Reading,  Writing

Love moderately?

romeojulietThis is the advice Friar Lawrence gives Romeo and Juliet: “Therefore love moderately; long love doth so.”  It sounds kind of stingy, as if you have to dole out your love a little at a time or you’ll run out.

I guess his point really is that Romeo and Juliet’s level of drama is leading them into trouble. When writing romance, we want to tap into that sort of intensity. But just as the idea of reforming a rake is dangerously close to the unrealistic fantasies some women have of fixing an abusive lover, the idea of not being able to live without someone comes close to unhealthy obsession.

These tropes are edgy; maybe that’s why they’re so powerful.

So on one hand we have powerful emotion combined with the immature prefrontal cortex development of teenagers.  It’s great for tragedy, but not for the happy ending we want in a romance novel.

On the other hand, there are mature characters who could live without each other, if need be. Is there a loss of emotional intensity?

I don’t really think so. I think we can still feel the love, even while admiring the strength of characters who move on despite their heartache.

But sometimes there is a powerful need that makes it all work. Laura Kinsale creates characters so scarred that my fellow Kinsale fans and I joke they would need years of therapy in real life. It’s not weakness to need help healing from major trauma. So it’s intense and satisfying that the hero or heroine can help the other.

But to keep it from edging into codependency, I want to know that at some point, near the end of the story or at some point beyond, the wounded one will be strong, too. I want to know he or she would eventually live a happy life even if the other were killed in a carriage accident.

Although romance writers don’t do that at the end of the story, however much they might be tempted in the often-frustrating middle.

What do you think?


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Laurel Hawkes
9 years ago

We envy those who live boldly, giving life their everything. Moderately is so tepid. Boring. I like the quote, “Follow your heart, but take your brain along.”

9 years ago
Reply to  Laurel Hawkes

Laurel, I have heard “Keep an open mind but don’t let your brains fall out” but I like yours better!

9 years ago

Like you I like to know that the hero and / or heroine would be able to move on and live a decent life, but I also want to know that they want desperately to live with each other because that means they will live their best life.

Romeo and Juliet could have used some serious impulse control training!

9 years ago
Reply to  LouisaCornell

I think it goes back to the immature teenage brain. If I remember correctly she is 14 and he’s not that much older. Add hormones and family/societal pressure and you get tragedy. Funny how I now think about the play as a mother of teens.

9 years ago
Reply to  LouisaCornell

And yes, you want to know the h/h get together because they will be so good together and deserve that happiness.

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