I was just reading the post on Elvis and cream cake (which, incidentally, I’ve been craving for a while. Thank you for helping me get on that) and, at the end, you made a mention of the death of John Lennon, somethingsomething, and then…end of blog post. Are you intending soon to write a post on that?
As for the lavish praise and guiltless fawning from me to you, I have a rather sad story to tell you: I’m a huge fan of Aud, and only recently discovered your personal website. I was so excited when I saw that Always had come out, I immediately rushed to the library to borrow it. I took my booty home, flopped myself on the couch and, savoring every last second of it, flipped open the book. It landed on the copyrights and information page, and I practically smacked my forehead in exasperation when I saw that Always had been published in 2007 and it’s now 2011…I was woefully behind the times. All in all, I sped through Always like a crack addict mainlining coke and my dear girlfriend had to pry the book out of my cold, starving fingers to get me to eat anything. It was a great book. I practically had a coronary when I saw that Aud had come to Seattle…I’d never dreamt it possible! Then reality hit, and I remembered once again that she’s a fictional character. I’m rambling again. I apologize for that.
Well…in a nutshell, is there going to be another Aud book soon?
Also…I’ve a request, if you will. Your books are all rife with gold star lesbians, but…why does it never take them long to drop the L-bomb on each other? With Julia it was five or six weeks, in Ammonite with Marghe it was about six months, probably less. With Kick, it was about a month. And the DGF and I were both wondering if we’re the only lesbians on the face of the planet who took longer than a year to start saying that. Uhm. Is there a particular reason they never take long?
I’m sorry, this letter’s been dreadfully long…but I hope your day is going well, and enjoy the overcast day! Yesterday’s sunshine was so pleasant…um.
Thanks so much for reading, if you do, J
I always read email from readers. Every single one. I reply to most–sometimes here, sometimes directly. (Sometimes both.) Part of the point of having a website and blog (and Twitter and Google+ accounts) is to interact with other people. If they’re readers then, wow, icing on the cake (or cream…).
So, will I tell the story about the death of John Lennon one day? Yes. But today is not that day.
Today I want to get to the question of why my characters say ‘love’ so fast. The answer is simple: my characters recognise what they feel very quickly, and then don’t have a problem saying so.
Something I’ve never understood about other people is this weird reluctance to say what they feel. What is so frightening about it? I find it utterly mystifying. I told Kelley I loved her just a few days after I met her. She didn’t believe me. Actually, she patted me on the hand and said, “Yes, sweetie. I love you, too,” in a tone that meant, Whoa, foreigners are really, really strange.
In general, I think it’s a bad habit to speak for other people, but Kelley and I have talked about this often over the last 23 years. So, just this once, I’m going to make an exception. (Because, hey, if I get it wrong, K will no doubt correct me in the comments.)
That night, long ago, when I said, “I love you,” Kelley thought I couldn’t possibly mean it, that I must be using love to mean like or want to be friends with. But I meant it. I meant, You said hello and my world changed. I want you, want to know you, for the rest of my life. To me it was blindingly simple: I knew what I felt and told her so.
I’d known how I felt from the minute I saw her. (Read the whole story here.) But I’d done the decent thing and waited a few days and for a moment sitting alone in a restaurant with a glass of wine.
Not everyone is like me, I know. But the thing about fiction is readers don’t necessarily want characters to dither and agonise in ways they themselves might dither and agonise in real life. Sometimes readers want characters to have different problems (saving the world, blowing it up, whatever) and they’re relieved when the people in the book know what they want and just…do it.
Oh, alright, here’s the truth: it would fucking drive me insane to live inside the heads of characters who are either too out of touch with themselves to know what they feel and what they want, or who know but are too frightened to say so.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that all those in real life who don’t know/feel/say/do are out of touch or frightened. I understand that modern reality, with its layers and gender games and careful poker play around relationships, is not so simple. But I don’t want to spend time with that kind of reality. It doesn’t suit me. I get grumpy. I’ve built my life around the ability to just say, fuck it, and to then just do it. If the world doesn’t like it, then I’ll change the world. It’s worked for me so far (except for MS–but, hey, I’m on that, trust me). It might not work for others.
I’ve just finished a thousand-page novel in which my main character has to be terribly, terribly careful, politically, because lives are at risk. If I’d made her careful around sex and love, too, I think my head might have exploded. Oh, wait, it turns out she is careful about love and sex, because lives are at stake there, too.
Yes, I’m being deliberately confusing and mysterious. Hey, it took me a thousand pages to figure out what happens. I don’t see why you shouldn’t wait, too.
As for another Aud, well, I never say never. But right now I’m focused on Hild. And in book two she isn’t going to be careful. Not one bit.
14 thoughts on “Why do my characters talk about love so fast?”
>>Something I've never understood about other people is this weird reluctance to say what they feel. What is so frightening about it?<< 1) It's common for people to be misled or downright mistreated about feelings. If talking about something usually has negative consequences, one tends to slow or stop doing it. 2) “Misled” also leads to many people not even knowing what they feel anymore. If statements of feeling are commonly met with “Oh you are not” etc. then one may become confused about one's own emotions. I almost always know what I feel and what I want. In a safe environment, I have no trouble expressing that. But there are times when it's not safe, and I'm not inclined to hand weapons to enemies — which may not have anything to do with the person the emotions actually involve. I find modern society tedious and destructive in many regards; its widespread emotional clumsiness is one. So most of my fiction is speculative. I don't want to write about characters that I wouldn't even take out for a cup of tea. I tend to favor societies that are different from the mainstream — sometimes better, sometimes just quirked in another direction. Then I can look back at this one and consider what could be done differently. Some of my characters are very in tune with their emotions, fluent about discussing how they feel; others, not so much. I rather enjoy banging the ends of those jumper cables together to watch the sparks fly. One of my favorite characters right now is a former paladin, Johan, who is painfully clueless about the divide between what he thinks and what he feels. He'll say one thing, what he's thinking; but he'll do another, based on what he's feeling. He keeps trying to convince himself that he's not a hero, but he can't quite stop doing heroic things. It's fun watching him learn things about himself that he doesn't want to know. The two female leads in that series, Shahana and Ari, are far more open and prosaic about their feelings — but each of them is in a different place, heartwise. Then too, the love in question is devotional rather than romantic, so that changes the way people talk about it.
ysabet, that's another thing I don't really understand: how many women will let someone tell them their feelings are wrong. To me that's a trespass almost as grave as a punch.
No corrections from me. And I love you too.
I see another wrinkle. Love develops at its own speed, so it's not just a question of a character's self-awareness, honesty, and courage. With some people it happens in a flash; with others, it unfurls. Both rock.
I used to be highly skeptical of the love-at-first-sight crowd until it happened to me. My love fell in love with me that way, so it would be terribly bad form to be dismissive. Took me longer–but I know the exact moment it happened and I didn't withhold my feelings after that.
As a reader, I tend to prefer romances that take longer to develop. I have no problem with a character enjoying sex for its own sake, but I become deeply annoyed when lust is confused with love.
jill, yes, I hear you. I've done the slow unfurl, too. The first two times, actually. But with K it really was a coup de foudre. And how anyone could not say anything after that dumbfounds me.
And ditto on confusing sex and love. They are not the same thing. I'm just glad they often occur together in real life :)
I tend to tell people exactly how I feel when I feel it. As I've gotten older however, I've learned to keep my mouth shut sometimes. I try anyway. :) Obviously it's scary for lots of us to tell people how we feel; we are afraid of rejection. But I found out the hard way that the opposite is also true for some people; when they hear someone tell them they love them, they feel fear. And that fear sometimes causes them to react. I try not to scare people off right away. :)
I also think that lust gets confused with love because of oxytocin. Does it become love because of oxytocin or is it really still lust? Hmm, I think there's a short story that touches on that question…
jennifer, sure, we don't say these things to people it will frighten. Sigh. Fear is such an annoyance.
How can you remain quiet after you're lovestruck? Because love is generous, unlike lust, which is usually selfish. Sometimes we demur to protect ourselves, sometimes to protect others, as Ysabet and Jennifer said. Sometimes one person just isn't ready, for any number of reasons. That's when you wait and try the patience of your friends. :)
I think lust deepens into love when it's grounded in respect. Much of what I see as the confusion between lust and love is caused by cultural stereotypes. For example, walks on the beach at sunset are delicious, but they do not define a relationship. Except with a dog. In fiction, love becomes believable when it's rooted in the details that matter to those characters. And that better be more meaningful than cup size and eye color.
Jill, part of me wonders how there can be anything more meaningful than eye colour and cup size. I mean that fairly seriously. Every single thing about the beloved is important. To begin with. Then as the years go by some aspects become more important than others, and then it all changes again. And again.
I say to Kelley, 'Honey, I didn't marry you for your mind,' and sometimes it's absolutely a joke and sometimes I'm dead serious. Love is…complex. And also very simple.
Oh, dear. I find I'm not very good at articulating all this stuff.
In this we are quite different, then. I might dwell on every single thing because I just want to extend that feeling of connectedness and putter about in that lovely high, but the items are not of the same importance. I have a list. Only a few items are nonnegotiable. #1 (intelligence) is so crucial that the lack of it can even totally mute physical attraction.
It's true, though, that over the years, certain aspects gain in importance, only to wane again. That's a comforting part of the dance, somehow.
There are a lot of people who live emotionally on the margins of possibility. That is, what they want may not be obtainable, so it is better to live continually with the possibility that you might get it rather than say something and guarantee you won't get it. So they say nothing. They wait. Maybe the other person will simply “realize” what's going on and say something first.
Yeah, it's gamey, but as has already been noted, if you've gotten your hand slapped often enough, it's natural to stop extending it.
To come right out and say “This is how I feel about you” may be honest and healthy, but if there's the fear of being told “I don't want you to feel that way about me, so go away” then people get protective of the fantasy that if might be otherwise.
I have always been a bit in awe of you in that regard. Most of my life I've been circumspect at best about my feelings, precisely because so often I'd been made to feel unwelcome because of them. It's a trap.
Mark, one of the pluses of growing up an outsider is the realisation that you (I) will never fit in, no matter what, so then you can kind of do what suits you best. Being in the US I'm a triple outsider: queer foreign cripple. But being a dyke is so much more ordinary than it used to be, and my work is actually paid for these days, and English is more enviable here than shunned, so it's been rather…odd becoming essentially accepted, mainstream, and even, gasp, old guard. I've had to learn new social skills. (Like compromise.)
But I haven't lost my old skills :)
There are very few people out there with a fearless heart. There's you, Nicola, Steve Earle comes to mind. :) I used to know I had one, but I find that after all these years, it has gotten harder to keep coming back for more. But, being human, I do anyway. :)
jennifer, sometimes it's good to never learn :)
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