Sunday, January 27, 2008

And they all lived...somehow...ever after

by Susan Seyfarth

So I just saw this movie, Once. It's been getting all kinds of good buzz, & if you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. It's about a heartbroken Irish musician whose life is stuck & the woman, an amazing musician in her own right, who gets him unstuck.

I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite like it. The Commitments comes to mind, but only because it's another music movie set in Dublin featuring a cast of more musicians than actors. Once was a lot smaller, more intimate. It was about the way these two lonely, broken people found a way to fit their gifts & their hurts together to make something far larger than the sum of its parts. There was an incandescent chemistry at work, something powerful & special, something beyond the music. It was a visible connection of souls, a meshing of visions, & it was thrilling.

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that while it was completely satisfying, it was also completely unexpected. I was looking for the traditional happy ever after: the boy gets the girl & they ride off into the sunset & make beautiful music together for the rest of their lives. What I got was happy ever after, but with a twist. Nothing worked out the way I thought it would & yet I felt really, really good about it.

It got me thinking about expectations. As romance novelists, we have a contract with our readers: the boy is going to get the girl, there will be a happy ever after. It's why people read romance novels. If we writers violate that contract, the reader is (rightfully) angry, takes out her big black Sharpie & writes our name on her Do Not Buy list. And we'd deserve it.

But is there still room within that contract to surprise? When you know the ending already, where's the tension? Is it in how the hero & heroine overcome insurmountable odds? Is it in leading the reader to expect one sort of happy ending & serving up another? How far can an author stray from the traditional expectations of the romance genre without risking the big black Sharpie?

So tell us: What's your favorite non-traditional romance? Your most beloved anti-hero, your most cherished not-quite-happy ending? Which authors do you come back to again & again because they consistently serve up a fresh take on traditional expectations? Have you ever gotten exactly what you didn't want, only to find it was somehow what you wanted all along?


Aunty Cindy said...

I didn't want the rooster.....

Aunty Cindy said...

...but I got him anyway! Our downunder gals must be recouping from their Oz day celebrations.

YEE HAW! Jet-lag pays off.


Helen said...

Congrats AC why didn't you want him he really is fun.

Susan what a great post I am going to have to think on this one I have read so many books over the years and there have probably been only two that I can think of that I never finished some are just not put downable can't stop till they are finished, some are just stories but I love reading and once I have found an author I like I get all of their books and there are lots of authors that are must haves for me.
Have Fun

p226 said...

Not being a romance reader, I can't really comment on the topic at hand. I'm just popping in to let you guys know that Cassondra and the rest of you guys have inspired me to write. I'm actually doing it. I have no idea what to expect, but I have.... as you guys put it... a WIP.

So expect questions from me in some months about "ok, I wrote something, now what?"

terrio said...

Yay! for AC on the GR and Yay! for p226 for the WIP!! That looks like code.

I thought maybe being up at 3 in the morning would get me a rooster. I should have known better. Ah, I'd be too busy with homework today to entertain him anyway.

I think coming up with a HEA that makes the reader happy but also surprises them is a challenge and a goal. I think Nicholas Sparks has the market cornered on the NO-HEA but people still keep reading.

I haven't read a book where I hated the ending but movies sometimes take me by surprise. I sat through the movie Prime only to yell at the screen at the end. And The Breakup let us down at the end too. Well, it sort of let us down in lots of places. LOL!

Gillian Layne said...

Susan, great post!
Aunt Cindy, wtg on the GR!

p226, hey! Congrats on starting the WIP! And when you finish it up and it sells...we're all expecting signed ARC's. :)

I don't know what author surprises me, but when I was offered inspirational romances for the first time, I was "um, thanks" with no real enthusiasm. Now I recommend several to anyone who will listen. I was so impressed by how effectively the authors can convey both the emotional and physical longing of love without using the traditional love scenes that usually convey these emotions. I think it's such a skill.

Helen said...

Congrats p226 on your wip I will be looking forward to reading it.Your posts are always so good.

Terrio I am with you I don't think I have ever read a book that I didn't like the ending although some books I crave more.thats why I love an epilogue. I always feel close to the characters in a book and like to know what happens in the future that is one of the reasons I like books in a series so as you read a little bit more about characters from other books.
Have Fun

Susan Seyfarth said...

Yay, Aunt Cindy! Way to bring that rooster home! Now what are you going to do with him??

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Helen--

I do that too--find an author I like, then snap up her backlist. I read everything she wrote I can get my hands on like it's an obsession. Then I like to put them all in chronological order & see how her writing has changed since the beginning. It gives me no end of satisfaction to see that even published authors are still growing as writers.

Susan Seyfarth said...


You have a WIP!! How wonderful!! We're so very proud of you for taking the leap & putting it on paper. Now keep going & ask us anything you want!

As for the topic at hand, though, it doesn't have to be about romance novels. All genre fiction has a specific contract with the reader. Like mystery fiction--the reader gets to know who done it. That's the rule. And the killer can't be a character you just introduced in the grand finale we've never seen before. It's got to be somebody we know & yet surprising nonetheless.

I'm looking for authors who consistently serve up a heaping helping of something familiar & expected, & yet somehow fresh every time.

Susan Seyfarth said...


I'll have to break down & pick up some Nicholas Sparks. I've been hearing that about him for years. And I, too, have done my share of shouting at the movie screen.

I haven't seen Prime, but I sneered at the screen all throughout this horrible movie with Diane Lane & John Cusack called Must Love Dogs. It was like somebody who despised romance novels racked their brains for the worst cliches the genre has to offer, then strung them all together without any deference to plot or heart. Yuck.

And good luck with the homework. I remember those days...

Susan Seyfarth said...


You know, I'm not widely read in the inspirational category--my response has been much like yours over the years. Mmmm, thanks but I'll pass. And I know she's FAR from an inspirational author, but I've always been impressed with how Susan Elizabeth Phillips manages to talk God & faith in her books without ever condescending, nor taking away from some smokin' hot love scenes. The Villa, I think it's called, in particular. The one set in Italy, with the actor & the self-help guru? Yeah. Hoo boy. That was a good book. :-)

Joan said...

Two monumental events in one day! AC gets the GR and p226 is going to write!

p226, I am SO proud and excited for you! I know, I know it won't be a romance fiction book (though I suspect you could write a killer one) but I it will be fantastic! And in the dedication you can write "Thanks to the GR" :-)

When you have your first booksigning the Banditas will be there!

Susan, I can't think of any particular author or title that has surprised me. There have been books who took me to the VERY LAST PAGE before I knew the HEA was about sweating bullets!

Anonymous said...

You know, Susan, I hate to say it, but I don't think genre writing lends itself to this kind of surprise. Honestly, I think this is what makes it SO DARN HARD to write romance in a compelling way. Harder still to write category, which has even more rules, and make it work. You must make hero and heroine likeable. You must deliver sexual tension. You must deliver a HEA. Even if readers didn't have the Sharpie, the editors believe firmly in the compact and will not publish as straight romance something that violates these rules.

So, you have the challenge of thinking up a believeable and compelling conflict that makes it appear that the hero and heroine cannot possibly end up together. We know in our hearts that they will, but the compelling part is how you convince us that all is lost. The surprise is when that does feel real, yet the HEA feels real too. So there really was victory snatched from the jaws of death.

Romance is not alone in this--I think you're right, it is part of the trick of genre writing. Take Star Wars, perfect example of a genre movie following all the rules (it matches precisely the stages of the Hero's Journey), where you really believe all is lost. Luke's the only one left, and how in the world can he possibly win? And then he trusts the Force and you BELIEVE it could happen. You knew all along the Rebels would win. But you never knew, up until that very moment, how on earth they could possible do it.

There are genres where you genuinely don't know how they will turn out. YA is a good example. I read a YA about a year ago that looked like it was headed for a HEA, and then the girlfriend died in a horrible accident, the hero's parents got divorced anyway, and the hero spiraled into a horrible depression. They gave you a vague ray of hope at the end, but it was mostly horrible.

I cannot express to you how much I hated this book.

But that's the downside of surprises. Sometimes you like them, sometimes you don't.


terrio said...

Susan - I had to laugh when you said:
I haven't seen Prime, but I sneered at the screen all throughout this horrible movie with Diane Lane & John Cusack called Must Love Dogs. It was like somebody who despised romance novels racked their brains for the worst cliches the genre has to offer, then strung them all together without any deference to plot or heart. Yuck.

That movie is very similar to my own life - down to that first date after a long dry spell when you don't have any *you know whats*. LOL! Except I look nothing like Diane Lane, which really sucks.

And I'm not sure I recommend reading Sparks (I've only seen the movies) unless you want to bawl your eyes out. I hear the writing is superb but why does someone always have to die?!

jo robertson said...

Heheheheheh, AC. You gotta do the jet lag thing more often.

Helen, I'm thinking her dogs might, uh, make dinner of the GH. After all, they've been in the kennel for a while.

Wahoo, p226, we've pulled you over to the dark side. Mawhahahah!

Provocative post, Susan. I read a lot of non-romance books, mystery-suspense, especially. I'm not so committed myself to the HEA, but I know true romance readers had better not be p**&&ed off by leaving it out.

I think JD Robb's series does a splendid job of delivering on the HEA, but still keeping the reader wondering -- is this the book Eve Dallas with her many, many flaws, will lose Rourke and not get her HEA? Nora Roberts balances that beautifully, I think.

And what's with that name anyway, not Rourke, but Eve Dallas??? Sounds like MY grandma chose the name!

jo robertson said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!! I did it again. GR, GR, GR not GH. Ugh, maybe I have jet lag.

Aunty Cindy said...

Let me clarify, I DID want the GR, but I'm so jet lagged and the weather is so icky here that I'm not sure I can properly entertain him. All of us who have spent any time in the Lair know what a picky and demanding lil beastie he can be. :-)

No worries on my doggies consuming him, however. The kennel where I board them spoils those 2 so much that they return home fatter and sassier than ever!

Susan, what a co-inky-dink! The movie Once arrived yesterday as my most current Netflix choice, so I'll be watching it tonight. Will let you know what I think.

I second what Joanie and Kirsten said about romances needing to deliver that HEA. But the true skill of the writer (and enjoyment of this reader) lies in the way they can make it seem there is NO WAY that HEA is gonna happen. Those are the books I close with a contented AHHH!

Just let me add one more WTG, p226!!! Welcome to the wonderful world of sweating blood onto the page/monitor! Er, um, I mean writing! I too will be happy to answer any writing-related questions for you, here in the lair or in private email. FIRE AT WILL! :-)


Aunty Cindy said...

Lemme add that Susan, I totally agree with your assessment of Must Love Dogs. Two words: HATED IT! Ditto on Prime. What a waste of some marvelous acting talent. :-P

Unlike you, Terrio, I did NOT have the patience to stick it out until the end. I hit the off button about 2/3rds through and sent it back to the video store!

I'm also guilty of not finishing books. Bless you, Helen for plowing through all of yours until "The End." I used to do that when I was A LOT YOUNGER, but somewhere in the last century I realized life was too short to read bad books! Hmmm, did I read that on a bumper sticker somewhere?

off to Trader Joe's for some wine for the GR

Christine Wells said...

Congrats, AC! I hope you'll treat him well even is he is unloved at your house. I took an email/internet break over the weekend but now I'm BACK! Bwahahaha!

P226, that is fantastic news that you're writing. Ask questions any time. You're likely to get 20 different answers but you just need to take the advice that works for you. So excited for you!!

Susan, great post, as always. You're right, sometimes, even though you're surprised, it's the right ending. An Australian classic My Brilliant Career was like that. As a romance lover I secretly wanted the boy to get the girl, but if he had, it would have been just any old book. The heroine stubbornly follows her own path and it's right for her character and for the book and the statement the author was trying to make. Gone with the Wind is another of those that I still love and is somehow elevated by not having a HEA.

As for writing unexpected romances I don't know if you can do that in genre romance. What pulls the reader along is the 'how' rather than 'whether' the hero and heroine get together. I suppose the characters and their development really drives the story. I think that's why redemption stories are so compelling--you wonder how on earth these two will get together when the hero is being such an ass. *g* The surprise is in how the resolution occurs.

doglady said...

Congrats, AC on the GR!!! He isn't that hard to entertain. Get him a mango daiquiri, some wine, some chocolate and lock him in a room with the television. He'll be fine!

p226, I don't know whether to offer you my congratulations or my condolences. Writing is the greatest joy of my life and the most frustrating thing I have ever cursed, kicked and sweated through in my life. We'll be here for you and I cannot WAIT to read your work. We definitely need to plan a Bandita and Friends invasion for your book signing. We'll make you look like a rock star!

I loved Nicholas Sparks THE NOTEBOOK, but after that I read Nights in Rhodanthe (sp) and it pissed me off so I haven't read anything of his since.

Real life is tough enough without having to read about it in my spare time! I may feel that way because my HEA got interrupted 14 years ago and I have no desire to relive that, thank you very much.

I do, however, love a book where the author puts the hero and heroine through so much you think there is no way on earth they will ever end of up together. Keep me guessing to the last minute and I will read anything you write. Your own Anna Campbell does that beautifully. She really is a sadist when it comes to her poor heroes and heroines! Keep 'em coming, Anna!

flchen1 said...

Ooh! Congrats, AC! And big congrats, p226, on a WIP! Yay!

Very interesting post, Susan! I think I have to agree with Kirsten and Christine--I'm not sure you can pull off a completely surprise very often or well in romance. As a reader, I'd likely feel totally ripped off and hate the book as a result (and probably not be likely to go to other books by this author)... As Kirsten and Christine said, the surprise is how you make the bleakness seem real and in how you resolve it into a believable HEA.

Sorry! Not sure if that was very helpful!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joan---there's something really satisfying about sweating bullets over the HEA you just KNOW is coming, isn't there? I love those books. Sometimes, I reread them just to see how the author put it all together, now that I know the ending. That's an amazing skill.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Kirsten: Yeah, surprises are like that. If you want to be surprised, you've got to take the good with the bad, right? I guess that's why I'm not a big fan of surprises, & am so taken aback when I actually enjoy one. :-) This could be why I'm such a fan of genre fiction. And I agree--I think when the ending is assured, it's all in HOW the author gets them there.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Terrio: I don't look like Diane Lane, either, which has caused me some consternation over the years. We all have to find love. Why do some of us get to look like Diane Lane & the rest of us have to look :-)

And as for why somebody always has to die, I have NO idea. A great deal of the non-romance-reading world really disparages our genre, but I've heard it said that the only thing differentiating romance novels from more mainstream literary fiction is the HEA. For example, Cold Mountain. Remember that book? Turned into a movie starring Nicole Kidman & Jude Law? I heard somebody argue (very convincingly) that the only reason that book/movie didn't qualify as genre romance was because the guy died at the end. That's it. Otherwise, it was just a nicely written historical. And critics slavered over that one.

Susan Seyfarth said...

JoMama-- Oh, I LOVE the Eve/Rourke tension. It's a big part of the reason I drool over every new release in JD Robb's In Death series. I know the bad guy's gonna get caught, I know Eve's gonna take some hard knocks catching him. But what I don't know is what this case is going to do to Eve & Rourke's relationship. Is it going to push them closer together? Threaten to tear them apart? What will it teach them about themselves, each other, & their relationship? I'm a junkie for that kind of stuff. And when there's a cracker jack plot to hang it on? Mmmmmm.... Makes me happy just thinking about it. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

AC, you're going to LOVE Once! You'll have to watch it ASAP & let me know what you think!

But speaking of Must Love Dogs (not that we should, not for another minute), we just watched another dog movie last night, Year of the Dog. Anybody seen that one yet? It's not a genre movie, but it totally played with the expectation/reward thing Hollywood usually does so predictably. I don't want to give anything away, but every time I thought I knew what kind of movie it was, where to slot it in my head, it shifted gears. I don't know if I exactly enjoyed the ending, but I'm still thinking it over 24 hours later, so it clearly did something right. If anybody out there's seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Susan Seyfarth said...


Welcome back to the lair! I'll have to check out My Brilliant Career. It sounds wonderful. And I wondered if anybody would mention GWTW. It's a classic unhappy ending, & it makes some people insane & other just adore how true it stayed to the characters. What always kills me is the paradox of Scarlett's strength. She's survived due to the ruthless ability to do whatever was necessary. Except bend. She just can't bend, no matter what. Her character goes through so much that should be transformative, but in the end only her circumstances have changed. She's still essentially the same. Which is both troubling & inspiring. Which is also a lot like life. So I'm, as usual, conflicted. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...


So Nicholas Sparks earned the Big Black Sharpie? Was the book badly written or did he violate the contract somehow?

And I agree about our own Anna Campbell. She's a master at the torture & redemption of her characters. Long may she write. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...


No, this is very helpful! As Kirsten (my long suffering critique partner) will tell you, I'm always fiddling with the boundaries of the genre. It (among other reasons) is why I have an embarrassing number of unpublishable books languishing under my bed. My first serious effort opened with the hero driving drunk & having an accident upon which the rest of the plot turned. Can't imagine why nobody liked that one.)

But here's another question for you all: how far afield will you go with a chatacter in terms of likeability? What are the traits and/or actions that are deal breakers, that you just can't tolerate?

Anna Sugden said...

A great post, Susan. You always make us think!

I don't know that there are any surprising endings that come to mind ... but there are a few where I've wondered how the author is going to resolve things in a satisying way ... and 9 times out of 10, they do.

Sadly, there are a number of books which left me dissatisfied - the ending was too pat, too easy. It felt like the author was on dealine or word count and just rushed the end.

I'm with Mark Twain - a great ending will make me buy another book by an author, while a bad ending makes me think twice.

P226 - that's awesome news!! Best of luck with your WIP and if I can be of any help - you know where to find me!

Anne Gracie said...

Susan, I have to say I didn't like the movie "ONCE" at all. I thought the heroine was fabulous but she got a really lousy deal. She was what gave the movie such freshness and zing, I thought. The music, too. But she gave and gave and gave, and was so strong and bright and determined and inspiring -- but she ended up with leftovers while he headed off to an exciting new life. Bah humbug, sez me!
It was one of those movies I itched to rewrite. I don't mind a twist on the HEA, I don't need it to be a romance (she was too good for him anyway ;)) but it needs to be satisfying. And for me, this movie wasn't.

p226 - WTG!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Anna! That's a great quote by Mark Twain. I can't remember who said this one, but it applies, too. "The first page sells this book; the last page sells the next one." Isn't it true? If that ending doesn't satisfy, I'm not ponying up my precious book $$ for the next one.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anne Gracie--

I can totally see your POV on Once. I felt a little like that, too. But the more I pondered it, the more I liked it. It wasn't a romance. There wasn't a boy gets girl thing going on. It was more that, no matter where the hero & heroine were in their respective lives, they were both stuck. She needed to decide what to do with her marriage; he needed to decide what to do with his heartbreak. She gave him the boost he needed to take his music to the next level. (WAsn't that scene in the recording studio AWESOME? Where the technician was all bored, & then something HAPPENED & he sat up & started paying attention?? Gave me the chills.) But she needed to make a decision, too. Was her marriage over? Or was she going to do what it took to make it work? Eventually, what happened between the hero & heroine pushed her to make up her mind. And you're right--he didn't deserve her. But he bought her a piano, & that's something. It lets us know that he recognizes who she was. But that said, I totally get your POV on it. I'm not sure it was a fair bargain at all, either. But I keep thinking & thinking about it, about those characters, & that makes me think the writer did something right.

terrio said...

I'm going to have to go put Once in my Netflix Queue. I don't think I've even heard of it. But I was sold at musician. *g*

Nancy said...

Congrats, AC!

p226, good luck with that wip! The first one is the toughest, FWIW, but once you reach "the end," you will have done something lots of people talk about doing but only a small percentage actually do. Ask us anything, but be prepared to pick and choose among the varied answers you may get!

Terrio, it's too bad your late night (early morning?) didn't snag the GR today, but maybe next time. I don't think AC has had him for a while.

Kirsten, I think you make a good point about genre writing and surprise endings. Twist endings, we have--that not knowing how things will turn out right but trusting that they will.

Wasn't it Mickey Spillane who said, "The first page [or paragraph] sells this book. The last page sells the next one?" So satisfying endings would be critical to continued success. That's why Sparks doesn't do it for me. I like romances--which require HEA--he writes love stories, which almost require, it seems to me, the opposite. The couple can't get together.

Susan, I read mostly genre fiction, so I usually get the HEA. My most recent reading has been nonfiction. Just off the top of my head, Evanovich doesn't usually have endings I can predict (though I'm so bad at predicting that if I can see it coming, a three-year-old could). Probably the biggest twist ending I ever read was at the end of that massive saga known as The Chronicles of Lymond by the late Dorothy Dunnett. Without giving anything away for those who have yet to wade into it, I'll just say I was absolutely, postively certain and sure the curtain had fallen in a heartbreaking way. Only it didn't.

That's an interesting question about deal-breaker character traits. I'll go pretty far with a character as long as I see motivation I can understand. Hurting animals is a full stop for me in any case. Sadism, ditto. Violence against the heroine or anyone else weaker, ditto, unless the hero suffers in a big, soul-tearing, agonizing way for it before being forgiven. Violence against children is a full stop in all circumstances.

A thought-provoking post!

flchen1 said...

Susan, very interesting follow-up question... I agree with Nancy--cruelty to helpless people/animals is difficult to overcome. Anything over the top is hard to like--being too stubborn or arrogant or self-sufficient... but lots of heroes have some of these and are "redeemed" or softened somehow through their relationship with the heroine and then somehow it works. Oh, one I don't think I could stand is utter stupidity ;)

Anna Campbell said...

Cindy, of COURSE you want the rooster. We see through your story!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, P226, watch out. Writing is only for the BRAVE and the TOUGH! ;-) Good luck. Fantastic news that we've coaxed you over to the dark side.

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Christine, I found the ending of My Brilliant Career utterly irritating. It was making an ideological point whereas in fact, I think she would have been better off with Sam N (wouldn't we all?). So many of the Banditas are examples of the fact that you can write and have a fulfilling family life. It doesn't have to be either/or. Speaking of endings, I just finished Warlord, the last of Elizabeth Vaughan's War trilogy. Really enjoyed all three books - they're fantasy romance at its best with some wonderful world building. But the ending of that last book just seemed to take everything up another level. Utterly wonderful. Just goes to show a good ending can really make a reader salivate for the next book! They're really tough to do, that sort of breathtaking finale, but man, they're so worth it when you read one!

Anna Campbell said...

Fedora, who's the sadist? The person who tortures or the one who eggs the torturer on? ;-) Thank you for those lovely words. I love a good big read where you feel like you've been wrung out by the end. I love to think that perhaps my books have had that effect on you. Hmm, perhaps I like to torture my readers as well as my characters! You're right - I am a sadist!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Nancy, you just mentioned the greatest books in the universe, the Lymond Chronicles. There are SOOO many things that happen there that you don't see coming, things you don't want to happen, but of course they are what WOULD happen. And she's made a promise to be honest with us so she puts us through the tornado with those characters. I think she taught me to take risks as a writer - honestly, just one example, Oonagh! Don't get me started on the kids! But those books lived for me in a way very little else ever has. So for me, the risks she took paid off in spades.

Anonymous said...

Suz, great follow up question.

As you know, the drunk-driving thing was a show stopper for me. *g* I'm a pretty tolerant person overall, but I've got a twitch when it comes to drunk drivers. Same for any other acts of selfishness that could hurt a kid. Just not okay with me. Not hero stuff. Perhaps human, and perhaps even forgiveable in a real-life sort of way, but not for a romance hero. Just can't do it.

My other big one, that not everyone agrees with--adultery. I've got no sympathy for it. That book "I don't know how she does it" has the heroine contemplating an affair and I hated her. I don't watch movies or read books that have an adultery premise. Just not interested. I couldn't get into a hero that has an affair. I wouldn't respect him.

(Wow, do I sound harsh? Youch. Sorry.)

Anna Campbell said...

Blogger just ate my post! Susan, I think everyone has a particular set of deal breakers in a story. I despise liars so stories where h/h lie and don't get their comeuppance for it or it's treated as no big deal (yes, I have read those) lose me. And yeah, adultery is another one of the unforgivables for me - but then it's a form of lying, isn't it?

Jill James said...

I read The Notebook after everyone else read it and said it wasn't a romance, and too sad.

It was the most romantic thing I've ever read in my life. The tears were streaming down my face at the end.

I want to be able to write something that would impact people that much.

Caren Crane said...

Jill, I must say of all Nicholas Sparks's books, "The Notebook" was the only one I was okay with. Why? Because, even though *spoiler* the old lady dies, we knew she was going to all along. I mean, people don't miraculously recover from Alzheimer's! All his other books? Schlock, imo.

Susan, Sparks's writing is not terribly brilliant. He is a good writer who had a great book with "The Notebook" and, for some reason, people keep slurping up his other stuff. *shrug*

I love Harlan Coben because his books always surprise you at the end. They twist until the last page. He torments his protagonists unbearably. These poor, poor people! You want so desperately for them to get an HEA. They usually get justice or at least some hopeful resolution, but rarely are thinks all hearts and flowers. I cannot recommend him highly enough. He fulfills his suspense promise completely and brilliantly. A must read - a must buy!

Caren Crane said...

Susan, "Once" was already in the top 10 of my Netflix queue. Can't wait to see it!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Terrio--while you're updating your netflix, go ahead & rent (rerent?) the Committments. It's another Irish music movie that I love every single time I see it.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Nancy--I will have to check out the Chronicles of Lymond. I'm always looking for something to add to my massive TBR pile!

And I agree: a hero who hurts others (except in a battle of equals, of course) isn't very heroic.

Susan Seyfarth said...

flchen1--Oh, lord, the TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine is huge pet peeve of mine! When the entire plot problem could be solved if the heroine just CALLED THE POLICE, it's somehow a less than compelling read, isn't it??

Susan Seyfarth said...


Big ME TOO on the adultery as a no-no. I dislike cheaters, & immediately put down books where the hero/heroine cheats. I struggled through...I think it was called Goodnight Nobody? Jennifer Weiner? Anyway, the entire book, the heroine was contemplating cheating on her husband just because they were at a rough patch in their marriage & this other guy was more exciting. I disliked her just for that & almost didn't finish the book. But I kept going because I was waiting for the a-ha moment where she realized she was being a shallow, selfish person & fell in love with her husband again. Didn't happen. Wasted my time. Bah.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anna--Yeah, it's so hard to really like liars, isn't it? I don't mind a certain moral flexibility (Grosse Pointe Blank, anybody??) but outright liars who don't have to pay? Um, no. Don't care for it.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jill James--

Wow, I am going to HAVE to read the Notebook! Because as much as I love tear jerkers, like you, I would desperately love to write something with the power to stir that kind of intense emotion. *sigh*

Susan Seyfarth said...


Harlen Coben. Okay, now the TBR pile is teetering dangerously next to the bed. It's sure to crush me in the night one of these days. Must read faster...

And you'll have to let me know what you think of Once. It's definitely one of those movies with the power to polarize. You either love it because of it's ambiguous ending, or you hate it because it failed to deliver on a hinted romance. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

MsHellion said...

Loved "Must Love Dogs"--and I didn't think I would. Refused to watch it until it was on video

Hated Prime. That was not a romance. Loathe Nicholas Sparks. The *worst* movie ever touted as a romance comedy: The Break Up with Vince Vauhn. I don't know what it was--but it wasn't romantic, and it wasn't funny.

I did love the romance in Stranger than Fiction--and that wasn't exactly a romance comedy.

I'm not sure I can name any others. I'm sad, I prefer my movies to be ROMANTIC COMEDIES or historical films where it doesn't end right, I'm not pleased. *LOL* I prefer my flicks not to imitate life.

doglady said...

I have to agree with Caren. I loved THE NOTEBOOK, but the rest of NS's stuff is pure schlock and I I cannot STAND it when one of the couple dies. That IS a violation of the contract!! Adultery is another big no no. And we are not going to even talk about drunk driving. The man who killed my husband was sentenced to 8 years and served less than 3. He'd had 5 DUI's before he killed Roger.

I don't like dingbat heroines either. I want a woman with some guts and some brains.

FilmPhan said...

I have a book and a movie that come to mind. The book is "The Time Traveler's Wife." It is a wonderful and totally unconventional love story. The movie that I think of is "Atonement." The movie is a love story. Beautiful. I loved it even with a different type of ending. Wasn't really expecting that. Now I want to read the book.

Susan Seyfarth said...


Yeah, we get enough of real life every day at home. Why pay $9 to sit in the dark for a couple hours to get more of the same? I want some satisfaction. Some neatly-tied-up ends. A little justice-will-prevail. Is that so much to ask??

And I'd heard bad things about The Breakup, too. I haven't seen it, but I was divided. I like Vince Vaugh, dislike Jennifer Aniston. So it was going to a coin flip either way. And then through into the mix that they were going to be fighting the whole time? I tried to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm once, because I'd heard it was smart, literate, funny & self-referential. As it turned out, it was just a bunch of people shouting each other down without listening to anybody else. It had my stomach in knots & I had to turn it off. Ick.

Susan Seyfarth said...


What an outrage that the person responsible for your husband's death was such a known offender. I've never understood how on earth stuff like that slides through our legal system.

And I, too, like a heroine with a little spunk & more brains than hair. I particularly like Nora Roberts for her deft way of making her heroines both tough & vulnerable.

Susan Seyfarth said...


I thought the Time Travelers Wife was an amazing story! It got me all tied up in knots over the idea of fate vs. free will. You know, since the hero has been visiting the heroine since she was a child, did she really ever have a choice about who she'd love? Did you know that Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston bought the film right to that book back when they were married? I don't know what happened to their joint production company, or who ended up with the rights, but wouldn't that be an awesome movie??

And now I'll have to both see & read Atonement. *sigh* One more for the dangerously tall TBR pile. :-)

flchen1 said...

Oh, right, Kirsten and Susan--excellent point. I completely agree--I LOATHE cheaters, especially adulterers. I often avoid the whole chick-lit category (unfairly, I know) just because more of their story-lines seem to flirt with that possibility and it makes me gag.

One other thought I had was if one or the other main character is too stubborn, I find it really annoying. Sometimes they may have good reason, but if it goes on for too long, I just want to slap them and yell, "Just get over yourself!"

Susan Seyfarth said...


LOL on wanting to slap some sense into the ultra stubborn. The urge to do that grabs me in real life as well, which is going to get me into trouble one of these days...