It’s Entertainment Not Lectures

© Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean

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

Such is the sorry state of the entertainment industry today. 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 TV ratings overall are down, and why there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters long before Covid came along. I’ve never been much of a sports fan myself, but lately I’ve been reading plenty of news articles about how television ratings for professional sports have dropped dramatically now that the various sports leagues have made it about politics instead of playing the game. People seek out entertainment because they want to take a break from politics and just be entertained, and when you use entrainment to lecture people they’ll simply walk away.

My contemporary romance novels are written solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture anyone I would write whatever nonfiction genre would be the most appropriate for the point I wanted to make. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and like my readers, I simply want to be entertained.

Fiction revolves around conflict, and how the characters react to and resolve the conflict. That’s the essence of a plot line, regardless of the genre. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. However, I don’t lecture my readers. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain my readers with my stories. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.

Marina Martindale

0

What is Wrong with Me? I Haven’t Killed Anyone

My latest romance novel, The Letter, differs from my others. This time I didn’t kill any of the characters. Not one. Which is a first for me. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sociopathic serial killer. At least not in the real world. But as a novel writer, I have to create conflict and drama in my stories to keep them interesting, and when it comes to creating drama, death is about as good as it gets.

Most of the time, the dearly departed is a notorious villain with whom karma has finally caught up with. Big time. In four of my novels a bad guy, or gal, got what was coming to them. The one exception was The Journey, where I had to kill a supporting character who I truly liked. So much so that I tried writing alternate scenes in which she didn’t die, but they just didn’t work as well. Killing this character off heightened the drama, which made the story more intense and a more interesting read. Nevertheless, having to write this character out made me feel genuinely sad.

There was one character in The Letter I thought of killing off. Like most of my “victims,” she was a despicable antagonist. However, unlike the others, this character also had a young child, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to create an orphan. So, this time, instead of an untimely if not painful death, it’s a terrifying near death experience. Surely you didn’t think I’d let a villain get away scot-free, did you?

Marina Martindale

To read a free preview of The Letter, please click here.

 

0

Entering The Clean Up Phase

Cleaning products.
© Can Stock Photo / JanPietruszka

I’ve been busy putting the final touches on the first draft for my upcoming novel, The Letter, and I’m now in what I call, “the cleanup phase.”

Something has bothered me with many of the novels I’ve read. The author would reach the big climax scene, and then, once it was over, shazam! Everything magically falls back into place right then and there. Then, one or two pages later, everyone rides off into the sunset. The end.

Wouldn’t it be great if real life was as simple?

I’ve always strived to make my stories as realistic and believable as possible, so I include a “cleanup phase,” after the big climax. This gives my characters a chance to deal with the aftermath of whatever happened during the climax. It can be as short as an epilogue, or as long as several chapters. If a character is injured, you’ll see his or her recovery. If a villain gets caught, you’ll find out how long the prison sentence is. If someone leaves town, he or she will have a chance to say goodbye. The leading characters will work out whatever unresolved conflicts they may have. In other words, I tie up of all the loose ends. I rarely write sequels. Therefore, I want each ending to be as complete, and as satisfying as possible for the reader.

Marina Martindale

0

Themes and Plotlines

An image of a pen with a light bulb on top writing in a book.
© Can Stock Photo / khunaspix

At long last, I’m finally in the home stretch for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter. Its theme would be don’t judge things by their appearance.

Some of you may be wondering, what’s a theme?

A theme is separate from the plot line. A theme is the underlying part of a story, such as the moral, or perhaps a comment about society or human behavior. I’ve posted the themes from my earlier novels below, but don’t worry. If you’ve not read all of them I won’t spoil the story.

Forgiveness — The ReunionIan was the one true love of Gillian’s life, but he suddenly ended their relationship for no apparent reason. If Gillian can forgive him, she stands a good chance of having a future with him. This theme carries over into a subplot concerning Ian and a member of his immediate family.

Adultery and Its Consequences —The Deception and The Betrayal. Adultery is a great theme for the romance genre. It’s an opportunity to explore the repercussions for everyone involved, as it often affects more than the two primary parties. In The DeceptionCarrie, a single woman, meets Scott, a married man who has presented himself to her as a single man. In The Betrayal, faithful wife Emily unwittingly catches her husband, Jesse, in the act with another woman. Both women’s lives are turned upside down by circumstances beyond their control.

Revenge — The Journey and The Stalker. Life isn’t always fair, and we’ve all experienced times when things didn’t go our way. However, it doesn’t mean someone has intentionally thwarted us. Sometimes stuff simply happens. Unfortunately, there are people out there who subscribe to the notion of don’t get mad, get even, and their quest for vengeance inevitably harms others who are innocent. In The JourneyDenise seeks revenge on Jeremy for having turned down her romantic overture years before, while Craig, in The Stalker, relentlessly hounds Rachel for getting a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve.

Those are my themes, at least so far. We’ll have to wait and what my next theme will be. Until then, happy reading.


Marina Martindale

0

This Time I’m Doing It Backwards

A backwards clock.
© Can Stock Photo / ajt

While I may not be a formula writer, there are still certain rules for basic plot structure which all fiction writers must follow. A protagonist is trying to achieve a certain goal. An antagonist gets in their way. This creates the conflict that drives the story. The conflict builds to a climax, followed by a conclusion. This is the tonal scale for a novel writer, regardless of the genre. In my genre, contemporary romance, the expected conclusion is for the couple to end up married, or engaged, or to end the story in such a way that readers can expect them to make a commitment at a later time .

My first three contemporary romance novels, The Reunion, The Deception, and The Journey, all ended with the lead characters getting married, or, in the case of The Journey, getting remarried. However, I’ve deviated off course in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal. This time I did it in reverse.

The Betrayal is the story of a married woman who discovers, in a rather bizarre way, that her husband is cheating on her. Therefore, my protagonist is trying to get herself unmarried. Along the way, she’ll find her true love, but this time the ending is different. Emily, the leading lady, is once again single, and while she and the leading man truly are in love with one another, neither one is ready to make a commitment. The ending leaves the other characters, and the reader, speculating that they will probably marry someday.

I took this path with because I think it’s more like real-life. Divorced people often are gun shy about remarriage. I also think readers like variety. I know I do as a writer, and having all my characters go up the aisle at the end of each novel gets redundant over time. 

Look for The Betrayal to be released later this summer.

Marina Martindale

0

I Don’t Do Formula Writing

No symbol of a circle with a diagonal line going through it. I received the nicest compliment from a woman who told me how much she enjoyed reading my contemporary romance novel,  The Deception. She even compared me to Nora Roberts, which was very kind. She went on to tell me that unlike Nora Roberts, I don’t use formula writing.

I haven’t read any Nora Roberts books lately, but she said every Nora Roberts novel follows the same pattern, and that her books are very predictable.  What she liked about The Deception was that fact that it wasn’t predictable at all. The plot twists kept her attention and kept her turning the pages.

Her kind words meant a lot, and they made me feel validated. I work hard to create realistic, three-dimensional characters, as well as write life-like story lines. As I write, I tune into my character’s minds. I try to see what they’re seeing and to feel what they’re feeling. I’m concerned about the conflicts they’re facing, and how they’re going to resolve them. Therefore, I cannot be preoccupied with having to have the leading lady met the leading man by page ten, or about having my climax occur twenty pages before the novel ends. That kind of rigidness would destroy my creativity and stifle me a storyteller.

Real life isn’t a formula. Life is unpredictable, and so are my contemporary romance novels. I’m glad my readers like my unpredictability. 

Marina Martindale

0

It’s Jarring and It’s Life Shattering

and it can happen in an instant

A photo of large headstones under big trees.
Photo by Fotolia.

I’m starting to get some feedback on my latest novel, The Deception. For the most part it’s been good. There is, of course, some minor criticism here and there, but that’s to be expected. After all, none of us can please all readers all the time. One comment, however, was about the sudden end to one of the characters. The reader believed it was too jarring and too over the top.

Warning! Spoiler Alert!

One of the characters is killed in a traffic accident, and no, I don’t warn you about it. In the real world tragic events happen without warning, and for the victims or their survivors, life is never the same. It’s a reality I know all too well. About ten years ago I lost a young cousin to a car crash, and it was completely unexpected. One minute he was a healthy twenty-year-old man with his whole life ahead of him. The next minute he was gone forever. 

My decision to kill a character in a car accident may indeed seem over the top for some readers. Others, however, disagree. The character in question was an antagonist, so they felt vindicated. Her sudden end was also the direct result of her own actions.

Tragedy happens all too often. The point I’m making is to never take life for granted. It really can come to a sudden end, without warning.

Marina Martindale

0