Emotional tension is one of the biggest factors that will keep me reading a story or watching a movie, even if it’s not quite my cup of tea. Last night I watched Identity Theft. I’m not much of a slapstick comedy kind of girl. So the movie was a stretch for me, however, it was the emotional impact and echoes of pain I saw rippling through the two main characters in that movie that kept me watching and, in the end, gave me the satisfaction I needed. This got me thinking about why I love certain books I’ve read recently. Since I’m a romance writer, I don’t love heavy, overly-dramatic sagas. And I don’t love tragedy for the sake of tragedy. But I love story and emotion when it’s authentic and well executed. So today in CRAFT MATTERS, we’ll look at Girl With Guitar by Caisey Quinn, a new adult romance that’s a great example of a book where an author who uses emotional impact and emotional echoes to take the reader on a journey worth traveling. In any good story, the emotion–as in real life–ebbs and flows; it has its highs and lows. What I’m finding, though, is that the most effective use of emotion is those little echoes throughout the story that remind me of a character’s wound or pain.
Girl With Guitar is one of my favorite recent reads for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost is the awesome emotional journey Caisey Quinn took me on as a reader. Throughout the book, I worried and laughed and cried and fell in love and bristled and had my heart broken and forgave and kept on loving. And I knew, just knew, even though this was a romance that these two main characters would never get it together enough to be together. How is that even possible? This is a romance for Pete’s sake. Of course the hero and the heroine get together. Hello? But, no. There were several times I was convinced this wouldn’t work out. This is the hallmark of a great emotional story-teller–a great romance writer. I can certainly see why Caisey Quinn is one of Amazon’s bestselling authors. She gets a lot right–the glimpse into the country music industry, the characterization, the hot sexual tension, and the emotion.
The craft area I’m going to focus on today is the emotional echoes. Quinn is a master at emotional authenticity, but she keeps reminding the reader of those big emotional moments with echoes of the moment afterwards. Here are two good examples.
In the opening scene of the book, Kiley Ryans is talking to the temporary marker at her dad’s grave. She’s been kicked out of the house by her step-mom because her step-mom’s boyfriend paid too much attention to her. She’s got no family and no money. And in this opening scene, we see her vow to her dead Daddy that she’s going to make it in Nashville and she’s going to make enough money to buy him a real headstone. This is a highly charged emotional scene. Along the way, we find out how much she loved her father and how influential he was in her life and to her music.
So in Chapter Eight when Kiley performs for the first time in a paid venue, she’s finally booed off stage–despite a great performance–because she’s trying to buy time for Trace Corbin, the country star everyone paid the big bucks to come see, but who’s late. Trace never shows. When he does finally appear on the bus at three in the morning, needless to say, Kiley and Trace have a big confrontation. It’s emotional in and of itself; however, Quinn uses an emotional echo from earlier–Kiley’s dad’s death–to give the scene the extra punch and emotional twist it needs to end the chapter.
In this scene, Kiley and Trace have been fighting. He’s struggling with a drinking problem and she’s called him on the carpet for pissing away his talent and his career and for ruining her chance to make it big as a country music artist. She’s just told him that she’s glad she’s not a fan of his because there’s no one else he treats worse than her or his manager than his fans or his band mates, who choose to ride behind them in a Winnebago instead of sharing a bus with him.
“Really waitress, that the best you got? If I’m so pathetic, why don’t you just run home to Daddy now?” He cocked his head and folded his arms across his chest.
Tears stung the backs of Kylie’s eyes, but no way was she going to let this guy cut her any deeper. Snapping back as if he’d slapped her, she tried to keep her tone light. “You know, I would, but he’s been dead for seven months. And it’s a good thing for you because if he was alive to see you destroying everything I’ve worked for, you’d be in a world of pain.”
“Shit, I didn’t know–” Trace interrupted himself to scrub a hand over his face.
Masterful emotional echo. As well as a good example of the hero poking at the heroine’s wound without even realizing it.
And, again, in Chapter Fourteen, we get another one of those emotional echoes that reminds us of the stakes for the heroine. It’s merely a ripple, but we feel it to our core because it reminds us of everything Kiley has to lose.
Danny gave her a sympathetic smile and offered a few pointers about checking instead of upping the ante. “Sometimes it’s better to fold. Doesn’t mean anything. Just means you were dealt some sorry cards.”
Story of my life, Kylie thought to herself.
Isn’t that the truth? Again, this is a masterful use of emotional tension. It shows the big impact a micro-echo of emotion can have on a scene.
These are just two quick examples of Quinn’s mastery of using emotional echoes to give a one-two emotional punch. The book is filled with them. I recommend you read Girl With Guitar. You won’t be disappointed. The story is satisfying and the emotional journey will surprise and delight you. Pick it up. You won’t put it down until you’re finished and you’ll want Quinn’s next story. ASAP!