And now, without further ado...
I Believe in Love (But Not True Love)
I don't know about anyone else, but when it came time to talk about relationships, my parents didn't sit down to give me the straight dope. I got little hints, here and there, but mostly it was what not to do. Don't mumble, stand up straight, brush my hair, and just be myself. Platitudes, one and all. None of it had any substance, and it was about as useful as tying a boat anchor around my waist while trying to tread water in the dating pool.
|And society frowns on slaying your crush's suitors as a display of strength, these days.|
So who taught me what a relationship was supposed to look like? The movies I watched, the books I read, and the games I played. And do you know what they told me, every, single time? That love, real love, was easy. That it would always float to the top like good cream, and that no matter what challenges it faced, or how unlikely it seemed, it would always work out in the end.
What a crock of shit.
And of course we know that. We're adults. We know that you don't fall in love with someone because you shared a lingering glance across a crowded ballroom, and danced till midnight. That might lead to a whirlwind, backseat romance, but that isn't the sort of thing that makes a relationship work. Real relationships need things like mutual interest, connection, respect, and most of all, they take a lot of goddamn work.
And most stories don't have time for all that.
They're Just Books
But are they? Are they really?
|Yeah, I wouldn't give this to my kids, either.|
On the one hand, of course they're just books. They're just movies. They're just comics. But they're more than that. Stories are what we use to shape ourselves. They're the myths we bow our heads to, and that we study. They tell us how heroes, and villains, act. They tell us, in their own ways, what's real.
Maybe we don't really believe that love at first sight exists. As grown-ups, we know that if we see someone, and it makes our hearts flutter, that we're dealing with a bad case of lust. The sort of primal, primitive blood surge that can make you say and do some truly stupid things before you get yourself under control. But there is still that part of us that's eight years old being told that this is what love is supposed to feel like. That if we lose that spark, then we simply haven't found the one. That when we do find that special someone, it will be easy. No arguments, no loneliness, and we'll never wonder about our choice.
That's not a problem with us, as readers. Because stories are how we're hard-wired to see the world, and relate to ideas. It's a problem with our storytellers, who have been feeding us garbage. Giving us the childish simplicity of fairy tales, but then never stepping up the game as we get older, and could use more complex, more instructive stories.
They say if people aren't writing the kinds of books you want to read, then you're going to have to write them. So that's what I'm doing. Along the way, though, I'd like to ask that other storytellers think about the messages they're encoding in their books. There's no such thing as pure escapism. So make it fun, by all means. Make it sassy, dark, or demure, as you wish. But ask yourself what will happen if readers start using your stories as their mythology? What lessons will your gods and saints teach them about love, death, and getting on with your life?
Because, if I had my way, I'd like to make a generation that's less entitled, more respectful, and that understands there's no such thing as true love. That you need to tend that fire if you're serious about not letting it burn out.
That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. A big thanks again to Vincent for his contribution! For those of you who would like to help support me and my blog, why not stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to leave a small donation? As little as $1 a month is a big help, and it comes with a free book! Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter yet, well, what's stopping you?