My apologies: familial obligations have sequestered me in Wisconsin’s North Woods for a few days. Internet reception is sketchy at best, not to mention time dedicatable (new word!) to writing. However, I would like to take this moment to provide a layout of what I intend to cover over the next few posts. It breaks my rhythm, but I think you’ll understand.
The stories I enjoy writing vary from Middle Grade to New Adult-friendly protagonists. NA allows for a level of conflict and emotion that I just wouldn’t dare inflict on the MG crowd; however, NA also has this, well, “thing” about romance/sex/love/all of the above/etc.
I have little patience for stories whose major plotlines revolve around “Who will s/he end up with, Beautiful A or Passionate B?” This stems from an upbringing with the likes of James Bond, Batman, and Sherlock Holmes, who left heart-heavy matters to the boring people. When THEY gave their hearts, people died or fled. No one ended up together happily ever after. “Happily ever after” meant the hero beat evil and was alive enough to do it again in another adventure. (Yes, each of these heroes did have their close circles of Those-Cared-For, but I think that topic warrants a separate study.) So, when I pick up a story, I want one that moves with happenings, talkings, doings. No heavy-duty dotings, please.
Diana Wynne Jones understood this all too well. Love matters in her stories, but there is always a quest to suffer through or a problem to solve. Therefore, romance is usually not a high priority for the characters.
That doesn’t mean the romance has no impact—quite the contrary. So, I’d like to take the next few posts to share…
Lessons Learned from Diana Wynne Jones: What She Plots About When She Plots About Love
I’ll begin with Howl’s Moving Castle because a) I’d love an excuse to read it again and b) it is a brilliant example of love growing within the heroes when they do not desire it at all. Then I’d like to discuss Archer’s Goon a bit, a snort-inducing urban fantasy. It utilizes romance as a way to exploit the “villain” and exemplifies a tactic I’ve seen Jones use more than once: foreshadowing the romance to come AFTER the written story ends so as not to force the romance where it doesn’t belong. Finally, I want to work through Deep Secret. Admittedly this one took a while for me to dig, but it does employ what readers may recognize as a more “traditional” romance arc: the Who-The-Heck-Are-You, followed by I-Can’t-Stand-You, which leads to a moment of Wow-That-Was-Surprisingly-Impressive. After this comes I’m-Jealous-When-You-Fraternize-With-Others-But-Don’t-Know-Why, thus building towards Don’t-Risk-Your-Life-I-Love-You-Shoot-I-Forgot-To-Say-That-Out-Loud, and then climaxes with Let’s-Spend-Forever-Together. Yes, that sounds cliché, but Jones uses that normal(ish) arc inside a zany situation: real magic-users who must navigate their way through a sci-fi/fantasy convention in order to save a parallel world.
So, I’m off to breathe in the sunrises, storms, and campfires. Take a moment over the next few days and watch the heavens ebb and flow above you. When you’re ready and I’m with Internet, we can talk about love.