Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why do my characters talk about love so fast?

From: Josleyn

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. 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

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 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.

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