Contemporary Romance Writer: Disaster-ed to Death

Most stories have a certain rhythm to them — I’m thinking of something beyond the basic beginning, middle, end structure. Most stories, whether in novel or movie form, have a bad-badder-baddest structure. In other words, as the story progresses, things go from bad to worse to really, really, really bad for the characters.

However — and this is a key point — it’s vital to weave some good things in the midst of all those bad-badder-baddest things. Characters can’t just experience all bad luck, all gloom and doom, all wretchedness and despair. I mean, who wants to read that kind of book or watch that kind of movie?

Case in point: The 10th Kingdom.

My two oldest daughters introduced me to the movie The 10th Kingdom, which was actually a 2000 miniseries. I sat down to watch The 10th Kingdom . . . and watched . . . and watched . . . waiting for the good stuff, i.e. good things to happen to the hero and heroine.

But it never did. Things just went from bad to worse to even worse. . . and never got better. I tried, really I did, to finish the series. And I did–but only by fast-forwarding past all the bad stuff to the long-awaited happily ever after.

The rhythm of The 10th Kingdom was all wrong. There was all disaster and no hope.  Even in real life, when we’re discouraged or defeated, we still long for and look for a reason to hope, to believe there’s more to our story.

In Your Words: Have you ever found a novel so focused on the bad-badder-baddest that you couldn’t finish it? What kind of rhythm do you like in novels when it comes to the reality of struggles and the need for hope?


photo by Chemtec/
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  1. November 15, 2011, 8:19 am   /  Reply

    There definitely has to be a light at the end of the tunnel, something that we see glimpses of along the way. We have to know at least that the character will eventually get to where he/she needs to be, or we’ll never be able to finish.

    I never could finish Wuthering Heights. I don’t even remember why, but the whole story just gave me the creeps.

    • Beth Vogt
      November 15, 2011, 8:29 am   /  Reply

      Confession: I’ve never read Wuthering Heights. Gasp! I know, I know … how did I get through high school and college without reading that classic? I don’t know. But what I know of it, it’s awfully dark, I agree.

  2. November 15, 2011, 8:22 am   /  Reply

    Beth, there does seem to be a focus in stories and movies today on seeing just how bad things can get before the happy-ever-after ending. In some respects this gives a story a predictable aspect. I like seeing some good things happen to characters along the way, instilling them with hope. Otherwise it seems they be tempted to give up before reaching The End.

    • Beth Vogt
      November 15, 2011, 8:30 am   /  Reply

      I don’t mind the pendulum swinging back and forth a bit: good, bad, good, badder, good … but the whole it-never-gets-better scenario? Just doesn’t work for me.

  3. November 15, 2011, 9:59 am   /  Reply

    Although I can’t think of a good example off the top of my head, I’ve had the same experience as you – watching a movie or reading a book and thinking, um, do I ever get to smile? Sometimes it goes bad, badder, baddest, bad-baddest, badder-baddest, baddest-baddest…and on and on and on. I like glimmers of hope and happily ever after throughout the story, in between the bads…once I’ve experienced that happiness with a character, the bads have more impact. If all I ever experience are bads, they get mundane rather than heart-stomping.

    • Beth Vogt
      November 15, 2011, 1:10 pm   /  Reply

      That’s a good test, Melissa: The “do I ever get to smile?” test. I don’t like having my hopes dashed the entire time I read a book. Of course, I don’t want things completely unrealistic either, so it’s all about balance.

  4. November 15, 2011, 1:23 pm   /  Reply

    I agree, Beth. There was a Will Smith movie that came out….powerful, powerful movie….about a man who loses his job and is homeless with his young son. It just kept getting worse, and my head felt like it was gonna explode because I was near tears throughout the ENTIRE movie. I wished the writers would have filtered in some more good to offset the heaviness. As powerful as the overall message was, I was so depressed watching it that it isn’t one I would watch again.

    • Beth Vogt
      November 15, 2011, 1:31 pm   /  Reply

      I have skipped entire movies & books because I could tell they were going to be too depressing …

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