Humans are chaotic, always pushing the boundaries and trying to be average at the same time. We want to fit in and be exceptional. We can’t leave any unexplored territory while hoping for a stable life. These paradoxes are fundamental to our nature. The same is true in love.
We love and hate the same people sometimes.
Two strategies for attraction, which are fundamentally opposed to each other, get cited all the time in tired clichés. If opposites attract, how can birds of a feather flock together? If psychology studies predict higher levels of happiness in couples that are more similar to each other (culture, socio-economic background, interests, etc.), why has evolution left us drawn to people we are very different from? What makes a book-worm become infatuated with the bad boy?
Naturally romance stories deal with this kind of thing all the time, but increasingly they are showing up in paranormal and other fiction tropes. Perhaps the motivating factors are as unique as the individuals. One thing we can agree on, while many humans are happy in a stable, traditional life, others are driven to explore new paths. This is true in love as it is in every other aspect of our lives. Technology is to the point where people are now publicly declaring their love for robots. It’s human nature, for a small part of us.
It’s not much of a stretch to apply that human nature to various genres of fiction. Just as Tauriel the Elf and Kili the Dwarf found love despite being from different races (The Hobbit movies), we have to assume that while the majority of people in any story will gravitate toward the familiar and safe, there are always those who will be willing to experiment with an uncommon love. If we accept vampires are real or humanoid aliens contact earthlings in the future, we must admit there will be somebody attracted to them.
Thus, the best love stories might not be romances. If the greatness of a success is measured by the barriers overcome to get there, uncommon love is the best story. For that, one must leave the formula driven world of mass market romance and delve into other genres.
This idea really hit home to me as I wrote Exacting Essence. I am a patent discovery writer. Once my characters take off, I can seldom guess where they will end up. It happened after Carrie’s murder. She found herself as a ghost, living in the dream world. As her killer continued to chase the remnant of her to finish the job, she ran into a native of the realm, George. A living nightmare, George looks like a huge gorilla. Over time, Carrie adapts to the reality of the dream world and realizes the form of people and things in the dreamscape don’t matter as much as their mind and emotions.
Even as the characters began to come together, I knew I’d lost control of them and they were going to do something completely unexpected. They fell in love.
When I stopped writing, it took a long time to wrap my head around what happened. A ghost and a nightmare falling in love? Who would believe it? Who would want to read it? But I couldn’t go back. The characters had made their choice, and we all had to live with the consequences. Was it so much different than Beauty and the Beast or the Phantom of the Opera? Since then Twilight proved, that an uncommon love can be just as compelling, if not more.
And why not? The biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.
An excerpt from Chapter 9 of Exacting Essence:
Carrie felt groggy. Her head felt stuffed with cotton and every movement of her body felt like she was swimming in grease. It was a dark day with tiny spots of snow threatening to break loose a quiet storm. The world seemed to be taking a long time to come into focus. Then slowly she noticed a nip of cold and the smell of dry leaves. Only then did she feel her feet were standing on uneven lines. It took a moment for her eyes to focus and for her to realize a fencing board lay under her heels.
Beyond the breached fence, some kind of animal was rooting around in the garden. Carrie didn’t feel fear or curiosity. She felt like she had just broken a fever and by staying still, she hoped to heal more. It came much faster than she expected. Her strength returned, not just her own strength, a new, greater power. She knew she could climb Everest or wrestle alligators.
How it had happened so suddenly, she didn’t know. She wasn’t tired at all. In fact, she felt like running for the thrill of it. She knew she should visit her mother, but that could wait. She started a deep breath and then cut it short when she heard a low grunt.
The pointed and wrinkled head of a huge, black gorilla peeked around the side of the large gap in the fence. Fear brought back exhaustion. She suddenly remembered being in the road and now, an instant later, she was dreaming. This wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. She was so close to finishing this deal. If not for this stupid ape, she would be done already.
The monster stepped out, revealing his massive shoulders and arms. Carrie closed her eyes. The moment of power was gone. She just waited for the Nightmare to wake her…as it always did.
The gargantuan roar made her shudder. Flecks of spittle hit her arms as the blast of air from its lungs rushed past her. The monster reared back and then brought down two fists to crush her. They pushed down on her shoulders, locking her knees and hips. The ground rumbled, but she didn’t wake.
The monster let out a surprised whelp. Then it furrowed the lines of its face and began winding up for a powerful punch. This time Carrie looked. Each fist was almost the size of her torso. When one hit, she fell over. It hurt in a dull kind of way, but it didn’t throw her twenty feet as she expected. It was as if the very fabric of space bent to protect her from the unimaginable force of this assault.
The enraged gorilla smashed again and again. It jumped up and down on her head with feet the size of skateboards. It picked up a board and swung it like a bat, all the while roaring. The pain throbbed. But it was like a sore thumb or a headache.
The fear began to leave her as Carrie became more curious about the situation. The monster flexed its muscles, pacing and howling. It leapt at her and pummeled her again. Now that she was lying down, it didn’t really affect her. She felt the wind. Her feet tickled from the vibrations on the ground. The fence was torn to splinters and the garden smashed by the dark creature’s ranting. It persisted for quite a while until the creature exhausted its fury.
Carrie could swear it shrugged as it turned its attention elsewhere and walked away on its knuckles, heading up the street. She sat up. What just happened?
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