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What World Cup Soccer Broadcast and Paranormal Romance Authors Have in...

I watched the World Cup Soccer Championship game with Ned on Sunday. Ned and I are soccer neophytes. We know virtually nothing about the game, but we wanted to be part of the 1 billion who watched. The problem is that not one of the announcers took the opportunity to explain much about the game. We didn’t know what effect the yellow card had. We didn’t know what offsides meant. We didn’t know why penalties were called. We didn’t understand the timing thing. World Cup is an opportunity to sell those who don’t ordinarily watch the sport on the sport but the broadcasters at ABC did nothing to enhance the viewing and Ned and I spent most of our time asking each other what was going on and not being very engaged.

I feel that way about some romance authors who are putting out paranormal books. It’s as if the world building is an afterthought. They just plop down a vampire or a werewolf into a normal setting (either modern or historical) without much other explanation as to how it is normal for those creatures to exist in this alternative reality story. They allow the story to play on, much like the soccer match without explanation for why the vampire exists, how the vampire exists, how many vampires exist, whether there are other paranormal creatures, whether vampires co exist with humans or have a parallel existence. How long have they existed and so on.

Kate Elliott has a good phrase for this: “fully realized.” Has the author fully realized her world? Ms. Elliott writes that authors must ask themselves the right questions. This, I interpret to mean, ask the questions the reader is going to ask when reading the book and then answer them. Otherwise, the reader will assume you are writing a half assed story featuring a paranormal creature for the sole purpose of selling to the hot market, not because you are actually writing a paranormal. When you are inserting a character that is non human, the rules of the existence must be defined else the character is simply human and so is the world you’ve created.

So many times I see these “crossover” authors plonk down a vampire as if he is just another character. To borrow another Kate Elliott phrase, these books are “suburban mindsets in fancy clothing” or in the case of TM and KS, they are historical mindsets in vampire clothing. Because the world is undefined and nebulous, the whole story lacks substance. Without actually providing an accurate backdrop, a fully realized world, one that matches the idea of the story, there is nothing paranormal about the book.

Ned and I needed much more detail during the WCS match to engage us. Without a full understanding of how everything worked, it was hard to stay interested. Similarly, in paranormal romances, I need a lot more explanation for the hows, whys, and wherefores of the paranormal world. Just having one character be non human doesn’t make the story a paranormal. It just makes it a regular old romance with trite themes and boring characters, one of which just happens to not be human.

To me JR Ward, Lynn Viehl, and Kresley Cole have fully realized fantasy worlds. Loretta Chase, Julia Quinn, and Jo Beverly have fully realized historical settings. Theresa Medeiros and Kathryn Smith do not have fully realized fantasy worlds. (Probably the worst offender of this “fully realized” theory was not a paranormal but Mary Jo Putney’s China Bride. *shudder*) Who are some authors/books that get it right and the others who are posers?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

9 Comments

  1. Tilly Greene
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 09:22:37

    My cutie is a footie fan from the cradle, and quite literally a World Cup celebration baby, and so I’ve made an effort to learn a few bits and pieces – including no talking when you can see the goal posts. So, yes, even while on a break in the middle of no where we hunted out places to watch the games. No matter who we were with it was agreed by all – the commentators sucked!

    Turning to “fully realized” books…Stephanie Laurens does well for me in the historical arena, I adore her Cynster series but the last couple have been stretching it all a bit thinly. Patricia Grasso also writes a great historical setting. Morgan Hawke also did well setting up the world in the ‘Interstellar…’ series, although some of the plots were not my thing, they were a great read. But for me, I think Annie Windsor has a beautiful way with words and setting up a world. Her ‘Arda’ series is a great futuristic world and then she changesd it up and went fantasy/alternative history with her Arthuresque trilogy ‘Legacy of Prator’.

  2. Tara Marie
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 10:18:39

    To me JR Ward, Lynn Viehl, and Kresley Cole have fully realized fantasy worlds. Loretta Chase, Julia Quinn, and Jo Beverly have fully realized historical settings.

    This probably explains why I faithfully read all of these authors. Mary Jo Putney used to be a favorite, I agree China Bride was a wallbanger and I didn’t particularly like her paranormal I read last year.

    Get it right: Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas (though I don’t always like her characters), Susan Carroll, Madeline Hunter (medievals), Marsha Canham.

    Posers: Both my posers used to get it right, but no more: Susan Johnson and Joan Wolf, well, Joan Wolf may still get it right, but her books are boring.

  3. Jane
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 10:37:51

    [quote comment="2050"]Stephanie Laurens . . . Patricia Grasso . . .Morgan Hawke . . . .Annie Windsor . . .[/quote]

    I am curious about the Annie Windors stories. Is there romance in these. I have a couple of Grasso books. I think she writes the Tarot card series? And Morgan Hawke wrote the four dicked story, right? hmmm. may have to try her out.

    [quote comment="2054"] Mary Jo Putney used to be a favorite,

    Get it right: Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas (though I don’t always like her characters), Susan Carroll, Madeline Hunter (medievals), Marsha Canham.

    Posers: Susan Johnson and Joan Wolf.[/quote]

    MJP has written some stellar historicals, but I hated her contemporaries and haven’t liked anything of hers since about 2000. Loved MH’s medievals and have liked her increasingly less since her move to regencies.

    Susan Johnson and Joan Wolf got it right but have turned into abysmal writers. It’s as if they are totally bored with writing these days and are doing it by rote.

  4. Keishon
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 11:35:12

    Diana Norman gets it’ right – oh, wait are we talking only romance novels? Laura Kinsale gets it “right” for me each and every time. Maybe I’m just in love with her characters but her settings are wonderfullly and fully realized sez I (sound like sybil there for a moment). Posers Julie Garwood *shutter*

  5. Nonny
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 11:47:58

    I don’t know about the others, but Lynn’s first published books were science fiction novels under a different name. Both science fiction and fantasy need a lot of worldbuilding, or you’re not going to get anywhere. Having prior experience with it, I imagine, would’ve made it easier.

    Even above and beyond that, I’d wonder how many of the mentioned authors who get it right read fantasy, instead of just romance or other genres that don’t require worldbuilding.

  6. Keishon
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 12:13:04

    I read fantasy novels like Catherine Asaro. So, I don’t just read romance novels. Julie Garwood is one of the worst offenders as most of her settings are paper thin and her characters could be from the future.

  7. Tilly Greene
    Jul 10, 2006 @ 18:37:51

    I am curious about the Annie Windors stories. Is there romance in these.

    Absolutely! She is writes steam with great emotion…she’s at http://www.anniewindsor.com

    I have a couple of Grasso books. I think she writes the Tarot card series?

    Hmmm, I haven’t seen any Tarot books. Patricia Grasso writes somewhat heated romances, her first ones caught and pulled me right in. She stopped for a while [maybe 2-3 years] and is back at it now.

    And Morgan Hawke wrote the four dicked story, right? hmmm. may have to try her out.

    Yup. Like I said, some of the Interstellar series was a bit much for me but I really liked her take on Captain Hook and Tinkerbelle, what a laugh and almost too hot to hold. I found her werewolf tale back on Literotica and kept looking for her after that…I have to be honest and say I’m not fond of everything she writes but I’ll give it a whirl eventually :-)

  8. alau
    Jul 11, 2006 @ 15:01:43

    I know I might get jumped all over for this, but the reason why announcers didn’t explain stuff was because they had been getting so much flack from soccer fans for making stupid baseball / basketball analogies in previous games (and some of them were really dumb). But anyways the commentators explained how things worked in throughout many of the previous 32 games of the World Cup that were played in the past month. (I didn’t know how it was played either at the beginning of this tournament). I mean, it’s the equivalent of asking commentators during the Superbowl to explain the meaning of each play, or trying to explain what a homerun is during the World Series.

    Even so, I thought the American announcers stunk. Most of the time, I watched it on Univision, the Spanish channel, and no, I don’t speak a lick Spanish but the emotions and excitement of the commentators carried it through. My favorite was during one of the Australian games in which the panish commentary was peppered with “Soccer-roos! Soccer-roos!” (as in kangaroos because that’s what Aussie players are called I suppose).

  9. Jane
    Jul 11, 2006 @ 15:11:12

    [quote comment="2114"]But anyways the commentators explained how things worked in throughout many of the previous 32 games of the World Cup that were played in the past month. (I didn’t know how it was played either at the beginning of this tournament). I mean, it’s the equivalent of asking commentators during the Superbowl to explain the meaning of each play, or trying to explain what a homerun is during the World Series.[/quote]

    The problem is I think many people didn’t watch the previous 32 games, particularly in the US. I know what a goal is just like I know what a home run is, but I may not know what offsides is in football unless an announcer explained it to me, played a highlight, had John Madden draw circles around the guy who did it.

    They never even commented on how Zidane’s ejection affected the latter part of the match or how Italy had terrible penalty kickers and what a surprise it was that they made all 5 or how Zidane could have been one of the penalty kickers instead of the guy who missed. I read all of those things in articles after the match.

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