingredients (motives, misunderstandings, misinterpretations of actions, obstacles, resolutions). But the detective, carrying the memory of a dismembered corpse and the indelible image of a domestic crime scene might find it hard to share the attitude to life of a couple who have just overcome forces which threatened to keep them apart but whose love has survived to bring them to the edge of a happy future. I know that’s a crude juxtaposition of extremes and it’s definitely not intended to be a qualitative evaluation or comparison of the two genres as literature. But it does help me to put my particular dilemma in context.
I know (or, rather, hope) that the resolution of the crime will satisfy my readers but in my books, I usually add a coda to remind them that it was nasty and that others are being perpetrated elsewhere, so ‘happy ever after’ isn’t an option. But that won’t be the end of this book. The final scene will be between the two lovers.
Their ‘love’ began in The Figurehead and crept up on them (and me) as the book progressed. So much so that one reviewer on Amazon ended her review thus:
“I care about [the characters] and want to know what happened to Jamie the émigré, the falls or fortunes of Anderson the successful Capitalist and, above all, the development of the tantalising relationship between John and Helen. This novel is screaming for a sequel! I hope Bill Kirton will deliver!” (You know who you are, C, Munro.)
And others have said the same thing. So ‘something’ has to happen between John and Helen which satisfies the readers’ curiosity. But what? The year is 1841. Marriage between a rich merchant’s daughter and a tradesman wasn’t unheard of but nor was it easy to negotiate. Moreover, this is a strong-willed young woman who’s just beginning to play a role in her father’s business, and marriage means that she and all she has becomes the property of her husband. They love each other but they’re aware of these things. They’re also aware of the dangers of childbirth, and intelligent enough, too, to know that the rosy glow of love may not be eternal.
My original idea was to steal the ending of the 17th century novel (one of the first ever novels), La Princesse de Clèves, which, very crudely, goes:
- For social reasons, Princess marries an older, boring man.
- Then falls in love with the Duc de Nemours. (It’s mutual.)
- But she’s honourable and rejects his advances.
- Husband on his deathbed says he knows she really loves Nemours and that’s caused him suffering.
- He dies. Hooray! No obstacles to their love now.
- Nemours presses his case.
- But she feels guilty and says ‘Anyway, our love might die, you might fall for other women, it’s best to preserve it as it is and not spoil it’.
- And she goes into a convent.
- And his love does fade away.
But how satisfying would that be for Ms Munro and the others? I suspect they want the wandering into the sunset scenario or a reasonable approximation of it.
So there you have my dilemma. Can I really suspend disbelief to that extent? Or should they go their separate unfulfilled ways? The only way out seems to be that, the moment they swear their undying love for one another and feel confident that they’ll always be together and love one another with the same intensity, the sun explodes.
But I can’t do that because it was in 1841 and the sun’s still here.