The Hidden Symbolic Meanings

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The other day I read an article about the classic John Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Along with a synopsis of the story, it went on to describe the various symbolic meanings throughout about the book. Some authors like to use fiction as a metaphor, and there were certainly political undertones in Steinbeck’s work. However, not all fiction writers do this. What I find amusing, however, is when people think there is a hidden meaning in a story when, in fact, there isn’t. 

Sometimes blue simply means blue

I recall a meme on social media poking fun at how people assume authors always include hidden meanings in their work. It talked about an author mentioning blue curtains because blue symbolized blah, blah, blah. The punchline, however, was that the author simply liked blue. There was no hidden meaning. 

I don’t include a lot of symbolism in my work. My genre, contemporary romance, is pretty straightforward. Boy meets girl. They fall in love, but they have obstacles to overcome before they can get to happily ever after. However, there are no political undertones or hidden messages in my stories. My sole purpose is to entertain the reader. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a little fun from time to time.

Okay, maybe just a little, but not too often

In The Deception, Scott is a married man who presents himself as a single man to unsuspecting single women. Early in the story he takes Carrie out for a drive, so I made his car a Chevy. No hidden meaning there. Chevrolet is a popular make of car. But then, just for laughs, I described it as being bright red, to represent Scott’s infidelity. Yes, it was a veiled reference to The Scarlet Letter, and yes, it was a little corny. Sometimes I can’t resist having a little fun. 

On a more serious note, those who know me in real life know I’m a very spiritual person. I also happen to know people who’ve had what they believe to be angelic encounters. My father was one of them. So, in two of my novels, a character has what some might interpret as an angelic encounter. The reason I’m emphasizing the word might is because not everyone believes in a higher power. Therefore, I wrote those scenes in such a way that readers could also interpret them as a character interacting with a compassionate stranger. I’ve left it to the readers to decide for themselves. The above mentioned is all the symbolism I’ve used so far. I guess I’m more of a what you see is what you get kind of storyteller. 

We’re all unique individuals. No two people see the same thing the exact same way. It’s all subject to our own life’s experiences. However, before jumping to conclusions about hidden meanings in a story, particularly if it’s something negative, remember what I said before. Maybe the author brought up the blue curtains simply because it’s the author’s favorite color. 

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com.

 

About Writing Love Scenes

© Can Stock Photo/
prometeus

Contrary to popular belief, there are men out there who read romance novels. I also once knew a male romance author. It’s an interesting genre, and the stories can range from squeaky clean sweet romance to jaw dropping erotica. 

I’ve had some interesting feedback from some of my male readers. They often tell me they really enjoyed reading the sex scenes. Okay, good to know, (she writes as she blushes.) I write sensual romance, which includes some sex scenes, but unlike erotica, the sex scenes aren’t the main focus of the story. Most of the action takes place outside of the bedroom.

How sex scenes work in sensual romance

Before I started writing contemporary romance, I took the time to research how to write effective love scenes. As with any fiction writing, there is a technique for creating a sensual, believable love scene. I used Anais Nin as a model. Her work is definitely sensual, but by no means overtly graphic. 

First, I build the sexual tension between the characters. Arousal begins slowly and oftentimes innocently. Hands accidentally brush. Someone squeezes a hand or touches a forearm during a conversation. Spontaneous horseplay turns into foreplay.

Before making love for the first time, the woman will usually be asked if she’s okay with what’s about to happen. I think it’s important to clearly establish that both characters are consenting adults. However, this may vary, depending on the story. In The Deception, Alex and Carrie have known one another since they were children. They’ve been in love for years, but both kept their feelings hidden. When the moment of truth finally arrives, no words were necessary. 

As I get into the scene, certain body parts may be referred to, but are never mentioned by name. I’m writing romance, not a medical textbook. My goal is to describe what the characters are feeling, both physically and emotionally. I use words such as, she felt a sweet sensation. My editor came up with a wonderful way to refer to an orgasm. She called it, reaching his (or her) release. I’ll also use the words such as climax, ecstasy, or the two  became one, to describe the euphoria the characters are experiencing.

These scenes are included to enhance the overall storyline, and I use them sparingly. Again, this is romance, not erotica. Most novels will typically have two or three love scenes. The primary focus of the story is the relationship, and there’s a whole lot more to a romantic relationship than just sex.


Marina Martindale

It’s Entertainment Not Lectures

© Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean

One of my Facebook friends recently posted something about Hollywood. She said, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.

Such is the sorry state of today’s entertainment industry. It’s no longer about entertaining. It’s about using entertainment to push a political agenda, and it’s not going over well with the general public. I think this is why television ratings are down, and why, prior to Covid, there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters. People watch scripted TV shows, and go to the movies, because they want to be entertained. However, when you use entertainment to lecture people, they’ll walk away.

In my earlier post, No Politics Here, I talked about why I keep politics out of my contemporary romance novels. I write solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture people I would write nonfiction. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and, like my readers, I simply want to be entertained. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain readers. Period. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.

Marina Martindale

My latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

So Why Write Romance

© Can Stock Photo / yellowj

People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction. To which I say, why not?

I write sensual contemporary romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, may elude us because of the poor choices we sometimes make. Most of us have experienced at least one romance that went sour, so it’s a genre many readers can relate to. Perhaps this may explain why romance is so popular.

Along with conflict driven storylines, I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists, such as Carrie in The Deception aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they have to deal with the consequences of those bad decisions. Sometimes an antagonist, such as Scott, also in The Deception, will learn from his or her mistake and try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant, such as Scott’s wife, Maggie. Either way, they too have to live with the consequences of their actions, and a few even pay the ultimate price for their sins.

The one thing you won’t find in my stories is gushy, gooey schmaltz. For those who like that kind of melodrama, it’s out there, but that kind of storytelling isn’t my style. My inspiration comes from my own life experiences, and the stories others have told me. Readers tell me they feel the connection, and they like how believable my stories are. This is the highest compliment a reader can give an author. 

This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into the relationships we have with others and try to better understand the human experience.

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Writing Relationship Fiction

Photo of an open book with stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo/kudryashka

This may sound arrogant, or perhaps hokey, but I sometimes get weary of hearing myself say, “I write contemporary romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People think I’m writing cheap, schmaltzy novels. Or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.

I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships. The love of a parent to a child. The love between siblings. Even the platonic love between close friends. The romance between and man and a woman is only a part of my stories.

For example

One of my contemporary romance novels, The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his own life on hold to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love. 

In The Deception, another contemporary romance novel, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That too is true love. 

The Betrayal, another contemporary romance novel, includes a story of a long estranged aunt who finally lets go of the rivalry she carried for her deceased sister and reaches out to her niece, accepting her like another daughter. That too is love.

The reason why I write contemporary romance, as opposed to science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships. Not only between lovers, but between close friends and family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres. However, the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships.


Marina Martindale

Stuck in a Literary Sexual Rut

An open book with two pages folded together in the shape of a heart.
Photo by Fotolia.

 

Oh the problems one encounters when writing contemporary romance. As I explained in my earlier blog post, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romancethere is a distinct difference between sensual romance and erotica. In sensual romance, the “romance” scenes are written to enhance the plot as the characters consummate their relationship. The emphasis is on what they’re feeling.

That said, as I’m working on my third novel, The Journey, I found myself in a bit of a rut when writing those scenes. Let’s face it. There are only two kinds of equipment out there, and that equipment only works in certain ways. I was starting to worry that my writing might be become too redundant.
So, I decided to do a little research and downloaded a copy of an anthology called Little Birds, by Anais Nin.

Ms. Nin is perhaps the literary madam of erotic literature. I thought I might learn something new about writing from her. What I found, at least in my opinion, were stories that were a little cold. The characters were one-dimensional and lacked passion. Afterwards, I looked at my own writing. I think there’s something to be said for writing about what the characters are feeling, emotionally as well as physically. As for the redundancy; I suppose it is what it is. Even Ms. Nin’s stories were a bit redundant. Yet decades later, readers still enjoy them. I guess there are some things in life that people will never get tired of. Like chocolate cake.


Marina Martindale

You Novel Writers are Evil

 
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That’s what a fellow author once said to me. Of course, she didn’t mean literally, although she had a point. She writes nonfiction, and her comment had to do with some of the things we novel writers do to our characters. She’s right. Some of the things we to our characters is just plain mean. Then again, some of those characters have it coming.

I was telling her about Scott, an antagonist in my contemporary romance novel,  The Deception. Let’s face it. Scott isn’t the nicest guy on the planet. He’s a married man who puts himself out as a single guy, and his actions have hurt a lot of people, especially Carrie. Once Carrie and her friends realize Scott’s stories aren’t adding up she ditches him. I had originally planned on writing him out of the story at that point. However, readers would expect him to be held accountable for what he did, and they would be disappointed if he were able to simply walk away. 

Scott is later arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he gets his comeuppance in the form of a humiliating strip search. I strive for accuracy when I write because I want my contemporary romance novels to be as realistic and believable as possible. This means I do a lot of research, so I told the nonfiction author that I went online and read testimonials by real people who’ve had this experience. I then based Scott’s story on those real-life accounts. That’s when she looked at me and said, “You novel writer’s are evil.”

Well, what can I say? She wrote a memoir. I write fiction.

Marina Martindale

 

The Deception is available on Amazon, and BarnesandNoble.com. To read a free sample please click here.

Sweet Sensual or Erotic Romance?

 
© Can Stock Photo / songbird839

The romance genre, including contemporary romance, has three distinct sub-genres. They are:

  • Sweet Romance
  • Sensual Romance
  • Erotic Romance or Erotica

Sweet Romance is squeaky clean. There is no sex. All passion is expressed through kissing, hand holding and perhaps brushing a hand along a face. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG.

Sensual Romance includes a few sex scenes. They are used to enhance the plot, but unlike erotica, in sensual romance there is no harsh language. The descriptions are not overtly graphic. The emphasis is on the character’s emotions as they consummate their relationship, but unlike erotica, the plot line doesn’t revolve around the sex scenes. Most of the action takes place outside of the bedroom. 

Erotic Romance is all about the sex. The descriptions can be quite graphic. It may include variations such as threesomes, orgies or bondage. The story really isn’t about two people falling in love. It’s about the characters having sex and plenty of it.

Why I write sensual romance

I write sensual contemporary romance because it’s the sub-genre I enjoy reading, and it’s what today’s readers expect. My lead characters make love once they’re emotionally invested in the relationship. Then, once their relationship is consummated, I typically don’t write another sex scene because it would be redundant. The only exception would be if the characters have been separated for a period of time and are reestablishing their relationship.

From time to time, however, a character becomes involved with the wrong person for the wrong reasons. Typically, this happens early in the story, before the two lead characters have begun their relationship. On those occasions I may approach the sex scenes a little differently.

For example, in The Deception, lead character, Carrie’s  long-term relationship has ended unexpectedly. A short time later meets Scott. He knows Carrie is emotionally vulnerable, so he uses it to his advantage. Because Scott is a one of the villains in the story, the sex scenes between him and Carrie are a little racier, but even then, the scenes aren’t overly graphic. I’m more interested in what the characters are feeling in the moment. 

If you’re looking for sweet, squeaky-clean romance I’m afraid you won’t find it in any of the contemporary romance novels I write. However, if you’re looking for a believable story that will leave you feeling satisfied as a reader, I hope you’ll consider giving one of my books a read.

Marina Martindale

Update: The Deception is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.