Friday, 1 August 2014

A Comment on Nora Roberts

Anyone who knows me knows that Nora Roberts is my favourite writer. I love her characters, male and female, and thoroughly enjoy the variety of locales and careers depicted.

A female hostage negotiator paired with a man who won the lottery. Or fire chasers in Missoula. Then there was the bush pilot in Alaska and the Sherriff who had never been to the north country.

As a writer I marvel at the research required to make each setting so real, as setting is such a big part of the story. In her most recent books the romance is paired with a serious story, a murder or some kind of mystery.

Right now I’m reading The Collector, and noticed that there are certain similarities with these two main characters, and the main characters in her J.B. Robb series.

The J.D. Robb books are set in the late 2050’s and centre around police detective Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke, a multi-multi millionaire. Eve had a troubled, abusive childhood and is fiercely independent, dedicated to her job, and unsure of personal relationships. Roarke also had a troubled youth, and it has been fun to see their relationship evolve through the thirty plus books.

Roarke’s money has no meaning for Eve. She could care less about clothes, cars…things. If she wants for anything, she’ll get it for herself. Roarke understands her independence and takes pleasure in showering her with gifts, in spite of her objections.

In The Collector the female protagonist is a house sitter. Everything she owns she can cart from location to location in two suitcases. Her permanent address is a friend’s address, where she might stay between jobs. She’s fiercely independent, wary of personal relationships, sounds familiar right? And the male character is rich.

In Chasing Fire the female character is a fire jumper, again, strong and independent, her romantic interest also a fire fighter, but with a monied background.

I don’t mean that these similarities are a deterrent to reading these books, but more, given the number of books Nora Roberts has written, I admire the fact that she can take a proven story plot and make it so very different. Unless you had read, and reread these books as many times as I have, you probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But I read once for pleasure, and maybe twice, but I also read to see how the author writes, to learn from her success.

Take these 4 books, High Noon, Chasing Fire, The Collector and any of the J.D. Robb series.

The female characters are a hostage negotiator, a fire jumper, a house sitter and a police detective.

The men are a lottery winner, a fire jumper and arcade owner, and artist with family money and a self-made multi-millionaire.

The locations are Savannah Georgia; Missoula, Montana; and New York City. The J.D. Robb series is also set in New York.

Two of the stories involve revenge and in another the character was an accidental witness to a murder. Every J.D. Robb book is about murder, and revenge is often the cause.

See what I mean? Very creative. I think I read somewhere that there were only seven (?) original plots, and everything written is based on one of those plots.

I guess I’m no different, now that I think about it. In my three murder stories the female characters have not been part of the crime, but were pulled into the investigation because they were a witness, a consult and a relative. The male characters all detectives. In my stories the murders were a crime of passion, for self protection and finally for gain, by the bad guys.

I picked revenge for my current book.

If you ever wanted to write an ongoing series, I’d recommend you read the J.D. Robb books from beginning to end. I did this and made notes of who the original characters were, when new characters were introduced, and how their relationships changed. In a series there is a certain amount of background information that has to be given for each book to be complete as an independent story. This could be annoying if you were reading the books one after the other. I constantly marvel at the way the author does this without it seeming repetitive.

I admit it; I’m an admirer and a wannabe. I know each book I write is better than the last, what can I say, I’m on a learning curve.

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