With Valentines just gone, perhaps it is time to think about love and lovers. This is one area where the audience has very definite expectations about what they want to read. And even more definite expectations about what they don’t want to see on the page. One obvious example is when you cut to the fireplace for sex scenes. Are you a Jane Austen that hold all passion to a kiss on the hand – ungloved? Or do the characters rip off all their clothes and invite a friend?
I have already spoken about sex in a previous post, as have my fellows. I was thinking more the everyday king of love. Do your characters use pet nicknames for each other? Do they touch while walking? Is it hand holding or a full arm around the body? How do they show their love?
I once knew a couple that were still hopelessly in love after 40 years of marriage. They had their ups and downs, but you could see in their eyes, they could see the other person, warts and all, and loved them. Coming from solid farming stock, they were not the type to ever show physical affection. I don’t think I ever saw them touch unless he was helping her out of the car. Then a shared look, a brief smile and a twinkle in the eyes, and you could see they were still feeling the other’s warmth. It was like an invisible blanket covering them both in soft, gentle comfort. That couple have always been my picture of true love. Seated on opposite sides of the table, teasing about dirty shoes and the need for clean tea cups, they were more in love than Juliette on her balcony because it was real, and it had lasted.
But how do you show that sort of non-physical love? How do you capture that moment of shared intimacy that defines a relationship and takes place with the characters clothed and vertical? A shared joke is one way. I know it is cliched bordering on sickening when you have people finishing each other’s sentences, but it is also true. My dearly beloved and I don’t even need to finish the sentence anymore. We have started speaking in shorthand because after 18 years, we have seen too many of the same movies and read the same books, met the same people, for us not to think of the same things. We definitely aren’t joined at the hip, and I can assure you that we disagree on a few things from time to time. But we have become that weird thing that is the joined name. Going over to Keith and Karen’s, is almost said in one breath. We are the Fainges to most people, a matched set. I am definitely not complaining, but that can be hard to write. And worth every word. For many, the ideal is not the passionate embrace, it is the comfort of constancy.