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Category Archives: Shakespeare

Brevity is the Soul

Brevity is the Soul

Of all the genres of novels I’ve edited, I most enjoy Westerns and mysteries, but the one in which I’ve the most experience is romance. Therefore, a person might be forgiven for thinking I might be able to easily incorporate romantic scenes into my own stories.

No. No, not without much cursing and gnashing of teeth.

And when one of my alpha readers squinches her eyes and purses her mouth and shakes her head — despite her best efforts at remaining courteously noncommittal — I know I’ve failed.

(spoiler warning for those who have not yet read Dragon’s Rook)

There is a reunion scene in Dragon’s Bane in which a couple meets again after he thought she had died. Each being of a reticent nature and possessing a painful past, they have never declared themselves, so the scene required the showing of deep affection but also deep restraint:

He embraced her, and through the fabric he felt the ridged scars on her back. She turned her face into the hollow of his shoulder.

Nay, lass, do not hide.

If you knew the truth

He drew a deep breath. What can you say, Maggie Finney, to change my mind?

She grabbed handfuls of his tunic, pressing her fists against his lower back.

In earlier drafts, the pair talked about what happened after her “death”, and of the events that brought him back to the outlaw camp to find her grave, but it was boring, anticlimactic, cliched, and lacked the trueness I sought.

Several paragraphs were rewritten and rearranged and finally cut until only this one remains:

Maggie had fallen asleep standing up. Kieran guided her to the ground. She slumped against him and he eased her down, grabbed the blanket, then lay on his side, pulling her to him with an arm around her waist. She sighed. He tucked his knees behind hers, felt her heartbeat through her back, smelled the warmth of her neck. He had neither the wherewithal nor the desire to move. No matter the roof over his head, this was home.

It says everything I wanted to say, and in far fewer words than were written in effort to achieve it. Sometimes I need to blurp hundreds, maybe even thousands, of words onto the page before I know which ones I don’t need.

Brevity, as the bard said, is the soul of wit. Sometimes, brevity is also the soul of an entire scene.

 

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Shakespeare, Modern Romance Novels, and a Rant

MuchAdo

“We are the only love gods!”

I kept hearing this line in Denzel Washington‘s voice, and couldn’t recall why and where and when, then it hit me: He’s Don Pedro in Kenneth Branagh‘s version of Much Ado About Nothing. *

What does that have to do with anything? Well, it happened to wander through my head after I posted this on Facebook:

Just finished proofing a romance novel with naughty bits. Those bits could have been reduced from pages to paragraphs, or been excised altogether, and the story would have been better for it.

I have said many times I am not the audience nor the editor for romance novels. And yet in which genre do I have the most editing experience?

Yep, you guessed it.

Perhaps my canted eye — that distrust and dislike of the common romance novel — makes me a good choice to edit such books, because I am not enamored of them. Everything — depth of character, depth of relationship, dialogue, plausibility, etc. — is scrutinized. Perhaps more than if the books were in a genre I enjoyed.

But, please, SOMEbody, let me edit more Westerns or mysteries or speculative fiction. I beg you.

Yes, I was a bit cantankerous at the time, and further explained my mood thus:

Every once in a while, the curmudgeonly editor has to have his say. He blows off a little steam then gets back to work.

The novel that sent me down the editing path was a Western, and I think there may have been romance somewhere in the plot. In my own novels there may be characters who are in love, but my tales aren’t much akin to modern romance novels. My mom used to read romances written in early decades of the 20th century, and I’m a Jane Austen fan, so I’m not against love stories.

However, many of the romance novels I’ve edited/critiqued/proofed have seemed to exist mainly as catalogs of physicality. **

Y’know, I don’t care if I’m the odd man out. I don’t care if I’m called a prude, old-fashioned, or whatever. I really am not interested in reading that stuff. Shakespeare is full of bawdy puns and ribald jokes, but at least there’s wit. Chemistry is great, but give me romance with more depth than hormones.

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Feel free to disagree, but please keep comments respectful, on topic, and clean. Many thanks.

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* I like this version slightly more than Joss Whedon‘s update of it: Much Ado About Nothing. However, both versions are great fun, and are excellent renditions of the Bard’s work. Michael Keaton edges out Nathan Fillion in their different portrayals of Dogberry the idiot sheriff, but both are comical. (Read more about the play here.)

On a side note, my favorite Hamlet is Mel Gibson‘s portrayal in the Franco Zeffirelli film, followed by Ethan Hawk’s and Kenneth Branagh’s portrayals.

** “Physicality” — in other words, the porn-y stuff that now comes standard in the average romance novel these days. And have the authors actually tried some of the stuff they make their characters do? From folks in the know — and by that I mean folks who’ve tried it and lived to tell — sex in the shower is an emergency room visit waiting to happen. Or, at the very least, a series of visits to the chiropractor. 

Other places that the adventurous advise against due to logistical and physical issues: the bathtub, the car, the couch, the alley, the public restroom, and the list goes on. Pretty much, folks, keep it horizontal and in the bedroom. (from an online blog post or author interview or panel discussion that I can no longer find, or I’d provide a link)

But, as the consolation prize, links regarding the pervy side of Game of Thrones, which is by no means romance but does include similar, uh, physicality:
The naked hypocrisy of Game Of Thrones’ nudity
Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture
Dehumanizing Actors for Our Entertainment
a faith-based commentary at Speculative Faith regarding the TV show

 

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Romeo, Romeo

RomeoJulietLooking for contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare’s work?

You just may find your fix in the 2014 version of Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad. It’s muscular and creative, and it plays up the humor.

The balcony scene could easily have been set in two separate bedrooms and featured the characters looking at each other through their windows while speaking on the telephone and waiting for the other person to hang up first.

Christian Camargo gives one of the best portrayals of Mercutio I’ve seen, delivering the Queen Mab speech in a comprehensible, conversational fashion.

However, the play can be antic at times, speeding through the scenes as if afraid to sit still, and the actors often deliver their lines by rapid-fire sing-song rote that often steals the power, playfulness, or pathos of the words.

When the play slows to allow the moments to play out more naturally, less frantically, that’s when it shines.

Still, though I like many of the lines and scenes, this remains one of my least favorite Shakespeare works.

 

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