First, a few lyrics from Karen Matheson - Album: Time to Fall, Song: "All the Flowers of the Bough" (She's Scottish, and she's awesome!)
Hearts are meant to be broken -
Made that way.
Love must have its trial.
Beauty, hope and wonder
Could not be
Without doubt and pain and self-denial.
All the flowers of the bough
They will fall and they will fade
But they resound
In the distance of the days.
Is life just a dance
I don't believe that.
Something that has been on my mind lately is love stories. I am writing a novel that is very much a love story. It was not something I'd planned. In fact, when the idea sparked into my imagination two years ago (in a story of its own), I began with the express purpose of avoiding a love story all together. My thought was, "I am too obsessed with all of these romance ideas! I shouldn't be aiming for a corny, sappy, sugar fest! What will people think?" But years later, the love story fought back… and has become one of the strongest threads in the tapestry of this novel. But why the lingering shame? Not to mention, the reluctance to mention to people who innocent ask what this complicated project is about, "Oh, yeah, there are these two characters who eventually… well… you know… fall in love…" and changing the subject as fast as possible.
I think our society has, in general, become cynical about love and what love actually means… overindulgent in things that seem to be love but are not. Evidence seems to be everywhere in film (loathed unintelligent "chick flicks" which border on soft pornography much of the time), on television, and in books - sex is more prevalent, less meaningful. Stories are full of disappointed hopes and disillusionment… as if it is foolish to expect much else. I cannot express how many times I have enjoyed a book until the characters cross that once-sacred threshold. Not even Elizabeth I in Alison Weir's otherwise wonderful The Lady Elizabeth is allowed to escape dangerous romances at a young age. Most stories are love stories, but only a small portion of them do more than cater to marketed "needs"… like The Notebook and its companions… where "love" is little more than a theme badly constricted in a formula, to the point where it grates on the value of characters and drags the story away from creativity… from a writer's unique drive to write outside the lines.
So in the broader context of sitcoms and ridiculous dramas, love is a blanket term for giggles, scandal and situations that end badly. Like smoking cigarettes - this kind of cynicism is a gradual road to an early loveless demise.
It is utter sadness! Because as human beings we were meant to love, and we reduce it to foolishness and hormones. Does this mean that the characters in my novel exist only to live out ideals that I could never have? No! It is our God-given gift, to love. Love is a deep, difficult enigma, maintained through sacrifice, self-denial, grace! Grace is such a big part of it. Forgiveness and acceptance without having to earn it. Loved because you're lovable, looking beyond facades and surface impressions, and touches the real person. It isn't just an emotion. It's something deeper, a journey that is as different as the characters who fall unexpectedly into its arms. This is why Doctor Who - yes, you knew it would pop up somewhere in this post - is so powerful, especially when it comes to the Doctor's relationship with Rose… a love doomed many times over, but strong enough to push Rose across parallel worlds to return to him. And the Doctor, in the tragedy of his immortality, literally leaves her with his double - a human version of himself - the only way the Doctor could fully give himself to her… with the greatest love comes the greatest pain… and vice versa. He has to walk away, while Rose begins her life with a man who is himself, but separate from his experience.
That is why I refuse to become a literary lemming and jump off the everybody-expects-this cliff. If love is truly boundless - than it shouldn't always mimicRomeo and Juliet (note that Shakespeare called it a tragedy not a romance!)… or Pretty Woman… or The Little Mermaid. (Feel free to insert here the first obnoxious romance that pops into your mind !) Love is a chameleon "very often mistaken for loathing" as Yvaine expresses in Stardust, and is full of surprises. And the surprises, the questions, the possibilities, the GREAT UNKNOWN is what I want to write about… not what every poor soul is trained to reach for!
I leave you with a picture. In the last episode of Series Four of Doctor Who ("Journey's End"), Rose says to the Doctor, "The last time I stood on this beach on the worst day of my life, what did you say to me?"
The Doctor's face is stern, and sad, as he prepares to leave Rose and the other Doctor behind. "I said 'Rose Tyler'."
"Yeah, and how was that sentence going to end?"
He hesitates. "Does it need saying?"
Rose turns to the Doctor's human double (wearing a blue suit). "And you Doctor? How would you finish that sentence?"
His answer: leaning over and whispering the magic words in her ear. We can all guess what they were:
And was it worth it? Yes! No shame in powerful, bittersweet beginnings. If a picture - a journey - like this is not a part of my writing… I can't imagine that I would want to write at all!
Happy writing, dreaming and loving!