Thursday, November 24, 2011

Quote of the Week 8

The quote I've chosen for this week seemed particularly fitting, considering the question that's been spinning around frantically in my little brain the last few days.  The question is, how on earth does one write a good literary proposal?

At the end of my NaNoWriMo story, two characters (whose identities I will not reveal) are going to get married.  I'm not sure if I'm actually going to "show" the wedding, or just leave them engaged, but at any rate I'm worried about the proposal scene.  I honestly don't know what to say.  Everything I think of sounds silly, cheesy, or cliched--and I have a horror of cheesy, silly, cliched romance novels.  

Any thoughts?  What makes a proposal good in your opinion?  Jane Austen rarely wrote the actual words of her characters' proposals.  Is that a good approach?

The following quote is, by the way, the antithesis to all mushy, gushy "dearest-loveliest-Elizabeth-will-you-marry-me?"'s. 

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving!

Perchik: There's a question... A certain question I want to discuss with you.
Hodel: Yes?
Perchik: It's a political question.
Hodel: What is it?
Perchik: The question of... marriage.
Hodel: Is that a... political question?
Perchik: Well, yes. Yes, everything's political. Like everything else, the relationship between a man and a woman has a socioeconomic base. Marriage must be founded on mutual beliefs. A common attitude and philosophy towards society...
Hodel: - And affection?
Perchik: Well, yes, of course. That is also necessary. Such a relationship can have positive social values. When two people face the world with unity and solidarity...
Hodel: And affection?
Perchik: Yes, that is an important element! At any rate, I... I personally am in favour of such a socioeconomic relationship.
Hodel: I think... you are asking me to marry you.
Perchik: Well... in a theoretical sense... yes. I am.
Hodel: I was hoping you were.
~Fiddler on the Roof (1971)


Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Perchik's proposal is very sweet in his way, I can hear their voices as I read the quote! :)

Jane Austen often used simplicity when it came to matters of the heart. In Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion we hear the voice of and character of the hero shining through. So the biggest thing is to just think how your male character would propose to your female character. Keep it in his voice, with his sentiments and heart in mind. Keep the ideas and thoughts very clear but it's alright if your male character stumbles to find the right words. For most proposals I've heard of the guy has thought over what he wants to say very carefully beforehand (sometimes writes it down) but his words usually don't come out quite how he wanted. Don't worry if it sounds mushy-gushy to you, proposals are as individual as the couple involved. Most times real life proposals are mush-gushy but when the love is expressed from the heart others can tell.

To hear me rattle on you'd think I'd have had many proposals (or at least written many), but alas I am only an observer of human nature. I hope this helps!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! :)

Melody said...

Ahh, well, if there's anything I don't approve of about JA's novels, is that the proposals were completely left out in Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility, and that in all the other ones it doesn't have the heroine's responding quote(s). However, I loved the ones in Emma and P&P. And then, of course, we have Captain Wentworth's letter. Jane Austen used a technique there where she only included part of the dialogue, and sort if 'explained' the rest. The quote she did have were so sincere that they didn't seem mushy at all, but very sweet and......

I totally understand this, because I've felt similar ways with my own writings before. Probably, whatever sounds mushy to you would be less so to the reader.

Hayden said... this is like one of my favorite quotes EVER and we were just quoting it the other day!

I have that problem too- how DO you write a proposal??? I haven't QUITE gotten to that part in any of the novels I'm writing...but it's coming and I know I'm going to get stuck on it!

Miss Dashwood said...

Miss Laurie,
Thank you so much for your wise words! I could tell you'd put a lot of thought into that, and it helped me immensely. My real problem is that my hero can be pretty... nonsensical sometimes, and I don't want the proposal scene to be just a joke. So I'm trying hard to make him a little more serious in other parts of the story, so that a serious scene at the end won't seem out of character.
Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

I KNOW! I was so disappointed when I read NA for the first time--I really wanted Henry's proposal to Catherine to be actually included, smirk and all. :P With maybe an elegant comment about the lovely muslin she was wearing. (I'm willing to bet he designed her wedding dress, anyone with me?)
I love love love the proposal scene in S&S 1995. I think that was one part where Hugh Grant really nailed Edward's hesitant way of doing things--it was so cute, as was Elinor's reaction!

Just about any of the exchanges between Perchik and Hodel are worth quoting... again and again and again...
Hodel: I've heard that the rabbi who must praise himself has a congregation of one.
Perchik: Your daughter has a quick and witty tongue.
Tevye: Ah yes, the wit she gets from me. As the Good Book says...
Golde: The Good Book can wait, time for Sabbath.
Tevye: The tongue she gets from her mother.

Melody said...

P.S. I liked the "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth". :P

Miss Dashwood said...

I did too, Melody, but my main character also happens to be named Elizabeth and there is no way Mr. Toad is saying THAT. Jane Austen pulled it off, but... haha yeah.

Melody said...

Aha! You gave away who's proposing to who! ;-) But I already knew, anyways. tehe

Oh, well, Mr. Darcy pulled it off. He is, after all, one of the 'romantics'.

Funny that you called him Mr. Toad!! =D

Alexandra said...

Don't worry about proposals. I've written several in the course of my novel writing :-P and I totally agree with Miss Laurie. Let the hero's personality speak through him. I always like to do something a little different for was in an airport (modern, obviously :-P) and another was a sick bedside proposal. Make it different and memorable. Like Perchik's proposal. :-) Don't be afraid if it sounds mushy. When they really mean it, it'll make people cry. Or at least get sniffly. :-)

Some of my favorite proposals...none of them use the "traditional" period drama kind of wording (my heart is all blah-blah...)

Marguerite: I know that behind that mask hides the true Percy Blakeney - and that's the man I yearn to know.
Percy: And so you shall, my dear. All in good time.
Marguerite: How long is that?
Percy: Marry me, and you'll have the rest of your life to find out.

Had to stick that in there. :-P

Other really memorable ones I can think of is the proposals on North and South...The Young Victoria...Professor Bhaer's proposal on Little Women.

HM! Favorite period drama proposals. New post idea....


Hope all that rambling helped. :-)

Miss Dashwood said...

Well, you really can't go wrong if you quote Sir Percy, can you? I think perhaps I'll post my still-in-draft proposal scene on here, and you can all give me suggestions. :)
My hero isn't really the romantic type, which I think is my problem. He's not as bad as Perchik--in fact he's very sweet--but he's really not the kind of guy who would call his fiancee "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth". LOL.
I think I will take your advice and just write what I think he'd say. Maybe the key is just to write what I would want to read in a novel. Unfortunately, I'm pretty picky: I like some sentiment in a book, but not a ton of kissing. "Oh no, is this a kissing book?" :P