First I took my kids to see the new version of CHARLOTTE’S WEB. When I first read this book as a child, I cried at the end. I apparently still haven’t grown up because I had to surreptitiously wipe away a few tears in the movie theatre. The movie was pretty well done, the celebrity voices only occasionally distracting (and Julia Roberts was great as Charlotte). The special effects used to show Charlotte spinning her web were lovely. But it was the ending, of course, that got me, when Wilbur says “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” May we all deserve such a eulogy!
Apparently this wasn’t enough exercise for the tear ducts. I also happened to finish THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (a New Year’s resolution of sorts) this weekend. It’s a polarizing book. Some people are put off by the nonlinear storytelling, some people are disappointed because they were expecting science fiction, not a love story, others complain it’s not a love story because Harry and Clare have too much sex (we Riskies have never heard that complaint, have we????) But there are many who love the book, including my friends at Writer Unboxed, who did an interview with the author, Audrey Niffenegger. One of my friends commented how she cried over Henry. Well, slushbucket here cried too, not just over Henry, but over Clare, too (and maybe a little for myself because I may never write anything half as powerful).
Of course I had to think about why these stories affect me so much. I think it’s because by taking a different view at life (through a friendship between a pig and a spider, through a love relationship whose ordinary events unfold in an extraordinary way) they remind me to live in the moment more, to cherish love and beauty whenever and however they come into my life, and to be willing to risk the pain of losing what I love.
I try to get some of that into my stories, though it’s harder in romance where the reader is primed to expect a happy ending. The thing is the characters don’t know it’s going to be OK and one has to get the reader to feel that. One can also plumb wounds from the past or sacrifice secondary characters, though these things can’t be contrived or they feel like cheap ploys. And rosy as we might make those final scenes, the bittersweet is there in the vows “til death do us part”. Maybe that’s why people cry at weddings. (Of course this whole issue is moot if it’s a paranormal and h/h are immortal, I suppose!)
So do you like tear-jerkers? What are your favorites? Any favorite romances that get you going? What do you think makes them work? Are we authors evil for doing such terrible things to our characters?
And lastly, could you imagine anyone ever having wiped a tear (let alone do anything so unladylike as to blow her nose) into this antique hanky c.1850? (Image from Karen Augusta Antique Lace & Fashion.)
Elena, resident Risky Regency Watering Pot