Monday, 16 April 2012

Matters of the Heart

Most novels have some sort of relationship tango or other—be it platonic, family relations, in the work environment, at school or in a romantic setting. We all love a good story where two people meet, fall in love and live happily ever after. But is that really how it works?

“There are many kinds of relationships and a given kind may fit a given person or couple at one stage of development but not at another. Driven by our personal history, we choose partners who help us meet our present needs, fulfill our expectations, and if we're lucky, work through our issues and grow in the directions in which we need to grow. For a person or couple, recognizing this can open doors to a broader spectrum of ways of being with ourselves and each other.”—Victor Daniels, ‘Patterns of Relationships’,

I place a lot of emphasis on Love in my novels simply because I think there is no point waking up in the morning if there isn’t someone worth waking up for (and I don’t mean only romantically—friends and family are as important as a partner, maybe even more so). However, ever so often, I stumble onto a scene where I’m not sure if the characters should fall in love right away, or if she needs to find out if he snores first before handing her heart over to the walrus. Novels show us that love at first sight happens but is it really love or simply infatuation (or other more R-rated stuff)?

“Most of us have some kind of idea in our minds about how a "good" or "correct" relationship is supposed to be. We can cause ourselves needless distress by comparing our own relationships with such an idea of what a relationship "should be like" and then concluding that our own is defective by comparison. Psychologists may imply something of that sort when they formulate criteria for a "healthy relationship" which few real couples ever meet.”—Victor Daniels, (source as above).

As a writer, I want my characters to believe in the intensity of that first meeting—of someone tripping over their own feet in awe of another person. Love is such a wonderful notion. How many of us sighed when Ewan McGregor first sang with Nicole Kidman on the roof top of the Moulin Rouge? Why did we cry when Harry Potter first kissed Cho Chang? What makes our hearts race every time we hear the theme song of Titanic? All these people hardly even knew each other and yet we cheered for their discovery of cupid’s arrow sticking out of their cheeks (Author’s note: For my more blur readers, cheek here has nothing to do with their faces). I suppose it’s those things we call Drama and Theatrics running along beside us with their fake swords and love letters.  We read to enlighten ourselves but also to escape our sometimes dreary world. If I wanted reality I could just sit outside my neighbour’s window and watch her and her husband eating their chips and dozing off on the sofa to Who Wants to be a Millionaire (yes, I know this for a fact).

So what can a writer do to make sure that the feelings between two characters are real enough to be believable and yet Hollywood enough to make us wish the story was about us?  I guess that’s yet another thing I’ll just have to find out on this adventure that I’ve set out on. Hope it doesn’t take too long though, because I really don’t want to live in a novel where Love has to be measured in how many times he takes the trash out without being shouted at first.

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