Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fantasies


By Kirsten Scott

My dear readers, I invite you to light some candles, pour a hot bubble bath, grab a spoon and a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and cuddle up with your favorite semi-automatic weapon. (Okay, that last bit was for p226.) Ready? Comfy? Now, I want you to tell me your fantasies.

No, not THOSE fantasies. Goodness, this is a family blog, you know! I mean, those fantasies are important, and they are a crucial part of our genre. But I'm looking for something a little...er...cleaner.

I want to know your favorite romance novel fantasy.

The way I see it, we romance writers are trying to do one thing, and do it well--create a fantasy world into which our readers are longing to dive. We have a few basic elements that stay pretty static. We've got goregous men, strong, independent heroines, and true love.

The rest is really up to you.

We know some of our readers' fantasies. There's the heroine who gets kidnapped by pirates fantasy, the ever-popular Cinderella fantasy, and the ugly duckling who turns into a swan fantasy. My favorite fantasies involve kick-ass heroines who are themselves pirates, bounty hunters, and spies. We write variations on these themes, but the fantasy is the same.

This isn't just true in romance. All genres have their fantasies. I write young adult novels as well as adult romance, and I think it's remarkable how many young adult books center around the same fantasy: the orphaned child who turns out to be the chosen one. Think about it. How many books have you read and loved with this basic theme?

I don't have much stomach for horror and mystery, but I'm sure there's a common fantasy there as well. How about the hard-on-his-luck detective who solves the crime that has eluded all others? I've been seeing a new fantasy lately emerge on tv shows where the nerdy guy becomes an action hero. That's a great one.

We all need fantasies. We need somewhere for our imagination to go when our mundane worlds of desk jobs, cubicles, baby food, diapers, and traffic get to us. We need to go back to our childhoods, when we really believed we might turn out to be the adopted child who was destined to save the world, or the princess in disguise, or the kid who solved the crime.

So tell me...what's your favorite fantasy? Is there a romance novel you can't pass up? The bluestocking who captures the rake's heart? The best friends who realize they've been in love all their lives? The kidnapped woman given to a madman who turns out not to be mad at all but a damn good lover? :-) Tell me your fantasies, gentle readers, and maybe they'll end up in my next book!

41 comments:

Tawny said...

ahhhhh

Tawny said...

But my favorite fantasies ARE those fantasies!! LOLOL, kidding (really!)

My favorite are either the makeover stories (I love the whole discovery of personal power journey) or the finding love with a best friends, which is again, a sort of makeover story in the idea that you're seeing someone totally different than you usually would.

Now... I'm off to take the GR and run in a nice warm, candlelit bubble bath with a glass of wine (for the GR, not me).

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, congratulations, my insomniac friend! The GR will enjoy your place.I imagine it as sort of like a bordello. Lots of velvet and red silk and black lace everywhere and perfume floating through the air. Hmm, that's my Blaze author fantasy. We historical writers, we do our writing in daggy old torn trackpants. But Blaze writers - they only ever set pen to paper when they're wearing silk. Is that right, Tawny?

Hmm, Kirsten, love the mad man fantasy. Um, reminds me of something...

Great blog! I love looking at the basis for our stories. And as you say, often even stories that are completely different on the surface share that underpinning fantasy. I'm a sucker for most of them, actually. I love Beauty and the Beast stories because I love the idea of redemption through love. I love Sleeping Beauty stories because I love the idea of someone awakening to the possibilities in love and life. I love Cinderella stories where the disregarded girl gets to the go to the ball and become a princess. I love Ugly Duckling stories because wouldn't we all love to turn into a swan? I could go on! I love chosen one stories too! Sigh. Clearly, I'm an easy mark when I walk into a bookstore!

Helen said...

I loved the post Kirsten
Congrats Tawny on the GR sounds like he is going to have some fun at your place.
I love a cinderella fantasy when the heroine has had to work hard for what she has and then a dashing hero on a white charger comes in an steals her away to a wonderful life full of love and everything else she needs. I love stories like that I guess most do but that is my favourite and I am also very fond of a story when the hero needs help and the heroine is the one to do it with love of course.
Thanks Kirsten
Have Fun
Helen

Tawny said...

Foanna, were you peeking in my window?? *hiding the sloppy flannel pants and sweatshirt under a silk peignoir*

I'm jealous of the Blaze authors' that live in your fantasy LOL. Right now I'm trying to write to the sound of Call of Duty 4 blaring in the background, a kid nagging at me to let her stay up late and a dog who, from the smell of her, had a really disagreeable dinner ;-)

Hmmm... I definitely want the fantasy life. I'm going to kick the GR out of the bubble bath and take one myself!!

Donna MacMeans said...

Fun post Kirsten - I think my favorite fantasy right now is having the ability to stop time so I can get caught up *g*.

Jane said...

I'm with Anna, I love Cinderella stories where the poor girl gets the prince, duke or earl.

Gillian Layne said...

Way to go, Tawny! No wonder that GR can't strut a straight line, with all the wine he's been sampling :)

I love Beauty and the Beast fantasies as well, and the orphaned child that saves the world (dear, dear Harry).

Deb Marlowe said...

I'm with Tawny, I love a reunion fantasy--best friends or lovers who finally get their HEA.

I think I need the makeover fantasy for myself, although I do love to read them as well!

Christie Kelley said...

I've always enjoyed the Cinderella theme. I also like to see people who have known each other for a long time (not neccessarily best friends) fall in love. (okay, that's a plug for my Feb. release)

And Anna, this historical writer likes old worn out jeans not track pants.

Kirsten said...

Tawny, someday we'll have our rated-R blog and then we can talk about THOSE fantasies. I think they're pretty interesting, actually...from a technical perspective, of course!

Anna, didn't they issue you your fuzzy slippers and silk robe at Nationals along with the pink sale ribbon? Bummer. I was counting on that! Your long list of fantasies is so cute--I can see that you're a romance nut!

Helen, I don't know that I've ever heard the Cinderella fantasy put so well -- she has to work hard for what she has. I like that. I usually focus on how mean everyone is to her, but surely the moral of the story is in the hard work. Thanks!

Donna, didn't you know that when you're on the RB blog, time slows down? It's a fact. Really. Just like those calories you eat standing up not counting.

Kirsten said...

Jane, Cinderella is one of my favorites too! The nice thing is that we can keep believing that it will happen all our lives (well, until we get those pesky husbands).

Gillian, have you read the Golden Compass yet? If not, you must go to the bookstore now! It will help ease the pain of not having a new Harry Potter story to look forward to. I love dear Harry as well! It's fun thinking about all the orphan stories out there that we love.

Deb, I love the reunions and the makeovers too! I loved Christine's book for the dear friends becoming lovers. I haven't read a good makeover story recently--got any to recommend. I keep thinking I'll write a story about a former contestant on "The Swan" (remember that reality show? I shouldn't admit that I watched it, but I did!) who goes back to her hometown so she can blow off the football player from high school who wouldn't give her the time of day. What do you think?

Christie, I'll be waiting for that new release!! Can't wait!! Now, did you have an old friend you thought about when you wrote it? We won't tell the hubby, I promise. ;-)

Joan said...

Tawny, you better put a couple of ankle weights on the GR. I've heard California (north and south) is in for some pretty strong wings. (Just be sure he's not wearing your silk before it hits)

I guess if we don't get to talk about THOSE fantasies, I'd have to say I like it when the strong heroine meets up with a alpha type hero who THINKS he has to be Soooooo strong but comes to find she has strengths that help him be stronger.

They come to rely on each other in overcoming obstacles. She brings out the good things in him and won't let him hide behind the facade anymore. And she comes to realize..it's ok to lean on somebody else.

jo robertson said...

Wahooooo, two days in a row for the Californians! Congrats on the capture, Tawny!

I love the friends-turned-lovers fantasy because there's lots of opportunity for subtext, things meant but not said, felt but not done -- YET. And of course, being friends first allows the characters to be more vulnerable and less guarded.

jo robertson said...

Joan, that's a great description of some of my favorite books! Do you have any titles in mind that you particularly love? It brought to my mind the Johanna Lindsey book about the princess who doesn't know she's a princess, and the prince who comes to bring her back to her kingdom, and she's a total bad-ass because she's been working in a bar, and he's a major alpha male and is horribly scarred by a wolf attack when he was young.

Wow, come to think of it, there's a whole bunch of fantasies in that one. :-)

Kirsten said...

Okay, that second Jo comment actually came from me. It's amazing, we all idolize Jo sooooo much, we try to be her every now and again. ;-)

Kirsten said...

Jo, yes, I absolutely agree. That's why Scandal's Daughter was so wonderful. When characters have a history, they are so much more vulnerable and have so much more to lose. It's a great way to raise the stakes right off the bat.

Trish Milburn said...

I really like so many of the fantasies you mentioned. I think a lot of them really have the same thing in common -- we're rooting for the underdog (Cinderella, the nerdy guy, the orphan). I also like stories where the heroine realizes she has some sort of superpower (like Buffy).

I echo Kirsten on reading The Golden Compass. I'm currently reading The Amber Spyglass, the third in that His Dark Materials trilogy.

Kirsten said...

Excellent point Trish! I wonder if we love to root for the underdog because we all think of ourselves as the underdog? So we associate best with protagonists who are like us?

I'm jealous--I can't wait to get started on book two!

Caren Crane said...

Congrats, Tawny! Though I have a feeling both you and the GR were sorry this morning when you had to crow at the dawn to make your RWA meeting. Har!

Kirsten, as to romance fantasies, there are many I enjoy. I have recently been writing lots of makeovers, though it is not the theme, more like an outward manifestation of inward change in the heroine.

I am currently drawn in my reading to the Cinderella fantasy where the super-rich alpha hero sweeps the heroine into his world (however reluctantly).

My theme seems to be finding a way to be true to oneself, despite obstacles from the outside world. It's hard for the world to let a strong woman be strong. It's also hard for a strong man to let a strong woman be strong. Finding that balance is what I love in a story!

Jennifer Y. said...

Fab post!

I love reading all types of stories, but I have to say I am a sucker for all types of friends-to-lovers stories...the ones where the couple have been best friends for years and find their relationship changing and growing. That is probably my favorite type of story.

I enjoy when characters know each other in some way or have a past with each other...it adds to the relationship, in my opinion.

I also love the fairy tale fantasies...Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Ugly Duckling, etc. I would love to see more Beauty and the Beast-type stories though where the roles are a bit reversed...the female-beast/male-beauty types. In most of the ones I have read it has been the traditional male-beast/female-beauty, but I think a role reversal would work.

I think I am rambling...LOL.

Deb Marlowe said...

Kirsten,

I didn't watch the Swan, but I would definitely read that book! :-) I recently watched What Not to Wear for the first time, is that similar? I can see one of those remade girls going home and dissing the old flame!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I like the stories where the heroine is a strong woman making it on her own (not necessarily happy but making it anyway) and the hero recognizes her strength. I have to admit a weakness for the heroes and heroines are not exactly beautiful people. Friends to lovers is one of my fav fantasies as well.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Kirsten, great theme for today!

My fantasy is the bluestocking whose wit captures the cynical rake's attention. He falls in love with her mind and her honor, then finds his way into her bed. Finally discovering he's an honorable man afterall!

p226 said...

Aldo Nova: Life is just a fantasy, can you live this fantasy life?

What about the fantasy of the hardcore street thug turned around by the right woman?

Heh, if anyone needs some research material on THAT one, drop me a line.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh yeah, P226, that is one of my favs too.

jo robertson said...

Hehehehe, 'cause JoMama would never say "bad-ass." Ya'll gotta stop impersonating me. Remember my children read this blog LOL.

This was a great post, Kirsten, and I really liked the comments. So many fantasies, so many themes, so many books . . .

Actually p226's comment about the street thug turned around by the love of a good woman is so prevalent, not only in books, but in society.

Remember the line from Pretty Woman where the hero rescues her (when he climbs up the fire escape) and she "turns right around and rescues him back"?

Must be something in the xx chromosomes!

p226 said...

Actually p226's comment about the street thug turned around by the love of a good woman is so prevalent, not only in books, but in society.

Thankfully.

Seriously. I think I was probably on the highway to hell.

Kirsten said...

Caren, have you been reading your Harlequin Presents by any chance? I haven't read one in ages but I also loved that rich man sweeping away the heroine fantasy. Still love it, actually...don't tell the hubby, okay? ;-) And I'd love to read your makeover stories! Nothing like a good ugly duckling transformation to make a girl's heart feel good.

Jennifer, I love the idea of a beauty and the beast reversal! Wow. I have to say I honestly never thought of it before, but that would be awesome. Okay, the wheels are definitely turning...

Deb, the Swan was really an example of all that is wrong with Society. So bad it was good. They took tragically ugly women and did extreme makeovers to them, also did working out so they would lose weight, and they kept them away from all mirrors during their "transformation". And then on the day of the show, they would stand in front of a mirror and do the big reveal. They always sobbed. It was really amazing, and I always wondered what those women would do after they had to go home and live with that totally different face, in their old lives. The weirdest part was when they had little kids, and you could see the kids were freaked out by their mom's face changing so completely. Gave me the willies.

Kirsten said...

Dianna, I also love the slightly flawed hero/heroine. I loved Jenny Cruisie's women for being a little rounder than the average Barbie doll, and Mary Balogh's Bedwyn's for all their aristocratic, but not necessarily beautiful, features. I'm blanking on the Bedwyn girl--Freya, I think? Anyway, she was described as "handsome" but not pretty. I loved that.

Suz, I also love the bluestocking story too, I think because I can imagine I would be that tall, awkward, nerdy Regency gal who gets caught with a book in her hand instead of her sampler, and would rather read a novel than attend a ball. And isn't it nice to think that I'd still be able to snag the hero?

p226, the street thug who gets redeemed by his love for the right woman is a GREAT fantasy. Tried that for real in college, actually. Didn't work out for me, but it sure was fun tryin'. ;-)

Jo, you're just so cool, we can't help but try to be you sometimes! Yes, I think you're right that the fantasy isn't just in romance novels, it's everywhere. And I LOVED Pretty Woman. Such an old old story, but so fabulously told. Yum.

flchen1 said...

Congrats, Tawny!!

Hmm... I like lots of the ones already mentioned--the plain, flat-chested, geeky girl (whether contemporary or historical) captures the mind and heart of the hero, someone capable and of excellent character--whether or not that excellent character is initially obvious (and ideally gorgeous and rich, too, but those are less important). And I love the long-time friends who discover that they're the someone they've been looking for this whole time.

I generally like the downtrodden somehow becoming not so, whether it's someone less wealthy, or less attractive, or less popular, or something--and then that getting overcome or becoming not a concern with the development of that person's character and relationship.

Such a fun post!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh yes Kirsten, the Bedwyns are among my favorites of Mary's books, all of them (men and women) had the "Bedwyn Nose" but one. Freya was a spitfire on top of everything else and wasn't known for her pleasant demeanor....LOL

Aunty Cindy said...

Fun post, Kirsten!

And Deb M. I'm with you. I love make-over stories and I'd LOVE to have my very own make-over! Can I start by erasing about 20 years? LOL! Okay, I seriously would NOT want to have to relive those stressful years. I'll just settle for erasing 20 lbs.

The themes I seem to keep exploring in my own stories are voyages of discovery. Usually self-discovery. Many times the characters have been trying to deny something about themselves and they must come to terms with whatever it is. Oh, and of course they get to discover love along the way!

AC

Joan said...

p226.....

I'm so glad your woman got to you in time.

The Banditas would have been berift without our friend.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, I love the Bedwyns as well! Those were exceptional books and I thought Mary Balogh did an wonderful job with Freyja, who was so strong and independent, but still fell like a rock for the right man. A man, btw, who let her be herself. My kind of man! *g*

Kirsten, I have definitely been hitting the Presents lately. I loved them as a teenager and have been sucked right back in! Who doesn't want to be swept away to a castle and kept in complete, hedonistic luxury by a gorgeous, wealthy man who is crazy about you? Oops! Sorry, drool on the keyboard.

P226, Jo was right about the theme in real life. I'm glad your wife "saved" you. I did the same for my husband. My MIL told my mother on our wedding day that she never thought he would marry! He has turned into a great husband and father. He does love a baby! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten and Deb, I saw a bit about The Swan and I couldn't help but feel sorry for those women for wanting so desperately to change themselves. Especially the ones with families who loved them just as they were. I would love to see follow-ups a year or two or five later. Any change that huge has to impact your entire life!

Kirsten said...

flchen, I definitely agree that it's the downtrodden getting their due (and the bad guys/girls getting their due!) that makes the fantasy work--and even better when they get the guy, or whatever success, not by becoming beautiful or cool, but by embracing their geekiness.

AC, I like those voyages of self-discovery as well. That's one of the things I love about YA--there's lots of great stories about kids who realize who they are and learn to appreciate their differences, instead of trying to suppress them and be like everyone else.

Caren, the Presents fantasy definitely has its appeal! I wouldn't turn it down, I can tell you that! And yes, the Swan was very sad, and fascinating. Definitely made me spin some stories in my head about the "what happens next" for those women.

doglady said...

Congrats, Tawny! Lucky GR to be visiting you! Don't let him hog the bathtub! Or the wine! I knew he was a tippler! p226, you were a very lucky guy to find such a great lady. Then again she was lucky to find a guy who was willing to reform! We would have missed you here had you gone to hell.Hmmm, romantic fantasies. I love the Cinderella stories. I love a hero who is horribly broken down and considered irredeemable and a woman who is just too naive and determined to know that. I love a heroine who is not attractive in the least being pursued by the most gorgeous guy around, especially when she refuses to give him the time of day because she thinks him an empty headed ornament!

MsHellion said...

I love bluestocking & rake fantasies. I can't get enough of them--which is why I love Regencies so much (though Georgian settings work extremely well for this too!) I love bluestockings & rakes in contemporary settings too.

My favorite fairy tale (a bit of bluestocking and rake can be found here): beauty and the beast. I can't get enough of this fairy tale. Apparently I love beastly men.

Lately I've realized I like the hero in the action film/book who doesn't die. Like John McClane. He should really get his own romance novel--he'd make an awesome hero.

Jill James said...

My romantic fiction is Beauty and the Beast, where the heroine is in a situation that she thinks is the worst life has to offer and it turns out to really be her heart's desire come true.

Caren Crane said...

Wow, Jill, I hadn't thought about Beauty & the Beast that way. Maybe that is why is appeals so much. Beauty discovers, as so many of us do, that the mountains of laundry, piles of bills, dust bunnies behind the furniture and the ornery "master of the house" are paradise. Ha! *g*