Aug 11 2009
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There are passages in books that are so memorable that you need only say a few descriptive words and the reader knows exactly what book you are talking about. These are scenes that I don’t think could be duplicated by the same author or even other authors without invoking the original.
Here are a few that I can remember.
- She warms his feet.
- She shoots him.
- He drugs her with beetle dust. Twice. And she is stuffed into a trunk.
- The dock, Julie Ann, and the bear.
- She steals his horse and accidentally kills it.
What I think makes these scenes iconic is how intricately they are tied into the storyline. In the first instance, the heroine’s selfless behavior makes her captor rethink his preconcieved viewpoint. In the third instance, the drugging of the heroine is done twice, first by the hero’s servants and then by the hero himself later in the book which was evidence of his crazy addiction to to the heroine.
In the “bear” story, the hero tells the heroine a love story involving a woman named Julie Ann and throughout the story, refers to her as “Julie Ann” from time to time, referencing that important scene. The “horse” book uses the loss of the horse as a catalyst to bring the hero and heroine closer together. The shooting scene referenced in the second example is a peak point in the relationship between the hero and heroine, a kind of point of no return.
Too often you find books filled with scenes that are fillers or bridges from one scene to another. One thing that I found so impressive about Meredith Duran’s Bound by Your Touch is how each scene played an important part in the overall construction of either the plot or the characterization. It was not simply there to provide entertaining dross about the characters.
I was reading a novel the other day and the characters were traveling from a party to the hotel where they would have sex for the very first time. The two characters exchange a bit of banter, but overall the scene had absolutely nothing of value other than to get us from Point A to Point B. I thought at least it could be used to heighten the sexual tension between the couple if the scene had to be included, but alas, it was like hearing the painful beginning of a blind date.
Robin has a great article planned for next week about book length and how the length of the book isn’t as important as what is included in the book.
I think, too, that these memorable scenes lacked kitschiness. One of the things that I really am starting to despise more and more is gimmicky setups for stories whether it be the four governesses from the governess finishing school to the fantasy island partnerswapping adventure story.
Memorable scenes can be contrived. I’ll never forget Nicholas by Elizabeth Amber with the hero and his sentient snake like appendage (which is not the same as his two dicks). And “time traveling urinal” rings many a bell for a reader. Scene stickiness can be based on how horrific you make something for a reader. The snake scene from A Maiden’s Grave by Jeffrey Deaver and the chainsaw/rat scene in American Psycho by Brett Eason Ellis are two that are burned in my memory, much to my dismay.
It’s not possible, given the scope of books being published today, for memorable scenes to exist in each and every book, but certainly that has to be the aim of the author – to make one’s book memorable, even 20 years beyond its original publication? When I go back and read those favorite, memorable scenes, I’m often immediately sucked into the story
I know there are other noteworthy scenes I haven’t mentioned because I simply can’t recall them as I sit here today. Authors Shannon Stacey and Jaci Burton shared with me one of the most memorable scenes in a romance book. It is a shower scene in the Harlequin Blaze, The Sweetest Taboo by Alison Kent. It made an impression on those two and fulfills my criteria for a memorable scene in that it impacts the story arc:
He just compromised the entire reason he’d had this shower built. Solitude, personal safety, peace of mind. He’d never step inside again without thinking of Erin in his arms.
And he wasn’t at all sure he was comfortable with that.
What are some scenes in books that have stuck in your mind? Are all the scenes from books you loved? What makes a memorable scene for you?
- Honor’s Splendor by Julie Garwood
- Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
- Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey (this is one of my all time favorite romances. ALL TIME)
- Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
- Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught