So a week or so ago, I finished up a steamy–not sexy, not exactly–scene where the two lovers share in a kiss in a moonlit garden. I thought it was tangible, a moment suspended in time, a beautiful pause in the action my book has gained a reputation for by my proofreaders.
Then, burnt out from two days of working on the conclusion, I read a few pages from a real fantasy romance, and my heart did that sinking sensation. Compared to the other novel, mine was a bat of an eye, a little “ooolala” and that was all. I sat there, thinking, eyes lingering over the tension between the other writer’s characters, a tension so overwhelmingly real that a reader was lost in physical lust. Then I saw the words describing how the main character couldn’t understand the “horrible” group, and it dawned on me that this other writer’s main character was basically a teenager, a girl-woman with no experience in the matters of the heart. A dreamer.
Feralyne is no dreamer. She’s a realist. A practical woman who thinks first, then acts, then does whatever else is necessary, then–and only when her work is done–does she feel. I suppose this element is part of her demeanor. Were she to be truly traumatized, she would be the sort of person to appear untouched until post-traumatic stress disorder set in.
Therefore, why should I judge my writing of a romantic kiss against another writer’s writing when the women in question are on opposite ends of the spectrum? Feralyne never behaves on emotion–except for the kiss, and that pesters her afterward. In not so many words, she wonders why she was such a fool and why her lover kissed her to start with. Now, with the other writer’s character, the situation escalates much beyond a kiss in a flash.
This other writer’s character has had a good deal of the inner conflict going basically like this: I think I like him. Oh no, I shouldn’t. Oooo, I REALLY like him. Oh, no…should I? Oo, I’m in looove. I hope he loves me back.
Fera’s conflict has gone more akin to this: Hrmm. Should I trust this man? He’s close friends with my close friends, I guess he’s cool. Plus, I need all the help I can get. Plot-action-adventure-time! Time with friends. Huh, this guy is pretty neat; I’d like to learn stuff from him. More plot-action-adventure -time with more stuff learned. Gee, I really trust this guy. Even more plot-action-adventure-time! Then, a nice, quiet flight over a sunset. Get recruited to be someone’s successor in an important role. Then, suddenly, oolala, holy-crap-I-think-I-love-you-when-did-that-happen? Ah well, let’s kiss anyway……Gosh darn it, why’d we kiss and how did these feelings form under my nose? O, wait–there be gremlins! Let’s see what they’re up to while I brood over this new information.
Uhm…yeah. I see the length difference, too, and that was when it really sunk in: The other writer’s character makes romance a thick slice of meat because that’s all she really has to focus on–the plot and backstory are just occasional strands that she thinks about less and less the more she focuses on her love interest.
Compare with Fera: Emotions make her uncomfortable. She likes to focus in on the moment, and it takes a strong wave of emotions to cause her to act on those feelings. After the kiss, what she needs to do is think, but that would cause her to face how she really feels so she seeks out a distraction. The realization that she has started to fall in love with anyone is a shock, no matter how much she enjoys the feeling of being in love. Perhaps what she is most frustrated about is that she did not even notice this was happening. Or perhaps she did, but chose to ignore it until her love called her on it.
A second, more minor–or not–difference between these two ladies is foresight. The other character thinks about the future, or rather dreams of it. Fera doesn’t. Not really. She thinks on the past and what puzzle they solve for the future, but she never thinks of her personal future. She lives in the moment, and perhaps that is what she has learned to do based off her prior experiences.
In short, there are many directions a practical character could choose to go in regards to romance. Feralyne’s method of ignoring it is one such way, perhaps a more complex way because any mental comments about the love interest is cut short. Other women might try to convince themselves another mate is more suitable, but find themselves drawn to their real love interest despite their efforts. That is still more complex than a straightforward dreamer.
I no longer feel substandard for my choice of scene. It fits the characters. It fits the plot. It fits the style of the novel. I don’t criticize the other writer’s choices, as it fits the way her book was written. They’re just different women from different walks of life. There is no reason their experience of love should be the same.