James Bond is not a romance hero. He is disqualified on soooo many levels, but primarily because of his utter disinterest in monogamy. I know, I know….he was married for about ten minutes to Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and he was faithful during those ten minutes before she went to her ultimate doom…..but I am skeptical his self-restraint would have lasted much longer.
Nevertheless, the men who have been cast as James Bond are truly noteworthy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used one of them as a mental image for a hero when I’m writing a book. I am partial to the current Bond, Daniel Craig…..who sometimes stepped up to the plate for me when I was writing Michael Dobrescu in The Rose of Winslow Street. I have heard that blond men have a harder time breaking into movie star status because they don’t seem “manly” enough. Not true with Daniel Craig! That man looks like he could kill you just by thinking about it. My runner-up Bond is Timothy Dalton, probably because of my residual affection for him playing Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. He was my mental image for Daniel in The Lady of Bolton Hill.
As I said….. these guys look terrific, but that is where James Bond’s inspiration for my characters end!
One of the most popular new television series this year was ABC’s Revenge, an over-the-top romantic soap opera set in the glittering world of the Hamptons. I confess to getting sucked in. The plot features a young girl (Emily) whose adored father is framed for a horrible crime and sent to prison, where he is murdered. Her subsequent years were spent in psychiatric wards as the villains try to neutralize her by convincing the world she is crazy. The story picks up as Emily, now a powerful young woman, returns to the Hamptons under an assumed identity to wreak havoc on the people who destroyed her father.
Revenge plots are intriguing because they combine our desire to see an underdog get an upper-hand over someone who did him or her wrong.
Readers have a sense of fair play and they want to see the good guy win….but the protagonist in a revenge plot is walking a very fine line as they risk becoming a bad guy themselves.
I played with the revenge fantasy in The Lady of Bolton Hill. Daniel’s quest for vengeance on a business rival was rife with unsavory aspects, and although I wanted the reader to sympathize with him, I definitely had him walking along that razor-thin edge where he risked falling over into the villain category himself. This gave me the opportunity to explore some of the ethical issues between vengeance and justice.
For me, there are a handful of things a good revenge story must have if it is going to work as a thrilling novel in which you can still root for the protagonist:
- The reason for revenge must be believable, profound, and have lasting consequences….otherwise the protagonist comes off as a petty, amoral jerk.
- The ethical angle must be addressed. I think this is where the ABC series Revenge stumbled a little. Emily unleashes a real reign of terror and doesn’t balk very much when innocent people get entangled in her web.
- The consequences of the revenge should be explored. Watching the villain get his comeuppance isn’t very satisfying if we don’t see the ripple effect it has on the hero.
While I don’t want a steady diet of revenge stories, a good one every now and then is a delightful, guilty pleasure.
Writing humor is hard, but probably the single best secret to doing it is having it be unexpected. Have you ever watched a comedy movie, but it fell flat because you could see that pratfalls coming? It is hard to come up with fresh and surprising twists, but that is the key to making humorous moments work.
Here is a cute little video that surprised me:
And now a break from our regularly scheduled programming.
April 1st is the International Edible Book Contest, celebrated by many libraries all over the world. This is a hugely fun event that my library has been hosting for the past three years. The idea is that participants create a sculpture out of food that reflects a book title. Here are some of the entries that were submitted to our contest: