Oh Darling, Let's Run Wild Together

light up, light up
as if you have
a choice
even if you cannot hear
my voice
I'll be right beside you, dear
"run," by snow patrol

At dinner one evening while my husband and I were on our trip one of his professors asked me in a jesting way if I wrote romance.  I don't think any of them have a clue what I do write; when I was given the opportunity to share with the class what I had scribbled that day I backed out for the scene was of the sweet, intuitively companionable kind; I'm not good at reading aloud, it would not have made sense out of context, and I didn't want them to think all I write is romance.  I made a confused attempt at an answer, informing the professor that I neither read nor write merely romance (I think I said "straight romance," which, looking back on it, was perhaps an unfortunate choice of words...) but that I can almost never avoid having a thread of romance in my stories.

I don't go out of my way of avoid it, of course.  We all love to love, and while Abigail and I have had a lot of good to say about companionable love (as between, say, her characters Justin King and Ethan Prince) which is an attachment that doesn't get enough press, in my opinion, people love reading about people in love.  I love writing people in love.  I know that in the blogging circles I run in there have been, on almost every blog, some post or another about the topic of writing people in love, or about being in love itself, or whatever conventional phrase you care to use; there has been trepidation, interest, doubts as to the writer's competence in pulling off such an attachment, complete appreciation for literary attachments, the works.  It's a big deal.  Whether or not a writer feels able to write romance is up to the discretion of the writer, but now that I'm sitting at a keyboard and can think clearly I can say that I love writing romance.  I love it with a Doctor Who take-my-hand-and-run kind of thrill, as if every romance I embark upon (real or literary) is an adventure too terrible not to laugh about, and I am standing on the brink of it looking down so far that I can't see the bottom.  It's all very well to talk dully about whether or not romance ought to be in "Christian" fiction and whether or not people do it well; you simply don't think about that kind of thing when you're hand in hand on the brink of a high cliff with all the world and time below and before you, and you're about to jump off with the one person in all of time and space that you really care about.

Whether that description is at all clear to you or not I cannot say, but that is the best I can do at making my approach to romance concrete for anyone who cares to know.  The attachments are never really about anything: they simply are and cannot cease to be.  ("There's a moral somewhere in that, if you like morals.")  This was perhaps one of the few things I liked about the film "Centurion."  I don't recommend the film: it was very bloody, contained quite a plethora of obscenities, and didn't have a lot of plot.  In light of that I was bracing with a sinking heart for the obligatory sex scene, and was surprised when it never came.  The romantic attachment between Centurion Quintus Dias and outcast Arianne was instantaneous, intuitive, sweet and strong.  I have never - never - seen a romance handled so much to my delight as the one placed most incongruously inside that film.  Their mutual care and protection of the other after even a very short acquaintance was as tender as it was fierce, as determined as it was unquestioned.  I was shocked.  Out of a ridiculously gory movie full of slaughter and conspiracy stretched a single shining thread of sanity.  Romance, so often belaboured, jaded, written off, and avoided as if it were the plague, stood out in a raging sea and spoke its piece clearly.  It didn't have to offer an apology: it was itself, and that was all it needed to be.

Whichever side of the romantic fence you may be on, either for it or against it, or ambivalent to it, I hope this makes clear why I think and do what I think and do.  Life, in a sense, is all made up of our loves and our hates: in myself (and my people) there is often very little difference between the thrill and power of either love or hate, but as far as romance goes it is to me both awful and tremendous, too ancient to be removed, forever too young to keep its feet from dancing on Pook's Hill. 

"Keep your chin up, leman.  Not long now."

8 ripostes:

  1. I love romance. Not really a story that's *just* romance, but adventures with good, clean romance in them. I love to read romance, and I sort of like to write romance. It always sounds/looks better in your head than on paper...I don't like to write romance in a book at this point, since I'm only 14 and don't know what that sort of love really is (not to mention that if my dad found out, I would *NEVER* live it down.).

  2. Awww...thanks for this post, Jenny! I have never been in love, (more because there is no one *to* love than any reticence on my part. :P) but I can't wait till I can view this post from that other side of the fence. :)

  3. I just realized, Rachel, that you just wrote a post about your brother's engagement. Talk about putting one's foot in one's mouth. I did not mean that sort of post when I mentioned blog posts on romance, just so's you know. I've been thinking about this topic for several days... I am heartily gladdened to hear the news about your brother. I wish him and his intended (and yourself and your family) all the best. Mazel tov!

  4. Of course not! :) (And actually, it's only a courtship at present--no engagement just yet. :)

  5. Ah yes, pardon me, mustn't be hasty. All the same, it made for good hearing.

  6. I used to be averse to any sort of romance and I think it was Disney's fault. I think I must have had the impression that love was always mushy-gushy, doe-eyed rubbish. But when I realized it could be so much more of an adventure {like you so wonderfully put it, Doctor Who take-my-hand-and-run Who wouldn't want that?} the plot twists and bunnies began multiplying like.... rabbits.

    Have you ever had the same kind of love creep up in your books? For example, of the few I've ever actually written two are close to the same in that One sits by patiently for Two who either hasn't a clue or goes into a sort of denial. One never pressures Two, or pines and weeps and goes all soppy, but rather continues to be that quiet support and who would do so continually, even if Two chose another [If that turns out to be the case in either story, I don't know if I'll be able to forgive Two.}.

    I also am cruel because I like to write tragedies, as I'm sure my broken-hearted minors will attest.

    Well, I loved the post, as always, and it has given me much to think about as I go about my chores today. :)

  7. I think Snow Patrol realized that they will never write another song even close to that one and so they've just been going through the motions ever since.

    On topic, I have to say I adore the way Mark Helprin writes romance, as strong and clear and bright as the goddess herself, and as inevitable a fact of nature as well. But when I hold the literary mirror to my own soul, I see all its hopes and denials and insecurities reflected in the character of Konstantin Levin.

    "He knew very well that love could be like the most beautiful singing, that it could make death inconsequential, that it existed in forms so pure and strong that it was capable of reordering the universe. He knew this, and that he lacked it, and yet as he stood in the courtyard of the Palazzo Venezia, watching diplomats file quietly out the gate, he was content, for he suspected that to command the profoundest love might in the end be far less beautiful a thing than to suffer its absence." - Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War

  8. Very good post, Jennifer, thank you. I agree with you. I also believe, if one is called to write romance, that romance not only is acceptable in Christian fiction, but belongs there as well.
    As human beings we all have our share of love and romance, and the effects and lessons of these experiences are often some of the longest-lasting in our life's story.
    There is something in romance that catches the reader's attention - often by the very threads of her heart - and holds it there. Romance, love, attraction, what ever you may call it, is a facet of human existence that was Created and Authored by the Lord Jesus Himself and one that no one is completely without.
    I loved that sentence; "It's all very well to talk dully about whether or not romance ought to be in "Christian" fiction and whether or not people do it well; you simply don't think about that kind of thing when you're hand in hand on the brink of a high cliff with all the world and time below and before you, and you're about to jump off with the one person in all of time and space that you really care about."
    I do think romance can be carried too far, as many contemporary "Christian" fiction works will show, but romance in the purest sense of the term is something to be respected not avoided.
    Thank you for this post, and the Lord Jesus bless you and your family.