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Circles in the ice

Raise your hand if you were glued to the tv last night watching the Olympics. Those daring young women on the snowboards were amazing. And then there was the flash and artistry of the likes of Evan Lysacek, Evgeni Plushenko, Daisuke Takahashi, Stephane Lambiel, Patrick Chan, Johnny Weir and other men on the ice.

Figure skating is different from other sports. And yet it isn’t. Like most sports, figure skating requires fitness and determination. Then there is the importance of artistry. Of course those snowboarders on the halfpipe need to do their amazing acrobatics with flair and art as well. In fact, art meets sport a lot at the Olympics.

While watching the men compete at the Pacific Coliseum last night, I was struck by the patterns of circles on the ice.

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It occurred to me watching the skaters spin near, but never exactly over, tracks created by previous skaters that what they are doing is similar to writing genre fiction. Each man is required to include certain elements in his program. There are variations on these elements–choices the skater makes with his choreographer and coach. Then there is the unique skill, artistry and athleticism that the competitor brings to each element and to the program as a whole.

This is what romance writers do. We have our required elements. Pamela Regis defines these elements brilliantly in her book, A Natural History of the Romance Novel. It’s not easy bringing these elements together for a satisfying read that includes tension and suspense when every reader knows the book will end with a satisfying happily ever after for the central characters.

The romance writer must perfect each spin and jump, while gracefully tying the elements together to make a beautiful whole. The rink is covered with circles from skaters who have gone before, including Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. We aren’t following in their tracks like so many coal cars behind an engine. Each author cuts her own path over the ice trying to achieve faster spins and more powerful jumps that not only entertain the readers, but bring them along for the ride.

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