Love hurts.Think back over romance novels you’ve loved or the genre-defining books that drive our industry. The most unforgettable stories and characters spring from crushing opposition. What we remember about romance novels is the darkness that drives them. Three hundred pages of folks being happy together makes for a hefty sleeping pill, but three hundred pages of a couple finding a way to be happy in the face of impossible odds makes our hearts soar. In darkness, we are all alone.So don’t just make love, make anguish for your characters. As you structure a story, don’t satisfy your hero’s desires, thwart them. Make sure your solutions create new problems. Nurture your characters doubts and despair. Make them earn the happy ending they want, even better…make them deserve it. Delay and disappointment charge situations and validate character growth. Misery accompanies love. It’s no accident that many of the stories we think of as timeless romances in Western Literature are fiercely tragic: Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Cupid and Psyche… the pain in them drags us back again and again, hoping that this time we’ll find a way out of the dark.Only if you let your characters get lost will we get lost in them. And that, more than anything else, is what romance can and should do for its protagonists and its readers: lead us through the labyrinth, skirt the monstrous despair roaming its halls and find our way into daylight.
Damon Suede
I thumped her on the back, picked her up and dropped her on top of her dungarees. Put them pants on, I said and be a man. She did, but she cried quietly until I shook her and said gently, Stop it now. I didn’t carry on like that when I was a little girl. I got into my clothes and dumped her into the bow of the canoe and shoved off.All the way back to the cabin I forced her to play one of our pet games. I would say something—anything—and she would try to say something that rhymed with it. Then it would be her turn. She had an extraordinary rhythmic sense and an excellent ear.I started off with We’ll go home and eat our dinners.An’ Lord have mercy on us sinners, she cried. Then, Let’s see you find a rhyme for ‘month’!I bet I’ll do it … jutht thith onthe, I replied. I guess I did it then, by cracky.Course you did, but then you’re wacky. Top that, mister funny-lookin’!I pretended I couldn’t, mainly because I couldn’t and she soundly kicked my shin as a penance. By the time we reached the cabin she was her usual self and I found myself envying the resilience of youth. And she earned my undying respect by saying nothing to Anjy about the afternoon’s events, even when Anjy looked us over and said, Just look at you two filthy kids! What have you been doing—swimming in the bayou?Daddy splashed me, said Patty promptly.And you had to splash him back. Why did he splash you? ’Cause I spit mud through my teeth at him to make him mad, said my outrageous child.Patty!Mea culpa, I said, hanging my head. ’Twas I who spit the mud.Anjy threw up her hands. Heaven knows what sort of a woman Patty’s going to grow up to be, she said, half angrily.A broad-minded and forgiving one like her lovely mother, I said quickly.Nice work, bud, said Patty.Anjy laughed. Outnumbered again. Come in and feed the face.
Theodore Sturgeon
I cannot wish you ...I cannot wish you good fortuneknowing that good fortune is what you are, while bad fortune is just a mistaken identityI cannot wish you all the things of earthsince earth itself is yours and that is sufficient, while all the rest will never be enoughI cannot wish you the things you want to see when much unseen is also here waiting for your denial of mind that refuses to see I cannot wish you strength or courage to conquer the troubles and tribulations of lifebecause you alone are the master of limits and imaginary linesI cannot wish you an easy and safe path in all your venturessafe and easy paths are unworthy of the worthyI cannot wish you any kind of freedom you may seeklife is the proof of freedom ; seeking is your prison ; expectations are your guardsI cannot wish you any kind of happinessheart is too blind to be content in the certainty of reality, excellence and immortality of things I cannot wish you good health the voice within asking ever provoking questions is your health ; fear that silences you is your illnessI cannot wish you anythingas long as life is about being instead of havingMaybe holiday season is just not about wishes and celebration at allmaybe, just maybe, it is just a reminder about the power of state of mindWhat else than state of mind can make things look beautiful when in fact they are uglywhat else than state of mind can make things look ugly when in fact they are beautifulLet the New Year be the year in which we choose to be the masters of the mind and not its slave.
Isa Morgül
They got under each of my shoulders and pulled me up, Padma walking in front of me and holding her arms out for good measure. I walked on my own, but I knew that if they hadn’t been there, I might have fallen more than once. Side by side, we marched into the Ocean, all of us crying for help. What? I felt the swirling waves of Her worry as we floated just beneath the surface. Something’s wrong with Kahlen, Miaka said.In the water, they could let me go and I floated there, the Ocean holding me like a child. I’m so tired.Look at her skin, Elizabeth said. She’s so pale. And she keeps sleeping. Like she needs it.She has a fever, too, Miaka added. I was acutely aware that my temperature was off; I could feel the water around me warming from my touch....She fretted. This has never happened before. I don’t know what to do.Maybe if she stays in You for a while, it would help, Elizabeth suggested. What, Miaka? the Ocean asked suddenly. Nothing. But she did look like she was hiding something. What were you thinking?Nothing, Miaka insisted. Flipping through ideas, it’s all nothing. I think Elizabeth is onto something. She swam up to me. We’ll come and check on you every hour until you feel like coming back to bed. I didn’t want to say how much it bothered me that she said back to bed instead of back to the house. It was like she knew I wasn’t going to be standing again. Okay. They fled, off to make arrangements for their broken sister. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s happening.How long have you been feeling like this? She sounded uneasy, as if She suspected something She didn’t want to say.I squinted, trying to remember. It’s been coming on so slowly, it’s hard to say. She snuggled me into Herself. Just rest. I’m here. And I was so tired, I did exactly that. It was so unreal, how loved I felt. Right there, balanced with Her rigidity, Her absolute need to maintain order, I heard Her thinking of what She might sacrifice so long as She could keep me. It was such an encompassing feeling and that alone was enough to make me sleep.
Kiera Cass