Nathan Bransford recently revisited one of his older posts on themes in queries
"So you know how you spent four or more years in college learning about what books mean and how to analyze novels for hidden meaning, and where you learned that the best books are the ones with subtext upon which you can write a twenty page paper on the use of metaphor as an elucidation of the philosophical constructs of the protagonist's society?
Yeah. Forget all that."
I kept telling my English teachers in high school that Elie Wiesel's Night
doesn't have as much symbology as they thought it did, but they never believed me. Here's my favorite part:
"...so don't tell me what your novel is about. Tell me what happens. And hopefully you've written a novel in which things actually do happen. Because I like novels where things happen. Happening is good."
In the past I have had pseudo-writer friends who think themselves quite literary and want to write stories about the struggles of humankind. And when I ask them about what happens in their book, they talk about the pain the MC endures, the major themes, and describes the plot in very, very vague terms. Which means they don't really describe the plot at all.
Not that themes are inherently bad. However, if the theme of the story isforbidden love, then the reader will pick up on itif you describe the story as "two star-crossed lovers fight to be together." This is a straight-forward explaination of what actually happens.
Over at Dear Author, today there's a special guest post on cultural appropriation
. It's a really wonderful discussion on the intersection of culture, white privilege, and romance novels. I highly recommend reading the entire thing.
"Romance suffers from the same problem SF/F does. It’s very, very white. It would also seem that readers are far more okay with reading about vampires and werewolves and demons and angels than characters of colour. That is not okay. Think about what this means for a second. And imagine, if you will, being erased in stories or always in the background, a victim, evil, maybe the best friend or sidekick. . .but never the hero of your own story. This is what appropriation does to people of colour."
Unfortunately, I knew before clicking the link that there would be a ridiculous amount of racefail going down in the comments. I responded to a few in the thread, but here are some extra special gems:
Lisa: "What an annoying post. The only point of it that I can see is to try to make me feel guilty because I like to to read about white people in love. I’m sorry but I don’t have the energy to read with all my great sense of “white guilt” for the racial sins of the past, present and future."
You don't have the energy to read about your white privilege? If only nonwhites didn't have to live
with your racism!
Amber: "And as a “white” person living in rural America, most of them DON’T apply to me."
Caligi: "My point is that these “white” romances don’t even represent white culture all that well either. I don’t totally accept the term “white privilege.” You think white people are really that different? White people are as diverse a group as Asians and black Americans. Some of us play the game and succeed in politics or business, and the rest of us are shut out."
The majority of the comments were insightful. However, there was at least one occasion when a person of color made a statement about racism and white privilege and was informed that they were off-topic
There are days like today where I just want to walk away from other people's ignorance. Unfortunately, there are people who don't have the option
to simply walk away.