Love and Storytelling
Genre fantasy such as science fiction, fantasy, or horror, can be described as metaphors for the human condition. Even when it’s simple mindless escapist fun it often has something to say about people in it, and some of the more serious examples out there use their technology or magic or monsters to illustrate or juxtapose some important facet within humanity. Often it explores what it is or how we might suffer without it.
What about love? Almost everyone is familiar with the numerous interpretations of vampires in terms of love, lust, and sexuality. But let’s step away from that angle and look at a broader question in stories: what is True Love®?
I’m a romantic, deep down. I believe in love and want nothing more than to see it triumph, and yet I find myself frustrated when characters fall in love because—for lack of a better term—the plot says so. When that happens I tend to think of Romeo and Juliet. While a great tragedy, it’s not really a great love story. The tragedy comes from the fact that these two felt trapped by their families and never had the time to figure out their feelings. But in terms of personal connection? Even most weak Rom-Coms will give the characters more of a foundation than R&J.
But even worse (and usually a Hollywood fault) is the cliché that there is only one perfect love out there for each of us. It’s wrong, it’s unrealistic it’s... dangerous, quite frankly.
In my novel Bleeding Heart Yard, I explore love in two different ways with two different sets of characters. And while one of these relationships is of the Destiny variety, I take the time to deconstruct even what that means, and provide terms more grounded in reality (a hard sell in a story with magic and monsters in it). The other romance is of a more standard and quirky Rom-Com trope—but even there I try to both subvert as well as serve certain expectations.
The bottom line for me is that love for me is about compatibility and connection. It is something that is built upon but not fated. It’s entirely possible you could find someone out there who is a perfect match, but it’s actually just as likely you could be happier with someone who was less than perfect (it depends on how you define perfection for one thing). Who you are and how you approach life is just as important (if not more so) than who the other person is.
But just as there’s more than one kind of romantic love out there, there’s more kinds of love to be explored than the kind that lead to bed springs creaking and breaking. Sometimes it feels like a relationship is tacked on to a story to serve only as a motivation for the hero or heroine, a reward for them to get at the end of their journey. We face the danger of no longer seeing it as a relationship with two equal partners. It shouldn't always be about reaching the endorphin rush.
What about a couple who are already in a strong, committed relationship? There is, in my opinion, a lack of established couples in stories. Sometimes I think conventional wisdom (which is often neither conventional nor wise) dictates that what readers or viewers are interested in is that tension, heat, and newness of two people figuring each other out. The implication being that once you get married you become dead inside, I suppose.
So when I wanted to write a mystery, I was inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, which features Nick and Nora Charles, possibly my favorite married couple in literature and proof that you don’t die after wedlock. James and Lettice Cote, the lead couple in my upcoming mystery Getting Rid of Gary, owe a heavy (though far less alcohol soaked) influence to Nick and Nora.
It also deals with the love within a family, which brings me to my next point: The examples we've been looking at are still about romantic and physical love. But love for your fellow person can be just as powerful. The love within a family is a key factor in Getting Rid of Gary, both in terms of how the plot unfolds and its resolution.
The platonic love one person can develop for another is one of the core themes in Trooper #4, an end-of-days story that combines humour with horror, and even questions the nature of reality. But at its heart is a relationship between a state trooper and the boy she takes into her care. Here, love is explored in terms of figuring out what is worth fighting for, dying for, and more importantly, living for. (And before you jump to any conclusions, the state trooper in question is not a woman because of any mothering instincts cliché. Trust me, it’s a lot weirder than that.)
The love of a child. The love of a parent or family. The love of an ideal or of humanity itself. There’s no reason that love in a story has to be limited to a romantic partner, and can’t be just as powerful. It’s all in the trick of presentation, and when you’re only dealing with endorphins they are a one trick pony.
Noah Chinn is at times a happy-go-lucky world-travelling imp who tries to find humour in just about everything. At other times he is a brooding grumpy gremlin who uses sarcasm as a chainsaw and most certainly should not be fed after midnight. Some have said they’ve had trouble telling which is which, however.
In actuality, Noah Chinn is a (mostly) human writer of fantasy and horror with a strong comedic edge. He’s produced comics and articles and will soon have his third novel under his belt, being slipped past security at the local Chapters bookstore. He’s also travelled through a number of countries under the delusion that it’s all for research.
Bleeding Heart Yard
Whoever said the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly must have been talking about Peter.
Being cursed by an honest to goodness witch is bad enough, but what are you supposed to do when you’re not quite sure what the curse is–or when it’s going to go off?
Of course, the sun has to shine on everyone–even someone whose existence is shrouded in myth and urban legend. Peter has discovered the love of his life. And if he can save her from a monster ravaging the streets of London and stay alive himself–his best friend just might have enough time to figure out a cure for Peter’s embarrassing little problem.
No boy meets girl story has ever been this tricky or chaotic. Full of supernatural fun–it’s time for a damned romance!
Trooper #4 is a story about the end of the world – but not as we know it. A woman wakes up in a motel on the outskirts of a remote Oregon city with no memory who she is and a gun at her bedside. As she explores it seems that civilization has come to an end.
But it might also be the most normal thing that happens to her all week.
Getting Rid of Gary
It’s August, 1985, and private investigator James Cote has a problem.
Actually he has several.
His wife Lettice is unemployed, overactive, and bored out of her skull. The cheating husband he’d been tailing for two weeks has been killed by his mistress. And someone has kidnapped his uncle Gary and shipped him off to Peru.
Someone from his own family – a family he hasn’t visited in ten years.
Now James and Lettice have to travel 1500 miles to Toronto under the guise of a long delayed reunion to find out who hated Gary so much to ship him off to another country, but not enough to actually kill him.
-- Lynda Again,
Very interesting insights, no? There are many forms of love and not all of them are immediately recognizable. Great food for thought! And the books sound terrific!
Have a Blessed day!