Got your attention there, didn’t I?
For a variety of reasons, I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately. Most of the novels I pick up don’t pass the twenty-five page test. Failures fall into a number of categories — plots so predictable that I can’t bear to read them out, grammar so poor that my eyes cross, factual mistakes that hurtle me from the storytelling.
And then there’s the other major reason that books get tossed: poor handling of the Fated Meeting between the hero and the heroine.
You know what I mean: the hero and the heroine see each other for the first time, and they are swept off their respective feet. Awareness jolts through them; they feel instant kinship in every inch of their anatomy (with varying specificity of said anatomy, depending on whether the romance is sweet or spicy.) Their bodies *know* that they are meant to be together, even if their brains haven’t yet fully engaged.
OK. Someone, somewhere in all the history of humanity may have met his/her spouse and known from a single glance that they were meant to be bound in perfect love forever. But for the rest of us? Instant transformation into a smitten kitten is an alien concept.
An alien concept. And that makes me think of speculative fiction. In fantasy and science fiction, we are often writing about strange, unexpected bonds with the Other. Whether it’s the pull of the ring on Frodo or the insinuation of Jane in Ender’s ear, whether it’s the power of spice dreams on Dune, or the dark shadow that eats at Ged’s soul — we understand compulsion. We comprehend the binding of souls.
What makes compulsion work in speculative fiction? What tricks do authors use, to convey successfully instantaneous attraction? (And yes, sometimes that attraction is romantic/sexual. A little Miller/Lee space opera anyone? How about some Anne Bishop?) Which works have you read where you believe the draw between characters, even before the characters believe it themselves?
While I look forward to reading your comments, my ability to respond in a timely manner will be hampered by my being out of the office today. Don’t let that keep you from posting, though — early and often!