Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Quickie: A Romance Amuse-Bouche

For those of you not obsessed with Top Chef (What the hell are you waiting for!!!??? Start watching it! It rocks!), let me first define "amuse-bouche"-- according to Wikipedia (the center of the internet universe and source for all vital information...hee hee!) it is a "single, bite-sized hors d'oeuvre." It should excite the taste buds and give one a sense of the chef's cooking approach. But is it satisfying? Only one bite? That's a tall make it sparkle, make it delicious, make you excited to see and taste more from this chef.

This is exactly the way I approach a "quickie" story. It is sort of a teaser--it should give you a sense of the writer's voice. Is it funny? sexy? wicked? dark? You should finish wanting to read more from the author. It also needs to be satisfying all on its own. A delicious, tasty morsel!

First of all, let me just say that I consider anything less than a full length novel a quick story. Technically, a "quickie" is probably only 5,000-20,000 words in length, but I am also including novella length stories, which are usually 40,000 words or less.

It's not really fair to judge a quickie based on the same criteria as a full length novel. There are certain limitations to writing this type of story. It's a huge challenge for a writer. In 40,000 words or less, you have to squeeze in a believable and satisfying love story and make your characters come alive. Do you have time to pack in a story arc? Character arcs? Probably not. So, your characters better sing, and their love story better pop off the page. Even writing an erotica quickie is more difficult than it seems. Just throwing in a bunch of sex scenes isn't enough. If there is no emotional connection in the story, it doesn't "sing" for me.

If you're successful, you have achieved amuse-bouche nirvana. If you're not, your story will fall flat.

This brings me to one of my all time favorite reads, Emma Holly's The Night Owl, which is part of the Hot Blooded anthology. It is astoundingly good, and every time I re-read it, I am amazed by this story. It has larger than life characters. It is beautifully written. It is incredibly sexy. It has humor, awesome secondary characters, and even a nice hunk of conflict thrown in for good measure. I absolutely adore this damned novella. You totally get Emma Holly's voice from this short story, and it is the perfect amuse-bouche for her upyr (vampire) series. It leaves you curious about the rest of the characters and their history. In my opinion, it is the most successful example of a "quickie" in the romance genre that I have read.

Just wondering if any of you have read a good quickie lately that you found satisfying, delicious, unexpected. Please let me know.



Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I love the comparison! And Top Chef! A quickie is so tough to write because you have to somehow build a world and a relationship in very few words. You're right, it's gotta taste good.
I prefer to view quickies as good old fashioned short stories - like I wrote in high school. They need a beginning, a middle and an end - the same as a full-length work.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I'll bet you love Top Chef. How about Top Chef Masters? Isn't it great?

Do you think a super quickie (5000 words?) still needs a beginning, middle and end? I think those should be more like a snippet of a story, a real amuse-bouche. Just a quick glimpse into someone's life. What do you think?

Lydia Storm said...

Now I'm hungry! I find it impossible to write shorter stories. Hence the 500 page albatross presently hanging around my neck. My hat's off to anyone who can bang out a good full plot and rich characters in 40,000 words or less.

Penny Watson said...

Lydia...please tell me you are joking about the 500 pages!!!!! Yikes! I seem to be pre-programmed to write around 60,000 words.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

A short story is just a taste, but I did write a 5000 word story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Of course, it's more like - a day in the life - It's in The Cougar Anthology by Logical Lust. I wrote it to challenge myself and the story ended up selling. (shrug)
Yeah, I guess I think you can fit a beginning, a middle and an end into 5000 words.
Love Top Chef Masters! I fell in love with Hubert Keller!