Monday, November 14, 2011

public denouements

The thing that started this whole train of thought is a discussion on ArghInk last week about public denouements in romance novels and movies, which reminded me of a couple of things I've had in my head as possible blog posts.  and since I'm doing this 30-day thing and I've got nothing else, here we go on the third day in a row about romance novels.  Apologies to those of you that don't read them, I know I have a few of you.  But at least I'm letting you know in the first paragraph so you can skip!

As I've said plenty of times before, I'm an introvert, and pretty shy to boot, so the idea of a public declaration of love is like a nightmare to me.  It's taking something that should be private, an intimate moment between two people, and making it into a spectacle.  From my perspective, it feels like cheapening the moment-- going for the laugh, the rim shot, over an honest connection between two people.  It occasionally works when the entire plot has been about the couple's involvement with family and friends (While You were Sleeping), but that is rare, in my opinion.

but the discussion on ArghInk really made me think.  Statistically speaking, introverts are in the minority in our culture.  I haven't seen the numbers in years, but when I took the Meyers-Briggs test a long time ago, it was a fairly marked difference-- something like 70-30 extraverts/introverts.  So most people don't feel that way.  The commenters on that discussion made completely reasonable arguments that a public declaration is a way of ...hmmm, I'm having a hard time summarizing an argument I can't feel.  anyway, the idea was something along the lines of expressing your commitment as part of your involvement in a community.  That a private ending leaves you hanging, because where can it go?  how will they act in the community if there's been no public expression of their commitment?  it becomes self-involved and insignificant.

Which is why it's good to read other people's opinions.  I get that, and can understand a little bit now why people feel that way.  It made me think that maybe the way to do it (if I were writing a romance novel) is a private declaration of love, followed by some kind of public acknowledgement-- a wedding, of course, being the classic.  And, as one commenter pointed out, it works differently for different people.  A shy heroine wouldn't want a public scene, but for some character types, the public scene works perfectly.

It helps me understand why so many authors go for the big, comic, public ending, which I hate, but most other people seem to love.  The example used was the scene at the end of Heaven, Texas.  The hero, a gorgeous celebrity football player who has to fend off women all the time, has used his "Football Quiz" for years as a way to weed out women he isn't serious about.  At the end of the book, half the town shows up at the side of the road where the hero has chased down the heroine as she is fleeing town (and him), and there is a big raucous scene as he gives her the quiz, proposes, etc.  I hated it.  The whole idea of the football quiz was insulting and sexist, and the big public scene just felt humiliating and embarrassing to me.  I would never have been able to forgive the guy for that.

But reading everybody else's take on it, I found that I could finally understand why some people love that scene.  Some people don't mind being the center of attention in a crowd; there are even people who crave it.  For someone who is truly extroverted, a private declaration of love would be pointless, because why would it count if it's just the two of you and no witnesses?  It's like it didn't happen.  In the Heaven example, the quiz functioned as a way for the hero to say publicly that he was no longer judging women by the same standards.  And the public humiliation-- if you're truly extroverted, maybe any kind of attention is better than no attention at all.  I don't mind making a fool out of myself if it entertains people??? I don't know, I'm just trying to imagine how this feels.

another thing the ArghInk discussion shot down is my thought that this obsession with public denouements (because they seem to be at the end of every contemporary these days) is that it has to do with the Facebook generation.  My daughter and her friends used to have a saying that if it isn't on Facebook, it didn't happen.  (Now that all their moms are on Facebook, they have probably moved on to something else.)  I thought maybe "these kids" are so used to their lives being public fodder that they no longer see the point in anything being private.  But the discussion on ArghInk spanned generations, so that theory is out.

And.... you are thinking, and quite reasonably so.... why, if I am so introverted, to I post all this stuff in a publicly accessible blog?  and it's an excellent question.  But there are certain fairly huge parts of my life that I never, ever post about.  And I don't promote my blog, other than having the link in my name when I comment elsewhere.  I get discouraged when my pageviews drop really low, but generally speaking, having about 10-20 regular readers is perfect for me.  That's as many as I want.  I tried having AB3 on a public RSS feed about a year ago, and hated it.  It felt like I was out there for the world to see, since the feed was on a blog that probably had at least dozens and maybe hundreds of readers a day.

Ha.  when I sat down, this was going to end with a book review, but it's too long now and I don't have any more time.  I guess maybe this will run over into yet another day.


  1. Oh, I am SO with you. I'm an introvert and I just don't get it. PDAs beyond hand-holding with the hubs are completely out for me. I would have killed the man who proposed in public, and I agree that in movies/books, it cheapens the experience for me. My sister, BIL, and I had a discussion about this recently. They're both extroverts and they both said they, "like the audience." They felt just as confused by my refusal of it as I was by their need for it. Weird. I guess it's kind of like labor pains. Unless you've experienced it...

  2. yes, I agree! It's hard to understand how the other side thinks on this one. It was an interesting discussion on ArghInk, you should check it out.

  3. I did. :)
    (I lurk many places.)

  4. I mostly lurk there, too. I've been brave enough to comment once or twice, but rarely. She replied to one of my comments once, which is exactly what I was talking about in (yesterday's?) post about how it freaks me out when one of my heroes actually notice something I said.