Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Hiding. Hiding, I say.

When I was a little girl, I had the funniest habit. When I was watching movies or television, I would get reaaaaaallly uncomfortable when characters would show affection for one another. Holding hands, kissing, hugging... SINGING to each other (especially the singing)--All of it would make me cover my eyes and blush with embarrassment. I just didn't understand why they would do all that icky stuff. I had to look away. Hide. Wait in agonizing discomfort for it to end.

It all made watching a program from start to finish very difficult. Am I the only one who did this? (g) I have a theory that it was a combination of my age, shyness, and a lack of understanding when it came to grown-up romantic notions, but more about that later.

Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago when I was reading a young adult novel by a newly discovered author. There I am, reading along...and BAM. I couldn't believe it. I got an actual urge to cover my eyes and look away from the page. The characters' behavior embarrassed me THAT much. It was a definite WTF? moment. I had regressed to when I was seven years old and squirming in my seat due to the general ick factor involved.

People kissing. Ewwwww. People hugging. Ewwww. People making eyes at one another. EWWWWW, DOUBLE ICK, and GRODY TO THE MAX, DUDES.

*Jen covers her eyes*

Naturally, this all took me by surprise (g), and afterward I sat and tried to break it all down. WHY would this happen to me? I've read a lot of stories in my lifetime, and this stuff was definitely PG. Why would I react this way?

Well, let's take a step back to my theory from above -- about why I used to cover my eyes as a child. As I said, I was shy...and young... which means I wasn't exactly capable of grasping grown-up (or even pre-teen) emotions. I didn't understand why someone would want to kiss another person...why they would bat their eyes at them in adoration...hug, hold hands... and don't forget the singing. The thought process behind that notion was WAY beyond my understanding.

So why did this happen to me now? After all, I think I have a pretty good grasp on why people would do these things. (g)

And therein lies the problem. The characters, in my opinion, didn't have legitimate reasons to be feeling the emotions the author was telling me they were feeling. The talk didn't match the walk. Therefore, when they started acting on those emotions, it felt false and made me embarrassed to "watch."

The believability factor was at a pretty all-time low in this book, I'm not going to lie. To have characters feel an immediate attraction and be head over heels the next week isn't something I normally buy. It CAN work... lord knows I bought Bella and Edward in TWILIGHT (g), but usually I like to see a slower progression that allows me to see their feelings develop.. the hesitation, the heady excitement they feel when the other character looks at them, the things they say and do to show how much they care--even when they're reluctant to admit it to themselves. I love all of that stuff, and when an author does it Just Right, there's nothing better than when two characters hit that climatic moment of their first kiss.

When they don't do it right, well...that's when I cover my eyes. Who knew?

Now obviously you can't show the entire progression of every relationship. Readers would grow bored. I have characters who are in love when a book begins, characters who love each other but don't LOVE each other, only to later realize their feelings have developed into something more. I have characters who don't get along but eventually feel an attraction that slowly creeps up on them. It isn't WHERE you begin a relationship... it's how you portray them with the words and actions of your characters. In order to make it believable and organic, you have to do more than just have your characters musing on how hot the other is... how they've never felt such strong feelings for someone.. how they can't lose this person they've known for three days.

It's the words they say, the words they leave unspoken. The glance across the room when they think the other person isn't looking. The little things they do to show they care... all of it adds up to something that feels real. Something that would never make your reader want to turn away or cover their eyes.

Unfortunately, this author failed to make me believe... It was a good lesson.

What about you? Ever had the urge to cover your eyes in discomfort or is it just me? Tell me I'm not the only one. :)


  1. Thank you so much for this post! This happened to me recently and I didn't know what to make of it. There I was, reading along, happy and carefree. Then a love scene pops up and I'm suddenly squirming and uncomfortable. You're totally right--I wasn't buying that the two characters had any real feelings for each other. And that made "watching" them together really, really awkward.

  2. Oh, YES! Great great post- so funny, I have *definitely* felt that urge to look away without ever having quite understood it, and I think you're exactly right. Very perceptive indeed, Miss Jen.

  3. Yes, definitely felt that urge when reading a book. I think you've captured the reasoning, there. I will keep it in mind next time that feeling creeps in while I'm reading.

  4. Jen,
    It's like the movie with the big-name stars with *absolutely no chemistry* acting like theirs is the only love that's ever caused fireworks. I always wonder who in they right mind would spend the money to make a film with the wrong stars kissing each other. I think that's the same effect you're describing. If they don't *click* then we want to look away from the train wreck. ; ) Books can do it wrong too. Sounds like a rewrite was in order...and it's a warning to us all. : )

  5. Kristina,

    YES! Isn't it weird?! Totally took me by surprise. I've rolled my eyes when I didn't buy a love story, but I've never been out right uncomfortable by what I was reading in quite this way. So nice to know I'm not crazy or regressing in some weird way. (g)

  6. Claire,

    Whoot! I didn't know if I was crazy or what. LOL. I actually thought twice about posting, thinking... people are going to think I'm really weird when then they read this. Now it's confirmed that at least five of us are weird. (g) Good to stand together! lol

  7. Jennifer,

    Hear, hear... thing is, it made me question my own work because this is the LAST thing I want to make readers do. Note to self: Keep it real.(g)

  8. Zan Marie,

    Definitely. This book had a lot of issues overall, but trying to force readers to 'feel the love' that wasn't there was definitely at the top of the list. This author needed to take a step back from her book and take a run at it again once she'd gained a bit more perspective. It's such a good reminder to us all that we can't fake it... contrived love is SUCH a letdown. LOL.

  9. Great post! I love mush and romance, but I get the same urge to wince and cover my eyes when it's not "called for." Books, TV, you name it.

    The romance parts of the WIP are going to need some editing, though -- I tend to write the entire progression, not just the savory bits. [g]

  10. Jillybean,

    OH yeah, it's easy to get swept away by a budding relationship when you're at the controls. It's definitely hard to figure out what's essential...and what's just an author playing around and having fun. (g) Fine line, that. :)

  11. Great analysis, Jen, I never would have thought of it that way! All the bad romance I've read in the past few months (for that romance review blog) has been an issue of writing - it was hard to look past that to the characters. Also, another thing many of these stories seemed to do was hit up the romance right away, before we'd even gotten to know the characters as separate people.
    I sure hope I'm learning from this...

  12. Deniz,

    I think romance writers have a rather tough job -- I think there's a higher expectation when it comes to jumping right into the meat of the romance. I do not envy them. That said, Kristen kicks some serious ass when it comes to relationship development -- so there's hope that it can be done. (g) Not sure how I'd fare, tho. LOL.

  13. Yep, I have felt the need to look away ... often followed very closely by the urge to throw the damn book away!

    You make very good points, to keep in mind whatever the relationship it is you write for your characters. Authenticity and believability are indeed the key.

    Very perceptive analysis, Jen!

  14. LOL. This is so true, Jen. I've recently come across this type of relationship faux pas in a book and cringed at the suddenness of the animal attraction between the characters. blech. As with real-life romance, I want a little wooing in my reading, too. Not just between the characters, but for the reader - woo the reader.

  15. Thanks, Rachel! Ah yes, the urge to throw the book was verra strong. I was reading on my Kindle, tho. (bg) "Delete" has become the new *book* *wall* urge. lol

  16. Susan,

    That's just it. If the readers can't feel the attraction/wooing, you completely lose the connection you're trying to create. And maybe that's where the problem really lies -- the inability for an author to step outside of his/her head and translate what they're trying to accomplish on to the page. Maybe they feel it.. .but if their readers can't, you have a huge issue.