Sunday, October 18, 2009

For God's sake, I'm a kitchen witch. I can't do magic....

I'm having trouble getting over the sexy menace in Jacqueline's dialogue (I like it so much):


"The same," he intoned with an elegant bow. "Now we shall see who has summoned whom."

She gasped. "What do you want?"

By filling in the missing material, the dialogue suddenly makes sense.

"Devil" identifies a figure the reader can "see" -- and "What do you want?" characterizes the brash and self-confident woman, while the "gasp" shows she isn't as poised as she wants the Devil to think she is. So there's characterization of both in the dialogue, and the plot is advanced by the demand "what do you want?" The story is left hanging by "what do you want" as we try to assess whether she'll give it, fake it, try to trick the Devil, or scorch him with prayer to a higher authority.

How about "scorch him with a prayer to a higher authority"?
Which higher authority?

What would a white witch, or a Wiccan, or a feminist pagan do? I've got six in-depth questionnaires on my desktop, but nevertheless, I had not considered what my heroine might do if confronted with a hostile devil, or someone who might or might not be a devil. After all, unless it is Bedazzled, why would the Devil need a car?

Suppose my heroine isn't a convinced and committed pagan. When she social networks, she talks of praying to The Goddess.  She writes "Blessed Be" or "Namaste" at the end of her emails. But, might she throw out a panicked "For God's sake...." to hedge her bets?

"Hey!" a bystander shouted. "What's going...?"

The Devil hissed something. The bystander froze.
"Get in the car, or I'll be forced to harm anyone else who sees you," the Devil gritted.
(I suspect that I'll need another action here... but would it interfere with the pace of the abduction if my heroine protests the harm to the bystander, and is told that she can undo the freezing spell?)

"For God's sake, I'm a kitchen witch. I can't do magic."

"I can. Get in the car."

This leads me to another puzzler. How badly behaved can a hero be and still be sympathetic as a hero yet convincing as a "devil"?

Obviously it is okay for an alien devil to kidnap a heroine or two as long as he means to make an honest woman of her. (Grinning at the sexism of that cliché!) He cannot rip her bodice, although he can want very much to do so.  He can accidentally damage her, but he cannot deliberately hurt her. He can kill lesser beings who attack him first. But he cannot permanently petrify Good Samaritans simply because they are inconvenient.

Or can he?


  1. Writing students should watch as Rowena demonstrates the inside of a writer's mind at work.

    The questions she asks at the end of this post are not questions of characterization but rather of marketability.

    I need to write about markets and taste.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  2. Recently (as I mentioned on Heather's blog) a study was published that suggested more than 50% of romance readers want more sex in the novels they read.

    Also, from my own observations and email exchanges with my Dorchester editor, marketability standards are changing. Some of the traditional "No-nos" are now acceptable.