Friday, March 1, 2013
LOVE, THE ULTIMATE FOUR-LETTER WORD
My article, FOR A ROMANCE WRITER, LOVE IS…WELL…VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING, was published in the February 2013 issue of KEYNOTES, the monthly newsletter of the New York Chapter of Romance Writers of America. It was subsequently also picked up by the Romancing the Lakes Romance Writers Chapter of Romance Writers of America for publication in their LAKE WAVES NEWSLETTER.
I thought I’d also post it on this blog, so here goes:
FOR A ROMANCE WRITER, LOVE IS…WELL…VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING
Love may be the ultimate four-letter word. Not in a bad way, of course, but in a way that amazes with its ability to grab and hold our attention.
Certainly throughout the ages it has meant many things to many people. Shakespeare likened it to “a child that longs for everything that he can come by.” Laurie Colwin glowingly called it “a work of art,” and Ben Hecht more sadly termed it “a hole in the heart.”
Back a number of decades, Erich Segal’s bestselling novel Love Story declared that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” To which, someone immediately countered, “On the contrary, love means always having to say you’re sorry.”
Then, of course, there’s the ever-popular, and often snarky, Anonymous, who on various occasions has compared love to a cold (“easy to catch but hard to cure”), equated it to a repeating decimal (“the figure is the same but the value gets less and less”), and insisted it was like a lizard (“it winds itself around your heart and penetrates your gizzard”).
For romance writers, this much-described, and frequently abused, word is always at the forefront of what we do. It’s the bedrock of our storytelling; the core of our plots.
When I began my most recent manuscript, I imagined I was creating a story that traced the growing romantic bond between heroine and hero. It wasn’t until I finally wrote “The End” that I realized the “love” involved in my book dealt not only with their relationship, but with other kinds of love as well. There was the love of parent for child, an emotion so deep it could survive even death. Then it occurred to me that in a strange way even the villains of the piece also acted out of love. Granted the things they did were inexcusable, but as evil and destructive as their actions were, their love was equally real.
For some reason, that surprised me, until I belatedly recognized the basic fact that no matter how it is expressed or who expresses it, love—much more than greed or the desire for revenge—is a chameleon that can exist anywhere and everywhere, giving us free reign to use our imaginations and talents, as we choose to create the best story that is in us.
On Sunday, December 23, 2012, in the New York Daily News, writer David Hinckley dubbed the 2003 film “Love Actually” the best modern Christmas movie. In part he gives it this title because it possesses the same heartwarming sentimentality as the best-loved old Christmas films and yet also has a more modern sensibility. But in part he lauds it because its many vignettes show and celebrate love in all its guises, from solemn and heartbreaking to goofy and sweet.
Well, that’s what romance writers do every day. We hop on that chameleon-like emotion and steer it to the happily-ever-after ending of a wild and bumpy ride.
Probably at base we do it because we’re all eternal optimists who want nothing more than to prove that the idea of love-forevermore isn’t just an empty catchphrase. Even in this tumultuous world, it’s still a genuine possibility.