Love is death

I think I overthink the romance genre.

I mean, people who read romance novels are just picking it up to go through the emotions of falling in love, right? That’s why romance has such a predictable formula–there doesn’t need to be a ton of plot. Guy meets girl. Girl and guy have secrets. Girl and guy hit it off (or fight). Circumstances throw them together again and again until they get to know each other a bit–and then secrets come to light and they splitsville … and then they realize they can’t live without each other and work hard to make things turn out. Happily ever after. Fade to credits.

As I’ve mused before, love has a lot of aspects to it. Like when I released Malcontent, I was chewing on the idea of respect in relationships. Too many relationships have been wrecked without it.

I was playing with another romantic plot, and I remarked to my writer’s group, why can’t I write romance without adding suspense? There’s always got to be death. People laughed.

Then I started thinking. When does love NOT have death? When two people fall in love, they have to die to their own selfish desires, their own secrets, for the good of the other person. Heck, it goes on, too. Say they get married and have kids. The parents have to die to their wishes for dates, alone time, any time at all … for the good of the family. Death, death, death.

But out of it comes life, life, life.

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Desktop wallpaper from InterfaceLift

God’s built the principle of resurrection into the fabric of our reality. We have to die to those desires so new, better things result. And it happens all the time. Any time a person dares to die to themselves for the sake of someone else, something good results. At least, it does in my life! So I suck it up and die to myself in little ways every day, because the reward is so worth it.

It works the same way in fiction. I find that my best romantic plots involve death–characters who are willing to die for each other, in tiny ways as well as big ways. I guess I just overthink things. Or maybe I’m just coming to understand “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

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Love is the motive

I’ve been brainstorming up a new Sonic story. I write about one per year, and it makes my fans so happy.

Anyway, as I was figuring out the character arcs for everybody, it dawned on me that the root motive of every last character is some kind of love. And it’s funny, because it’s has almost no romance.

One character loves his sister with this obsession, because she was in stasis for years and has just recently awakened again. He’s extremely jealous of the other characters for having any contact at all with her.

The other characters are fond of the sister, except for one character, who falls in love with her magic. This is bad for him, because the magic is slowly killing him.

All of them love their home island, which has been stolen from them by the bad guy, and they’re struggling to get it back.

As I was pondering this, I started looking at other books. Who else is motivated by love? Harry Potter? (Love of friends and home.) The Railway Children? (Love of family.) Trumpet of the Swan? (Love of family.)

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It’s interesting, because I’ve also been plotting out murder mysteries for my dragon cozy series. Murderers are motivated by everything except love: lust, greed, jealousy, pride, anger, and so on. (Is sloth ever a motivation for murder? You’d think a slothful person would be too lazy to kill anyone.)

It’s interesting to see the way things turn out. A bad motive leads to evil actions. A good motive (like love) can lead to good outcomes, except when it doesn’t. (I’m thinking of the necromancer in Malevolent who is obsessed with resurrecting his dead wife.) Or when love of one’s country (patriotism) turns to frenzied conquering of the world.

But when you have selfless, sacrificial love, you get beautiful stories like Linnets and Valerians, which I just finished reading to the kids. Four children get caught up in a series of curses and black magic that surround this little English town. They have to break the curses with the help of friendly animals and good people, who are pitted against the evil animals and people. Their love has to overcome a bitter root of jealousy that has been there for years.

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I think the sacrificial love stories are the ones that stick with us the longest. That’s what makes a story beautiful. The nice thing is, it has nothing to do with romance. Oh, it works in romance, too, but love is so much bigger than that.

Villains can be motivated by love, too. Love of self is the easiest one–“I’m better than everybody else so I deserve better treatment/a better spouse/more money/to rule the world.” But what if a villain is motivated by love for a person? That’s why Mr. Freeze from Batman is one of my favorite villains. Everything he does is to try to save his wife, who is frozen in stasis with incurable cancer. The motivation there is fascinating.

So, next time you write a story, see if your characters are motivated by love in some way. Pay attention to movies and TV shows. Who is motivated by love, even if it’s twisted?

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