As writers, we’re told there are certain rules we have to follow: don’t use passive voice, show don’t tell, make your characters likeable, don’t overwhelm your readers with large numbers of secondary characters, don’t use flashbacks…
Marilyn Pappano says there are no rules. However, if you’re going to break the rules, do it well. I recently I started reading books (six so far) by an author who breaks all the rules. And it clearly works for her since she’s a multi-published author who was first published in the early 1980s.
She uses passive voice. She often tells instead of showing. She uses flashbacks. Actually, I think she’s the Queen of Flashbacks. She may have invented them. Her books are full of secondary characters, sometimes as many as eight to ten.
What makes her novels pop are her intriguing plots and her incredibly human, unlikeable, but real characters. Each book has a mystery in the past (an unsolved murder or an unexplained disappearance) that seems unrelated to the events taking place in the present. Oh, but they are inextricably linked, and it’s the twists and turns that are both plausible and believable that leave me thinking, Wow! I didn’t see that coming. That’s part of what keeps me turning the page.
Oddly, her characters are not likeable—at least not in the beginning. Ah, but talk about character arc! Her guys and gals go through some amazing growth. In one book, the hero is still reeling from the sudden death of his first love. She committed suicide after he ended their relationship. He broke it off with her because he discovered they were brother and sister. I know ick, right? Except, neither of them knew they were siblings. (Different mothers who didn’t know each other. Same jerk sperm donor man slut). So the hero falls for another woman…a nun. (don’t worry all they do is kiss). In the end, she remains in her convent and he decides to seek some counseling for why he always falls for the women he can’t have. Remember romance doesn’t have to have a HEA, just a satisfactory ending. And while here on this blog it might now sound that wonderful or romantic, this author is masterful at moving this poor guy through his character arc in such a way that as a reader, I was pulling for him, and in the end, I understood him, and liked him.
All in all, I think that is why I’ve enjoyed her books so much. It’s like being the fly on the wall in some psychologist’s office. These folks are ordinary humans, with extra-ordinary flaws, searching for meaning in their lives…and someone to love. By breaking the rules, this author shows there’s a HEA out there for everyone if they just keep looking.