6 Reasons to Have Sex… or write about it.

6 Reasons to Have Sex… or write about it.


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two pair of feet under a sheet

6 Reasons to Have Sex

Or why I have open door sex…in my novels I mean.

In Romance fiction, historically and derogatorily referred to as “bodice-rippers,” as well as other genres, there is today a huge range of what we in the industry refer to as “heat level”. This includes books ranging from sweet, inspirational (e.g. religiously or morally conservative) all the way to fifty shades of grey, and every other conceivable colour of the sexual rainbow. Whether you’re into same sex or different sex, young sex or old sex, sex in two’s or three’s or more, or no sex at all, you’ll find it out there, somewhere, in a novel.

You Can’t Please Everyone

Readers from every background, value system and sexual orientation can increasingly find themselves, (or what they fantasize about,) between the covers of a book. Or, on the other hand, be shocked, offended or disappointed. This makes it trickier for authors to decide whether to, or how much to, show sex in the pages of their stories. No matter what you do, some reader somewhere will be unhappy.

two lego storm troopers holding handsthree beetles having sexwoman's hand, glove, whip, leg in stocking

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is the bulk of it, and even there, authors have their own particular style of consummating the romance arc, from kisses and caresses that fade to black, to detailed open-door sex with lots of “pink parts” and assembly instructions.

 

Why Is there Sex in My Novels?

I’m no prude, but as a writer it was difficult for me, from a traditional Catholic background, to get comfortable describing sex scenes. It took some stretching and learning to find my comfort zone as an author. So why do I do it?

 

Sex Is an Important Storytelling Tool

I’ve found, with each respective manuscript, that it gets a little easier, and I get a bit more creative. As I’ve become more clear that I never was writing traditional romances, but rather women’s fiction with strong romantic storylines, I’ve become more free about how I represent sex on the pages of my books.

 

Sex Isn’t Always about Sex

Representations of sex, and not necessarily just the implied sex that happens after the lights go out, the shower door closes or the curtain falls, are an important storytelling tool. Just like dialogue, description and other kinds of action scenes, like fight scenes, for example. In fact they have a lot in common with fight scenes, in that they are a combination of action and internal dialogue, with a heavy dose of the visceral and emotional. That’s a lot of power at the author’s disposal to enrich the story and the reader experience. Why would I leave it out? 

 

woman touching her face

 

Six Important Reasons to Show Sex on the Page

 

1. Vulnerability

  • In romance fiction, the developing relationship between two people is as important as each of the heroine and hero’s (or other characters) own character arcs. And they are intricately intertwined. Intimacy is an inescapable part of that relationship arc. Achieving intimacy is an important indicator that these two characters have let down their guard enough to allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other. Being vulnerable, or “getting naked” with the antagonist is how we know they have grown, changed and are ready to embrace their essential selves.

2. Empathy

  • One of the important reasons we read fiction is to empathize with and experience vicariously how other people deal with life. It expands our own world view and gives us insights into how to live our own life better. Even to avoid troubles. If we’re left to guess what happens behind the bedroom door, we haven’t learned anything about how other people have, or can have, sex or the intimacy that is achieved. That’s an opportunity lost that diminishes the reading experience.

3. Character Growth

  • Sex is ALWAYS about more than sex. In getting naked and vulnerable, issues come up. These include values, life and relationship goals, past relationships and their fallout, self-image, including body image which is an enormous issue for women, and emotional vulnerability relating to past wounds the character has experienced and has to be addressed as part of the story and character arc. To properly address the character growth, these essential subjects cannot be ignored. In my opinion, the depth of the story will suffer.

4. Emotion

  • How people approach their sexual partners and engage in sex is very revealing (pun intended) of who they are and how they feel about the other person. Even how they approach life in general. This changes throughout the story, and is in fact a big part of the story being told. People have sex for different reasons, at different points in their relationships and lives, and the specifics help to show this.

5. Catalyst

  • Sex in itself is an intense experience that can unlock emotions and break down barriers, allowing the individuals to realize truths they may have previously denied and move forward. Thus the sex scene itself is an important tool for the storyteller to advance the characters evolution toward whatever happy or tragic end they have earned.

6. Information

  • Sex isn’t always the same. It doesn’t always work and it isn’t always good. It can be awkward, funny, playful and even ridiculous at times. Sometimes what’s most important to the character in that moment is not the fact that they’re having sex. Perhaps they’re frightened, planning their escape, bored or preoccupied with other problems, like what to make for supper or how to win a court case. This can be shown through the contrast between the character’s actions and their thoughts, and can be very entertaining, informative or amusing.

Oh, you can’t do that, people won’t buy your books!

Going back to my point about pleasing, or not pleasing, every reader. Many times I’ve had writing coaches, publishing gurus and author colleagues expound to me, “Oh, you can’t do that, people won’t buy your books!” And of course every published author has had bad reviews as well as good ones. Some reviewers are not shy about telling you what they don’t like.

 

Reader Opinions

One of my favourites was a review of my book, The Art of Enchantment, a very romantic, sexy book set in Italy, about a relationship between a shy, introverted artist and a very sexy Italian architect. Moreover, the theme of the book is, in one sense, sexual liberation and expression. I played with this idea by having my heroine researching and writing her Ph. D. thesis in art history about the relationship between sexual repression and religious ecstasy in Renaissance art. How one suppressed was expressed via the other. (A completely fabricated thesis topic by the way.) When one reviewer said, “This was a really good book except there was too much sex and swearing,” I laughed. I loved it. A review like this tells other readers exactly what to expect, and helps them choose. I wish I had more.

bodies in a shower

Publishers Parameters

I don’t want anyone to read what they don’t enjoy. But I would argue that one reason to read is to expand our horizons and embrace vicarious experiences that stretch us beyond the limits of our one life. And despite the proscriptions publishing houses, editors and imprints put on their authors about story length, subject matter, themes, morality and, particularly in romance fiction, heat level, I think every writer has to write what they want to write.

You can’t squeeze a (good) story out of a stone. A good story has to come from an author’s heart. So an author has to write the stories that are meaningful to them. I understand that publishers have to do this, because it’s part of their business branding. There can’t be a Harlequin Blaze or an Avon Inspire without clear boundaries, because it’s their job to help readers find the reading experiences they are looking for.

 

The Author Chooses, Then the Reader Chooses

This is one reason I’m independently published. I wear the publisher’s hat as well as the author’s hat. This makes my world more challenging, because I don’t conform to the convenient categories that other publishers or authors have established. So maybe it takes a bit longer for my ideal readers to find me and discover my stories.

But it’s also freeing, because for me this means I can explore themes, plots and characters that are real, complex and interesting to me. It doesn’t mean fitting my stories into particular shapes to please or meet the expectations of particular readers. As an artist, I am unbound. Some of the things I write might make you uncomfortable. They might make me uncomfortable. That’s a very personal thing, and I’m alright with it. Be forewarned. This is my brand.

My Brand

Some of the issues that have come up for me and my stories aren’t so much around heat level, and whether the particulars of the sex are shown on the page, but what kind of sex it is and with whom. In my case I’m not talking about BDSM and other kinds of erotica. In fact I don’t write sex scenes for their pure erotic value, even though of course I want to show attraction, intimacy and passion between two characters falling in love when that is the story I’m telling.

Wrong Sex, Real Life

Rather, I’m challenged when I write about sex that’s questionable in other ways: extramarital, when one of the characters is married to someone else (’cause that never happens), or sex that’s platonic, that is, friends with benefits, sex that’s therapeutic, sad or angry, sex that’s just convenient, or sex that happens for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps it’s a question of morality or good judgement. If nothing else, humans learn from having sex, whether it’s “right” or “wrong.” These, too, are part of real life, and part of our lived experience as human beings. In that regard, in my opinion, it is never wrong to include them in the stories I write, or you read. But that choice is entirely yours.

Do you: *strongly disagree  *somewhat disagree  *feel meh  *somewhat agree  *strongly agree?

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or if you’re shy, reply privately. I really want to know!

Join My Tribe!

And if you think you’d enjoy reading my kind of stories, please sign up for my email list to find out about my upcoming release, A Forged Affair… in which you will definitely find “wrong” sex. And also some really “right” sex. And acrobats and a giant. In the south of France. Also I’m revealing the beautiful new book cover to subscribers first! How can you resist?

If you want to know what I get up to day to day, and what my writer’s life looks like, you can follow me on Instagram, where I mostly hang out, and also Facebook or Twitter. I hope to see you there!

When life takes a different direction than we planned…


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Coming About ~ When life takes a different direction than we planned…

This week’s Bublish book bubble is an excerpt that includes part of a family sailing day, when Bruce takes Alexa and the kids out on his beautiful sailboat and temporary home, Belle Étoile (which means Beautiful Star and refers to an old fairy tale involving a quest.) I thought I’d share the intro here as a blog post, since it says a lot about the book, my life, why I write and where my stories come from.

When I write my novels, they are in no real way autobiographical, but I think most authors put bits and pieces of themselves in their story. The things they’ve seen and done, the places they’ve been, the people they’ve known. Sailing on the West Coast of BC (Canada) has always been a big part of my life, as a student, a recent graduate, a newlywed and a wife and mother. We’ve sold our boat now, but weekend and summer sailing trips in Howe Sound, Georgia Strait and among the Gulf Islands formed a big part of my life for many years.

So it’s easy for me to draw on these experiences to inform my novels (and no, I never lost my kid overboard, but no parent sails without entertaining these harrowing thoughts and mentally preparing for them!) Disruption by Design, my most recent release (January 1, 2018) is the first time I’ve used my sailing experience in a book. And more than than, it captures many aspects of living on the West Coast, including marinas, ocean views, old houses and living on the Gulf Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

Daydreaming and Imaginary Friends

In my case, I love travel and adventure because the experience of new places and sights and smells and flavours stimulates my imagination. I can’t really travel or engage in an experience without a part of my mind wandering off and creating imaginary events and people inspired by that moment. Parallel universes are spiralling off in every direction all the time. That’s just the way I’m built. When I was a kid, they called it “daydreaming”. Or “airhead,” LOL.

Fortunately for my readers, and for me, I’ve learned to direct my imaginings in between the covers of books, and learned to find just the right words to describe the movies playing in my head, and how to structure the stories so that they play out in a way that’s entertaining and satisfying– I hope!

While my books are not about me, per se, they are certainly informed by my own life. In my series, Having it All, women who are very committed to their careers struggle in different ways to balance their passion and yearning for authenticity, expression and independence with their need to find love, companionship, family and a sense of belonging. This was for me, and I think for many women of my generation and beyond, a difficult struggle. One that never seems to end. I guess you’d call this a recurring theme in my writing.

Balancing Life and Work, Self and Others

In Disruption by Design, Alexa is a women who is really having a hard time reconciling these different aspects of a woman’s life. She starts out believing that commitment to one arena means sacrifice in another, and gradually learns to find balance and put her own stamp on a life she can truly call her own.

This scene falls close to the midpoint of the story, and represents a change of direction for Alexa, who’s just quit her job, for Bruce, who must come to terms with his self-worth, for their relationship, which moves to a new place, and for the book as a whole, as the plot, tone and setting make a radical change at this point.

A Change of Direction

This excerpt ends with the words, “Coming About!”

In sailing terms, this means changing direction, via a tack or as Wikipedia defines it:

“Tacking or coming about is a sailing maneuver by which a sailing vessel, whose desired course is into the wind, turns its bow toward the wind so that the direction from which the wind blows changes from one side to the other, allowing progress in the desired direction.”

In common usage, it also means “to come to pass, to happen.”

It seems to me in both cases to suggest forward progress and change, whether in a sailboat or a person’s life. Originally I intended the book to be titled Coming About. Later I thought it was rather too common a phrase to grab attention, but it still encapsulates the idea of the book, or really any story about any character who is at a turning point, a crossroads in their life where choices must be made about future directions. Where one leaves the past behind and boldly heads off in a new direction.

That’s a lot for two little words to mean, but that’s half the fun of writing. Playing with words and their meanings, trying to convey complex or deep ideas with the the right choices and arrangements.

I think my love of the written word has surely got to be one of the reasons I write. Why I learned to write in the first place, and continue to love the process as much as the product. It can be hard at times. Often an idea, image or feeling that we experience emerges from imagination or memory and their are no words that immediately come to mind to capture or express it. That’s the part of writing that’s hard work, and the reason you so often find writers sitting and staring out the window.

To read the Book Bubble excerpt, go to my Bublish page. Scroll to the second version of Disruption by Design and look for the latest #bookbubble.

Are you a sailor? Have you ever been on a sailboat? And are you drawn to either familiar or exotic new experiences in the fiction that you read? Leave a comment below and let me know!

If Characters are like Chocolates, are you Creamy, Gooey or Nutty?


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box of chocolates

Photo by Jennifer Pallian ~ Unsplash

What Are Your Favourite Kind of Chocolates… erm,  mean Characters?

A writing colleague recently said to me, “You tend to write hard women characters and soft men. Why don’t you try it the other way around?” Well, at first I was a little shocked, then realized maybe it’s a little bit true. I would say, not completely true, but a little. Then I thought, well if I turned it around in this case, two things would happen. Firstly, my story would be a different story, perhaps not the one that wants to be told… at least by me.

And secondly, in romance and women’s fiction, there are plenty of other people telling stories about soft women and hard men. The tropes are familiar and often entertaining, but it can get a little old. A lot of Romance readers gravitate to the fantasy fulfillment of millionaire-CEO-pirate-duke-cowboy-Navy Seals-biker-delinquent-step-brother. And that’s okay for some, at least some of the time. But romantic women’s fiction can be so many things, why should everyone, readers and writers both, be shoehorned into just one kind of story? I certainly don’t, as a reader.

Drawing on the inspiration of Forrest Gump, and his famous quote that life is like a box of chocolates, what if we looked at characters like chocolates? There are so many kinds, and we all have our favourites. The ones we grab first when the box is opened because we know what to expect and we know it’s going to be good.

It struck me that the characters in fiction are kind of like this. We all have our favourite kinds of heroines and heroes too, for whatever reasons (probably complex psycho-social ones.) Maybe we relate to them. Maybe we enjoy the particular kind of transformation those character types take in terms of story. The plots or the emotional journeys they take. What kind of heroines are you drawn to in fiction?

Soft Creams?

The one’s that are smart, sexy and well-put-together, but fall apart under a little pressure? That can be fun. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess  in which a successful, ambitious lawyer makes a stupid careless mistake that snowballs out of proportion and she panics, runs away and tries to hide out while adapting to a radically different kind of life baking bread.

I would classify my character Kate O’Day in Reconcilable Differences this way. She’s got her life figured out. She’s smart and competent and everything’s fine, thank you, but under pressure, we learn she has unresolved issues that threaten to make her fall apart. (Proving that not all my women are hard.)

Chewy Caramels?

The ones that are firm on the outside but have a soft, gooey centre, like a caramel? Maybe a little resistant and stubborn, one that needs to be chewed on a little or gradually warmed up in order to soften, but then get really fun as they get going? Another example of this would be the heroine Ellen in Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With.

In my book The Art of Enchantment, Sophie’s had some bad experiences, and a lot of pressure from her family, to behave in a particular way, and to avoid the heat. They’ve shaped her into a little square box. Only under the continuous and persistent pressure of Guillermo’s charismatic attention does she soften up and recognize that she’s been avoiding the good stuff, and denying an important aspect of her own character, and life!

Or Hard Nuts?

Or maybe the ones that are smooth on the outside, but need to be cracked and broken in order to be digested? I see this type of character as ones that have been hardened by some extreme trauma in life, perhaps the loss of a loved one, a failed relationship, betrayal or an abusive childhood. It’s not a matter of warming them, but forcing them into a tough make-or-break spot, like a nutcracker, and breaking them down so they can become something else altogether.

The book I’m working on now, (A Forged Affair) has a heroine who’s lively and strong on the outside, but rigid in her world view, and pretty cut off from her own emotions, because of something heart-breaking that happened to her when she was young (you’ll have to wait for the book to find out!) She’s engaging, but might seem cool to the touch, and for the hero looking for love, out of reach. But when she gets into a tight spot, and he recognizes that she needs to face her past, he lets her break and waits patiently to pick up the pieces so they can start over.

Personally, I think I’m mostly a caramel girl myself. But when a character, situation or story comes to me and wants to be told, I have to be honest and open to who the characters are and how they need to transform in order to grow into their essence.

For me, if I start reading a novel, romance or otherwise, and the main character is weak and TSTL (too stupid to live) that’s a huge turnoff. Now that’s not the same thing as a character that’s tortured by their emotions, insecurities or indecision – provided their backstory and goals adequately justify this character flaw. To me that just means they need to go through some transformative experiences in order to be happy and fulfilled, not rescued by some big strong guy who will solve their problems for them.

After all, a character without flaws is boring and has nowhere to go in terms of growth. And we all want to see characters we can relate to be challenged and learn important life lessons. Right?

Well… back to my hard nut of a heroine. What do you think about this idea? Comment below and tell me what kind of chocolate “heroine” you like best.

And don’t forget to sign up for my list to keep up to date about A Forged Affair and its progress toward publication.

M. A. Clarke Scott Local Author Book Signing – North Shore Writers’ Festival 2018


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North Shore Writers Festival 2018 banner

North Shore Writers’ Festival Book Fair

M. A. Clarke Scott author bookshelf titles women's fiction

I’ll be at the book fair as part of the 2018 North Shore Writers’ Festival hosted by the West Vancouver Memorial Library this year, all day on April 21st from 11-4. Come down and say hello, chat about books, and if you like, buy an autographed copy of one of my books. I’m sure you’ll see many other favourite local authors there with me. I’ll be there Friday as well, partaking in keynote addresses and author panel discussions like the book nerd that I am.

For more info about the festival, schedule and events, go to their website.

authors M. A. Clarke Scott with Jackie Bateman, Donna Barker and Lawrence Verigin at Chapters Indigo Granville and Broadway in Vancouver

Chapters Indigo Signing Update

On March 10th, along with my fellow North Shore authors Jackie Bateman, Donna Barker and Lawrence Verigin, we had a lovely afternoon signing books and chatting with shoppers. Here’s a photo of us by the front door at Granville and Broadway in Vancouver.

If you’d like to check out their books, click the links to Amazon to read more:

Jackie Bateman Nondescript Rambunctious

Donna Barker Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers

Lawrence Verigin Seed of Control: Generations to Execute

Reading Full-length Fiction: Have You Got What it Takes?


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 Have You Got the Mental Muscle to Read Long Fiction or Are You Flabby?

short fiction versus long: books lined up, cut pages facing out

There has been an undeniable trend toward short fiction recently instead of full-length novels. This has resulted in a resurgence of short stories, novellas, novelettes and serialized fiction in the market. I believe the affordability and flexibility of digital publishing is somewhat responsible for this trend, and it’s not all bad.

Short story collections have a particular readership, and I believe have not always been that popular among the general fiction-reading audience. They have had more often literary connotations than commercial fiction. Another traditional spot for short stories has always been literary magazines. On one hand, I think this trend is a good thing, opening the market to new forms of writing. Also, perhaps luring new readers into the world of online publishing and reading fiction.

short fiction versus long: "I am like a fish in love with a bird wishing I could fly: on white page

Possible Reasons for the Short Fiction Boom

short fiction versus long: racks of books at bookstore

Other reasons why shorter fiction might be more popular and available today are not quite so benign. These include: time to produce, cost to print, time to read, attention span, and the ease of series creation which is better for author platform and branding. Let me expand on these a bit. With the advent of digital and independent publishing, two things have happened to make the marketplace more crowded and competitive. While indie authors arguably have more freedom and autonomy than those publishing through traditional channels, all authors and readers have to deal with the consequences of these shifts.

Firstly, back lists, out-of-print titles and classics are all equally available today alongside more current titles. What we as readers had to choose from in the past was curated by publishers, booksellers and librarians. Today virtually everything is simultaneously and universally available. How does a reader choose? How does a writer get noticed?

I Need to Publish How Many Books Per Year?

short fiction versus long: e-reader

One way for writers to compete is to publish more titles, more rapidly. Some advocates recommend four titles per year or more. The creation of several shorter works also enables the creation of series which can pull readers back for more purchases in a familiar story world. This builds author rankings and earnings. Now while some sub-genres and some authors can sustain this dizzying pace, I believe that the quality of storytelling and writing can only suffer under this kind of pressure. And, as the quality of stories goes down, so does the reader experience. Along with it, expectations for something more.

 

Is Short Fiction the Answer?

One solution is to write shorter fiction. This is more feasible for the author, because writing is after all a difficult and time-consuming task. It allows them more time to get critique and beta-reader feedback and refine and polish their stories. It’s also cheaper to get them professionally edited and formatted. And finally, for those readers who prefer print books, it’s cheaper to print and ship them, bringing their price points down. The battle is between an increasingly commodified product versus what is and arguable should be an art form. But at whatever price, is the value really there?

If you buy e-books, do you think to check page count before buying? I’ve made this mistake myself by making snap buying decisions. With pricing for e-books ranging from free and $0.99 to $6.99 and much higher, how do you know you’re getting what you pay for? Should you pay more for a 250-350 page novel than a 140 page novella? Do you feel “shorted” when you buy what you think is a novel and discover it’s over too soon?

Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Perhaps more shorter fiction, separately packaged, better remunerates hard-working authors for their time and creativity? I still can’t help feeling we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water.

Long Versus Short Fiction: Pluses and Minuses

There are some unfortunate consequences of this publishing trend.

While the result is that “we” collectively, are producing more “books” I question whether “we” as a whole are getting more to read. While I’m no expert at short fiction, I do know that short stories are their own, completely distinct art form. They are not simply “shorter” versions of what we normally find between the pages of a novel.

What about novellas? (And novelettes, a term recently used to mean some intermediate page length between a short story and a novella.) It’s possible to tell an excellent story in the form of a novella. A recent workshop I attended with author Mary Robinette Kowal explained how good shorter fiction can be written through “proportional pacing.” What this means is simply that each element of the story must be reduced in size (length.) She argues that the proportions of the smaller parts don’t change, only their size does. This effects two elements of story: how does it feel, and how does the character achieve their ends?

In this way, a short story or novella, if well-written, can be just as absorbing and deep as a full-length novel. In fact some of the best classics are rather short (e.g. The Great Gatsby.) How the story is paced and punctuated can have a great bearing on the reader experience. But beware! Not all authors writing shorter fiction are doing so skillfully and artfully.

Is Shorter Better? Is It Even Good?

Digital publishing makes short fiction more available to readers than the traditional publishing industry could ever do. However, do we understand what we are sacrificing when we default to shorter fiction because we can’t be bothered to dig into the longer stuff? And are we willing to do this?

So while it’s possible to write a wonderful, rich reading experience with short fiction, not all the short titles out there are delivering on this. But even those that do will often do so at a cost. They necessarily must strip out many of the elements that longer fiction accommodates, and that make it a rich and valuable experience.

short fiction versus long: serpentine row of open books on the ground

Effort Worth Investing In?

It should be no secret by now where my personal bias lies. I strongly favour long fiction for several reasons. These include: depth of characterization (via backstory and internal dialogue), subtlety and believability of character arcs, complexity of storylines, inclusion of secondary characters and subplots, detailed, evocative description of places and events, and far more immersive emotional experiences. As well, longer fiction accommodates literary artistry such as layering of themes and weaving of stories into stories by referring to larger events, other literary or art forms, tying in of mythology and symbol, etc.

Not the exclusive domain of literary fiction, these things can be a part of an entertaining and engaging work of commercial fiction, too. I would argue they should be. Do we really want society to be relentlessly dumbed down because we are too busy, lazy or distracted to put in the time, attention and thought to reap these rewards. Do we not believe that quick and shallow forms of entertainment ultimately disable our ability to hold complex ideas in our minds and to indulge in the luxury of deep thought and analysis. Is this a cognitive and social (d)evolution that we welcome? Will it benefit humanity and enrich our lives?

There is no question there are cons to long form fiction. These obviously include the overall time it takes to read a work, the necessity of sustaining our attention if we are able, the degree of immersion into the fictional world in which we have chosen to invest our time. On a more practical level, there is also the cost of editing, production and printing, influencing price. But I would argue that it’s not only worthwhile, but essential to invest in longer fiction.

short fiction versus long: stack of vintage books

Fans of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical Fiction are, of course, more accustomed to the heftier tomes. They understand implicitly that this is the price for the payoff of complex world-building, a critical part of these genres. However, long fiction in every genre can just as easily be fit into busy lifestyles… if readers are willing.

 

Lost Attention Span

The true difficulty, in my opinion, is lost attention span, and the endangered mental ability to allow oneself to become immersed in a fictional world for a sustained period of time. With more people spending more of their time on the internet, flitting from social media to reading blogs and short posts, to consuming film and video, they’ve become accustomed to passively taking in increasingly small bites of superficial or fragmented visual messages. Some of this is okay in its own right. However, the problem with this is twofold. One, of course, is that we are continuously reinforcing the neural pathways for processing this kind of information in this way. And we are incrementally LOSING the ability to sustain attention and hold complex ideas in our heads where they can percolate.

Is Short Fiction causing us to LOSE the ability to sustain attention and hold complex ideas in our heads?

 

short fiction versus long: note by walnut: "use your brain"

The second part of the problem, from my perspective, is that the nature of what we consume influences the ideas we have, and the way we think about them. If everything is dished out in tidy bites that require little to no effort, analysis or synthesis, how will these intellectual functions be nurtured?

Although every demographic age-group since the baby boomers has been progressively affected by changing forms of media, I’m particularly worried about the youngest cohorts who have grown up so utterly immersed in online and largely video media.

With this lost ability comes unknowable and immeasurable changes in society. Less time is spent making connections, pondering deep ideas and building a cultural repertoire of reference material. Furthermore, I wonder if something priceless is lost in the shallowness of their relationship with fictional characters who for generations have helped build “character” by exponentially expanding the lived experience of the avid reader.

All Hope is Not Lost

short fiction versus long: dumpster with books on top, sign on side says "think before you speak. READ before you think."

An interesting contrary trend is emerging in entertainment media, however, that gives me hope. If only those involved in the publishing industry, from creators to consumers, can put it together. I’m referring to the explosion of passionate viewing of series programming on subscription channels such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. I’m gobbling up this content as voraciously as anyone.

What’s interesting about immersion and commitment to serialized storytelling is that, to me, it resembles long fiction more than feature films ever did. Serials provide a luxurious platform for long arc characterization, plenty of flashbacks to build motivation and reveal character, multiple character arcs and interwoven storylines, the exploration of themes that either run through a series or are explored episodically, and complete immersion in fictional worlds.

This trend toward serials has also begun to have an impact on fiction, as more authors are releasing episodic stories, either on platforms made for this, such as WattPad, on websites, or via digital publishing. And if this is what consumers are gravitating towards, is it because they’ve forgotten how to read full length novels?

Today’s long fiction is written more to the appetites of modern consumers as well. They no longer resemble the long-winded and slow-moving tales of George Elliot, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy, wonderful as those works are. Novels have always, after all, come broken down into convenient, bite-size chapters.

Reader Survey: Do You Read Short Fiction or Long?

I’m genuinely curious to know how you feel about this subject, so I’ve created a mini-survey with ten short questions so I can get a sense of it. Please click and respond to the survey and I’ll report back on my findings. Also please comment below to get a discussion going. Thanks!

If you think you have what it takes to read a good, long novel, perhaps you’d like my latest release, Disruption by Design, just out January 1, 2018. It has 422 pages! Instead of feeling guilty about it, I invite you to lose yourself in it’s many complex twists and turns and enjoy the ride!

NVCL/NSWA Writing with Writers Workshop – North Vancouver City Library, February 7, 2018


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NVCL/NSWA Writing with Writers Workshop –

North Vancouver City Library, February 7, 2018 7:00 – 8:30pm

 

I’ll be teaching a writing workshop on Romance writing to the public in February, jointly sponsored by the North Shore City Library and the North Shore Writers’ Association. Perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day. Here’s the promotional blurb:

Romance Writing: The Power of that Dynamic Allure

Presented by Mary Ann Clarke Scott

 

Have you ever wondered how romance fiction differs from other genres? Or what’s going on in a romance novel besides kissing? Have you ever wondered if you could be the next Nora Roberts? Then this workshop is for you.

 

Chatelaine Grand Prize winner and NSWA member, Mary Ann Clarke Scott, will guide us through the writer’s contract with the reader. We’ll examine the roles of the Heroine and Hero in this character dominant genre, and look at the internal emotional character arcs.

 

Bring pen and paper, or laptop, and be prepared to join in, as Mary Ann Clarke Scott, challenges, educates, and inspires the amorous spirit in all of us.

 


 

Come out for an evening of hands-on writing instruction and learn some key facts about writing romance and women’s fiction. “Friends of the Library” serve wine, and it’s a great opportunity to meet me in person, and to buy print copies of my books. I’ll even sign yours if you do!