This page of the observation journal is the result of reading Regency romance novellas and discovering a pattern of things that amused me far too much.
Left page: Forgetting how to draw a kookaburra in spite of having just seen one, and making my housemate watch The Ship Song Project video. Also a note about the “charm of specificity”. That day, it was in relation to seeing a piano removal van, but it applies to most very particular things — shops that only sell sale signs, or industrial sheds advertising billiard table resurfacing. I think it’s one of the reasons the Caudwell manoeuvre works.
Right page: This is another take on finding out why I feel a way about a thing (see also: YA road trips; staginess; alt-DC rom-coms).
For reasons involving April 2020 and a hospital procedure, I’d been on a strict reading diet of very light romantic comedies and Regency romance novellas. To begin, I simply listed ridiculous situations which kept showing up and which, for all their wild improbability, thoroughly delighted me every time they appeared on the page. starting with the classic “Oh no! I am trapped in a wardrobe with you, my enemy!”
I then listed what seemed to be the necessary elements of each (e.g., attractive enemy, unaware protagonist, potential for antagonist to discover them, wardrobe, reason to be in it).
Once I had those lists, patterns started to emerge. For example, all the situations shared a degree of unlikelihood combined with abrupt intense proximity [Edit — I developed this further in “Unlikely Intense Proximities”]. On the other hand, there were two distinct orders of things: situations which moved characters from passion to love, and those which tended to move them from love to passion. There’s also a note there which says “for difference between romance and Gothic, consider each as it appears in Jane Eyre”, which I’m not sure is entirely substantiated, but is entertaining to consider.
Here’s the full list (I developed it further later in the journal, but if you like tropes, I also tweet about them occasionally). A note: these are the patterns in the books I’d just read, not requirements — there are of course other variants.
- “Oh no! I am trapped in a wardrobe with you, my enemy!”
- attractive enemy
- unaware protagonist
- antagonist to potentially discover them
- reason to be in it
- “I, a sensual — but repressed and terminally honourable — person am trapped in an isolated manor with you, a dangerously attractive (but terminally honourable) stranger! Oh no!”
- Sensuous, unusual, but trapped-by-circumstances innocent
- Stormy, unusual, but honourable (ish) second party
- Isolated location and weather
- Locals who could discover them
- “I have had a crush on a person for a long time, but now that it is about to be reciprocated I have matured enough to realise that it is you, stormy acquaintance, whom I really love. (Oh no.)”
- Object of attraction (unworthy but obvious)
- Object of affection (unconventional but harbours [own?] crush
- Time pressure
- A knowing and affectionate parental figure
- “In an unlikely turn of events I, an unassuming but fervent individual, am betrothed to the unsuspecting object of my affections, whose would-be-true-love is determined to part us. Oh no!”
- Unassuming, passionate innocent, undervalued
- Societally valued object of their affection, apparently oblivious to value of protagonist
- Reason for Marriage of Convenience (class/$/reputation)
- Dashing rival (a close connection or sibling of protagonist) [not necessarily, see e.g. Heyer, but in all the ones I’d just read]
- A calm and functional marriage
- Bluff loyal supporter (optional)
Observation journal lessons:
- Being silly when listing or classifying something generally pays off (see this list of paint personalities).
- It makes it easier just to get a list onto the page for later analysis (and not worry about what form that analysis should take) — and often reveals patterns of how I feel about things.
- It also catches the glee (or other emotion) I associate with those things, which makes it easier to use them for my own projects later.
- Apparently I use the term “Cabot-ish” instead of “rom-com”.
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