Friday, July 6, 2012

50 Shades/30 Years: Part III

MAN CANDY: My nominee for Mr. Grey!
Reading 50 Shades of Grey, I know NOW why it has broken so many records. Aside from the marvelous (utterly spectacular word of mouth this series has obtained), the initial PR campaign must have been a hum-dinger. I saw the first press and was stunned by its claims of the books' originality, but that aside, the campaign really is/was a superior one to reach the depth and breadth of the romance and women's fiction market.

But on to my rationale for the success of 50 Shades and its sequels!
Dividing its qualities into 3 criteria, I will say, wow, for an author who claims to have written nothing else before this, she got it 50 Shades of RIGHT.


Let's begin with Part One or Writing Romance, 101: The Conventions the Author Employed.
1. The couple meet accidentally. Or as some call this, the cute meet-up.
This adds to tension and points up each person's motivation clearly.

2. The balance of power between male and female is uneven. In this case, we have the Alpha male who is rich, accomplished, suave, detached and articulate. And SMUG. We have Our Heroine who is younger, unaccomplished, naive in many ways, not dumb or poor but less advantaged than he.

3. Our Heroine is a (gasp!) virgin. No, we do not know that for a long loooong time. In fact, we do not learn this until Our Hero, gasping himself at the revelation, learns the fact. Makes us like her for her guts, even if her brains are in her panties.

4. We have a heroine who is clearly attracted to Our Hero. Yes, I know. Who would not be, right? BUT she has misgivings. Hey, wouldn't we all when meeting a man like this! We learn her misgivings, approach-avoidance extraordinaire! We learn them in copious detail. This, as we authors know, is part of her Big Decision to move forward with the affair or not. If she refuses, we have no book. Ergo, sum.

5. As she deliberates her Big Decision, we see Our Hero as a dynamic character who changes, adapts to her and (OMG!) grows, and not just in the physical sense. Ahem! In other words, he becomes more human, less caricature, and more believable.
Trust me, you will get sucked in.
(No euphemism implied there.)
Bottom line: He becomes a man who might be worth Our Heroine's time and energy, as well as the loss of her virginity.

6. We see, hear, feel, smell Our Heroine falling in love with this guy. Okay, so we want to wave a flag at her, send up flares that say, Honey, Beware. But in a romance, the heroine never listens. Because in a romance, we are promised the Big Bang. No not that BB. The HEA.

7. Happily Ever After, or its less enduring version, Happy For Now, is what a romance gives you at the  end of all this angst and growth and sensuous scenes of men and women being happy in their sexuality and their relationships!
Here, you get a dose of HFN and you hope for HEA. I leave it to you to read and see which and what and why, because I don't want to provide a spoiler in what is a technical dissection of this book.


Yes, wait, there is more that makes this book/premise work as a romance and as an erotic novel: This is Part Two: The Types of Presentation the Author Used.
1. The prose is written from the heroine's POV. This establishes the link between Our Heroine and the Reader, who is most often expected to be a female.

2. The prose is written in that most dramatic of POVs: first person.
Like the fabulous novel JANE EYRE, gothic predecessors of our romances wrote in this voice. Why? When expertly done with fast paced plotting and verbs (please god, let their be wonderful active verbs) first person is vibrant and immediate. It is a strong, knock you over the head kind of presentation. You cannot escape her thoughts, her actions, her needs.
Erotica is all about the "I" and this style delivers the drama of it.

3. As if that power were not enough, the author capitalizes on it by writing in the Present Tense.
Nothing is more immediate, more demanding of a reader's attention that the drama of strong verbs delivered in the present tense. Few can write this way. Few even try. Captured by a story that rolls out in front of you, as we speak, if you will, present tense is undeniably gripping use of verb tense.
The author of 50 chooses her verbs wit hthe precision of a scalpel. You are skewered and driven to read more and more and more.

PART THREE: A Few Extraneous Comments
1. Whoever named this "mommy porn" groped for a word that was quick, memorable and derogatory. They most likely have never read a romance. No, not JANE EYRE or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or any of the hundreds of works coming out of any of the great houses of erotica and romance today. The term is derogatory, of course, but also shows a lack of understanding of the types of books in print and digital that now compose more than 50% of fiction sold each day.
Furthermore, this person/entity by the very use of the term has little respect for that 50% either as a group of readers or as an economic dynamic. Woe unto them!

2. Complaints about the lack of expertise on the part of the author, I would say, are unfounded. She wrote a fast moving, entertaining story in a Point of View and Verb Tense that is unusual for this day, but which rolls trippingly off her pen.

3. I have enormous complaints about the execution of the publishing. How so? The author's copyeditor, in my opinion, seems not to exist! Typos in any novel tear the reader out of the story and I am not alone when I say I gnash my teeth at them. My biggest compliant here was the the author LOVES LOVES LOVES ellipses, but has no clue how they are properly used. Sparingly placed, never as substitutes for M dashes, ellipses have a special punctuation all their own.
The copyeditor never learned how or why to use them. Her lack of expertise drove me crazy.
Please tell me she is about to get an education: 40 Days and Nights in Grammar and Punctuation Camp with a proper flogging for failure to perform! Thank you.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this book. It had a good plot, a commendable heroine, a hero who is true to his school (as a Dom) and it was written, as we say here in the States, at that 8th grade reader level that most novels are written in. (To reach the maximum audience, this level must also be good for the British market, too, where this was first pubbed.)

I think 50 Shades deserves its success.  I still want to know what PR firm did the campaign for this. (Anyone know? Hello? Hello?) They did a bang up job.
Now. Make an author happy. Go read whatever your heart desires!


Morticia Knight said...

I agree with you heartily Cerise. I am currently reading it the 2nd time through immediately after finishing it the first time. Your comments on the verb tense are especially spot on. My only complaints were that I could invent a drinking game to how many times she used "oh my", and that most of Oregon and Washington must be dizzy with all of the eye-rolling that they do! That did take me out of the story. But the characters and their journey - oh my - they were so involving!

K D Grace said...

Another insightful 50 SoG article, Cerise. I've really been enjoying your series, and it was especially interesting to see your analysis of the novels. Thanks!

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

Morticia, RIGHT ON. I forgot about "oh, my". Kind of like Evanovich's Oh, Boy.!!!!

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

K.D., Thank you. Glad you got good stuff from it!
Helpful to know how others do Success with Capital S.!!!

Sabrina York said...

Cerise, darling,

As always, engaging & entertaining! Thanks for the read!

I agree that whatever reviews this book might get, the author did it right.

To the benefit of other authors in the genre, I might add!!!

Thanks EL James!

Sabrina York

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I have yet to read this series, but I must say I am impressed by what I've heard.

I also write erotic romance in first person POV most of the time, so it interests me that this was one of the "things that worked" on your list. :)

And yes, I want to know who did the PR campaign. LOL

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

Sabrina, Thanks, babe!
I understand that this morning USA TODAY agrees with me that it is a good romance.
Must run to read it....

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

If you get to read it, come back and let me know what you think!