My regular Thursday post will resume November 29th.
Great conflict makes for great reading. But great conflict doesn’t necessarily require epic battles, or diabolical villains. It doesn’t require constant friction between the hero and heroine or tragic subplots, either. So what else makes for great conflict? Choices — gut-wrenching, life-altering choices — and the consequences of those choices. Like those choices the characters must make in The Twilight Saga.
The very first book, Twilight, begins with a choice: Bella’s choice to leave her mother in sunny, dry Phoenix to live with her dad in cold, wet Forks, so that her mom can travel with her new husband. It’s this choice that sets the stage for Bella’s life-changing meeting with Vampirific Edward Cullen.
Bella is faced with three crucial choices in the Saga:
- The choice between human and vampire, and thus, between mortality and immortality;
- The choice between Edward and Jacob; and
- The choice between Edward and her family
Bella’s choice to become a vampire not only means forsaking her humanness, but also forsaking her family and friends, especially her best friend, Jacob Black, who is genetically-programmed to hate vampires. Of course, this choice has many consequences which lead to more choices.
More importantly, along with suffering through the horrific transformation process, this choice also means possibly sacrificing her soul to spend eternity with Edward.
To make matters worse, Rosalie, Edward’s adoptive sister, believes Bella is making the wrong choice in choosing to become a vampire. All other members of the Cullen Clan did not have a choice in becoming a vampire, so Rosalie resents Bella’s decision:
Can’t you see that I’d trade everything I have to be you? You have the choice that I didn’t have and you’re choosing wrong!
In New Moon, Edward chooses to leave Bella after his brother, Jasper, tries to kill her. The decision is painful, but he believes he is only doing what’s best for Bella. This choice leads to her friendship with Jacob. Nevertheless, when Edward returns, Bella chooses him over Jacob. Poor Jacob. You can’t help but wonder if Jacob has a masochistic streak.
Even so, Jacob hopes to make Bella’s final decision between Jacob and humanness, and Edward and vampirism, that much more difficult because of the relationship Bella forged with Jacob in Edward’s absence. He tells Bella that Edward is “going to have to deal with the consequences of that choice [leaving her] — me.”
Her choice of Edward and vampirism comes with serious consequences and great sacrifices. Choosing Jacob would mean remaining human, living a normal life (as normal as a life with a vampire-hunting werewolf can be), and staying with her family.
At the end of Eclipse, Jacob tells Bella “I’m exactly right for you, Bella. It would have been effortless for us — comfortable, as easy as breathing. I was the natural path your life would have taken . . .”
She knows this. She knows that if they lived in a world with no monsters or magic, Jacob would have been her choice. “He was my soul mate in that world.” But that world doesn’t exist. The world that she lives in holds “something so strong that it could not exist in a rational world.” That something is Edward. And because of that, Bella tells Jacob, “I never had a choice.”
But the choices don’t stop there. Throughout the books, the secondary, and even minor characters, are faced with choices, and as a reader you want to keep reading to see what their choice is and what happens as a result.
As a co-hero, Jacob is faced with his fair share of choices. When he learns he’s a werewolf, he chooses not to assume his rightful role as Alpha in what has, to that point, been Sam’s pack. He also chooses to stay friends with Bella, despite her decision to become a vampire.
In Breaking Dawn, the final installment in the series, these two choices eventually lead to another, more difficult decision: the choice to leave his pack, turn his back on his brothers and sister, to protect the very thing he is genetically-programmed to hate, in order to also protect Bella.
Jacob: How did everything get messed up and twisted so that I was here now, all alone, an unwilling Alpha, cut off from my brothers, choosing vampires over them?
Jacob’s decision divides his pack and puts him in the untenable position of possibly fighting his brothers and sister to the death.
But Seth, one of Jacob’s werewolf brothers, also makes the same difficult choice to abandon his other wolf brothers, along with his own biological sister, to protect Bella. Later, Leah, Seth’s sister, makes the same decision to leave Sam’s pack to run with Jacob, even if it means protecting a coven of vampires she hates, and a girl she detests, just so she doesn’t have to be the “pathetic ex-girlfriend [Sam] can’t get away from.” For Leah, the choice seems to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
In Breaking Dawn, Bella is faced with her most difficult choice yet. When she gets pregnant, she chooses to carry Edward’s offspring to term even if it means her death and the loss of Edward, the one thing she wanted so desperately, and so willingly sacrificed everything for. Even when everyone (except Rosalie) wants Bella to abort the fetus, Carlisle understands the imperative of choice:
I can’t ignore her will. It wouldn’t be right to make such a choice for her, to force her.
The Twilight Saga presents many choices for the characters that live within it. What’s more, when faced with choices, the characters do not take the easy way out. They make the choices whose consequences are clouded with fear and doubt, possible loss and heartache. But often those choices also hold the most promise.
What books have you read lately where the hero or heroine has difficult choices to make? What were the consequences of those choices? Did those choices and consequences you keep glued to the story?
It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was. My book signing began at 5:30 pm. At 5:29 pm, the bottom fell out. Rain, wind, lightning, thunder. Yep, even with all the pre-planning and preparation (see October 4 Soul Mate blog post), the one thing you can’t control is weather. Even so, loyal fans, friends, and family braved the elements, so despite the monsoon, I had a respectable turn out for my very first book signing.
If the weather had been nice, my table would have been right outside the shop, thus attracting attention of passers-by. That plan was quickly nixed. Instead we angled the table in the front door so people entering the store walked right up to the table. I greeted them, asked them if they’d like to buy a book (of course they did), then asked if they’d like it signed and to whom should I address it. As I was signing, my “cashier” rang up the sale using my ultra cool Square app on my iPad. More on that later. I passed the book to another trusty assistant, who put it in the pre-stuffed goody bag and handed it to the reader.
They were then free to mingle, nosh, and drink. Given the horrendous weather, most people hung out chatting with one another, hoping for a reprieve in the storm. Having light bites was a good plan. It encouraged people to stay, talk about books (especially mine), which I often overheard. I could never grow tired of that.
To ring up sales, I used a free app called Square Register. It worked seamlessly with the Square Card Reader for credit card sales, but it also worked equally well for cash sales. Once you’ve entered your inventory into the app (complete with picture), you touch the book you’re selling, it automatically plugs in the price and figures the sales tax. Then, for cash sales, it figures the change due. Buyers can choose to have a receipt emailed or texted to them. But the best feature is that it keeps a record of all your sales, separates out the amount of sales tax you collected, and spits out a report. So awesome!
I recruited some volunteers, including an accountant friend to be my personal cashier. She handled all the sales while I signed books. I also recruited another friend to handle the goody bags, and yet another to handle the sign up for my newsletter and the drawings. So I could focus on the person at the table. It also left my husband free to schmooze with the guests. Being my biggest cheerleader, he talked-up my books to others.
Two local magazines sent photographers to the event. The photos will be included in a section of the magazines for post-event photos. Hopefully, those who couldn’t make the book signing will see it and look for my book.
More and more book signings are being held at non-bookstore venues, and I can see why. The quiet, almost library silent bookstores don’t encourage talking and laughter. Whereas the gift shop created a welcome atmosphere for socializing and encouraged discussion. The owner of the gift shop also benefitted with sales to people who came for the book signing.
I asked people to sign up for my newsletter in order to be entered for prize drawings. I gave away two free downloads of my latest novel, Rescuing Lacey, about 45 minutes apart, and we announced the winners at the event. At the end of the evening, I drew for The Promise of Change-themed gift basket.
Other than the rain, I think the event went very well. I received a lot of positive feedback, from guests, volunteers, and the store owner. The process ran smoothly, the light hors d’oeuvres, wine, and party atmosphere encouraged people to stay and socialize, and if there was a lull in book signing, people came back to the table to chat with me and ask questions about my books, my writing process, etc.
In the end, the store owner asked me to come back for another book signing when Rescuing Lacey is released in paperback. I’m thrilled. I’m not sure if there is anything I would change for future book signings. Why mess with success!