What makes you happy every time? SBD

PBW complained about some of the common problems in books that make her nuts. Plenty of bad stuff to avoid.

I want to go for the opposite exercise--tried to figure out what makes me stay in a book and/or give me a strong emotional response.

My first response is that it's all general. Strong characters, interesting plot. Blah. Once I figure out something specific (guys who pretend not to like cats but are sneak-patting one on page 200) then it's a device and therefore sneerworthy.

But heck, I can be manipulated by the right writer. Sure! I mean we're talking Universal Themes, right? So it's nothing to be ashamed of.

We'll call them archetypes and pretend we're in English 101. The people I like to read about:

The loners--who keep a part of their mystery through the whole book. I'm talking about the tough detective, the wizard. Merlin. None of this complete meltdown into mate material at the end. That's what happened to Spenser about 3,000 books back. He was never litterachure but at least he didn't have Susan Silverman early on. Urgh.

Outsiders, but not by choice. People who don't fit and never really will. (They seem to pop up in my writing so that makes sense.) Ender's Game.

Strong women. Not shrill, not stubborn (well, not necessarily stubborn, at least as defined by a lot of writers), but strong. Capable of changing but only for good reasons. Maire in The Grey Horse

Unlike Mrs. Giggles, I kinda like traditional self-sacrificing women in historicals. When they get to the point where they'll give up Happiness for Others I wanna shake them. But I like the characters who've been taught to think of others as well as themselves. Mrs. G goes nuts when she reads a Mary Balogh book -- and I love Balogh, often.

I have to take a kid to school (late opening at least) and maybe I'll try to come up with others later. You tell me-- what gets you ever time?

The little zing of "awwwwww" counts. (e.g. my cat-petting hero)

Come on, it's time to admit your most embarrassing "I am a happily manipulated reader" moments -- tell the world you just love secret baby books. You'll feel better if you do.


  1. Great idea, Kate. We're always bitching about what we don't like, maybe it's a good idea to discuss what we like, as well.

    Here's my take - a lot of people complain about this type of heroine, or that type of heroine - I don't know why, but I couldn't care less if the heroine was a useless pile of cow poop, I rarely pay attention to her.

    I put all my attention on the boys, just like in real life. As for heroes, I like what I would call the "Beautiful Losers." Those are the guys who were once rich, gorgeous and fabulous, but were hurt by something or someone - and decided to live as recluses.

    Obviously, the first one I can think of is Mr. Rochester, but Beautiful Losers are all over this genre.

    See ya!

  2. I'm liking the big ugly dog with one ear in Somebody Wonderful, Kate. Talk about manipulative! Why didn't you make him a three-legged dog, too?

  3. I think he did only have three legs...I'll have to dig out a copy and see how pathetic that dog was.

    I thought of another plot device that always seems to work for me--as a reader, I mean: two people improvising an explanation (without talking beforehand) as they try to get out of trouble. I'm thinking of Heyer's Frederica and the Marquis saving Lufra the Balukistan hound. Hmmm another dog, too.

    Just to get away from romance....Isn't there a scene like that in Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are dead?

  4. OK - I'll admit - I'm a sucker for a Cinderella story, it gets me hooked every time, lol.
    However, if she gets amnesia and pregnant and has a secret baby the book flies into the nearest wall.

  5. Love a misunderstood conversation DONE WELL! (Not one where she's talking about meeting her brother under the trellis and he's seething with so much jealousy that veins are popping out of the head, and she's too excited that dear brother has returned from the wars to notice.)

    Beautiful losers. Yep. Sign me up.

    Smart heroines, whether they are strong or sacrificing. But they need to be smart.

    Can generally do without pregnancy of any sort in a book. I've had three children, did not enjoy being pregnant. (Did not glow with the knowledge that I was connected to all other breeding women across the universe in a natural cycle. Just wanted it to be over with.) But I do like seeing a strong man who talks well with young children.

  6. Humor gets me every time. I'll forgive a lot if there's some funny in it.

    I also like stories with strong friendships in them. I'm a sucker for Harry Potter because of the friendships between Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

    I think that's also a big reason why I like a lot of Stephen King stories, because there's usually a group of friends united against a common evil.

    Of course, most of them usually die, but there you go.

  7. Actually, you posted on my blog (when I was complaining about Amy March) and I just wanted to see where your link would take me. Lo and behold, "Kate R" turned out to be the author of the lovely "Something Wonderful!" A fabulous book... one of the few romances I've ever bought brand new from Borders.

    Just wanted to say hi.

  8. I'm a total sucker for writer-girl -coming-of-age stories: A Room Made of Windows; A Long Way from Verona; Allegra Maud Goldman; Emily of New Moon; The Greengage Summer; I Capture the Castle; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and of course the immortal Harriet.

    Also, I like lots of community, friends getting together in different combinations, connections that mix and intermix, people showing up in each other's stories. Grace Paley's nice for that. And the Family Markowitz stories by Allegra Goodman. And, in a different way, The hearts and Lives of Men by Fay Weldon.

    Big, eccentric, artistic families are good too. My favorite these days is a series by Hilary McKay (kids/YA) about a hysterically dysfunctional family in England. The first one's called Saffy's Angel and so far there are 2 others.

    Oh, and wacky British humor always gets me. Also tortured British understatement a la Mary Renault.

    I guess I'm basically just not very picky, when you get down to it. Though I am pretty maxed out on high-fantasy dragons these days.


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