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.