Friday, September 9, 2011

Monogamous By Nature

My title comes from Stephen King who is a very popular and well-loved horror writer. I don't read much of his work because I am the kind of person whose imagination hangs on to everything I absorb. I still haven't gotten over reacting to the storyline of "Carrie" which is the only horror story I ever managed to finish. Ironically, Carrie is the name of my current heroine, an epiphany I had this week that inspired this blog. I figured out that my character, like King's, comes from an oppressing family situation. Thankfully, my Carrie will not be killing the family members who hurt her in my storyline so no worries for the squeamish. Humor and poetic justice are much more interesting than death.

The phrase I am using for the blog title comes from King's non-fiction novel called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. My fiancee bought the book for me as a gift many years ago and it is still a favorite. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. If you are King fan or a writer of any sort, put it on your essential list. When you read about King's childhood experiences, his fiction makes complete sense. However, it was the autobiographical information that hooked my interest most. He credits his marriage working out so well to the fact that he and his wife were both "monogamous by nature" when they met and fell in love. He also jokingly added that it helped that all these years later she still had the best pair of legs he'd ever seen in his life.

In "Created In Fire", my heroine has a serious problem with what she views as the hero's  non-monogamous tendencies during the entire time she has known him. My hero views his serial dating and sleeping around actions as having been just filling the hours without her and searching for love like everyone else. If my characters were 100% new to each other, they would probably be more inclined to accept such a difference of opinion, but my pair has an unpleasant history built around this disagreement. So it gets complicated to work out a compromise that lets them both be seen as good persons.

In both my writing and real life, I use sexual monogamy as a barometer of a truly loving relationship. So in most cases, you will find my hero being absolutely monogamous to my heroine from page one. But no matter how I write the sexual monogamy in my current book, the heroine still doesn't trust him even though the hero has done nothing (lately) to further foster her mistrust. I'm aggravated at her for not recognizing his loyalty, but at the same time I know how hard it is to trust again when you've been disappointed or hurt. Who hasn't had that happen to them or someone they know in real life? However, too much reality in this case has created a writing dilemma.

So I'm spending a lot of time wondering what it's going to take for my heroine to heal enough to want what the hero is offering. I've been thinking about, "What builds trust?" The answer I keep coming up with is that it's lots of little things. It's the day-to-day stuff. Listening attentively when a person talks. Modifying behaviors that offend. Trying to be your best, kind self no matter the circumstances. Giving the person your exclusive sexual attention in bed which is not as easy to as it sounds. Most humans suffer from the "grass is greener elsewhere" syndrome, so maintaining a strong sexual focus on a current mate takes. . .well--desire, commitment, and work.

I also concluded that building back a broken trust seems a lot like the process used when starting over with someone in a new relationship. Either way you have to prove yourself and having to do so can foster tons of anger and resentment. So as you can imagine, these two characters are spending a lot of time verbally sparring and rehashing their emotional reactions. Of course, Will (Michael's father) and Jessica spent a lot of time arguing in "Carved In Stone". It seems to be a family trait in those Larson men to want to verbally wrestle a point of contention until a compromise is reached that suits them. Maybe an alpha male is an alpha male is an alpha male, but I have a tendency to stick these men with alpha females just to watch them try to kill each other on their way to the bedroom. Maybe there's a reason I send so many of my characters into therapy. LOL

Okay back to the point. Romance novels don't frequently talk openly about fostering monogamy anymore because such debates can degenerate quickly into arguments about legal definitions of the word. It can a mean a lot of things and the Wiki link describes the various types among all species. From a strictly legal perspective on the term, even a ménage à trois can be monogamous if the three are devoted to each other exclusively. I can accept that argument as much as the one about sexual monogamy being unnatural for some men and women. There is certainly evidence for any argument a person wants to make and being a philosophy major keeps my sense of "fair" in place about it.

When I create a monogamous character in my hero or heroine, I equate it being a matter of trust more than sex. I just use a strong sexual bond to formalize my couple as a bonded pair who have high stakes for being sexually loyal and monogamous to each other. It both gives them a reason to trust and it illustrates trust's existence. Even if my characters don't start out like the Kings being monogamous by nature, by the end of the story I hope to make readers believe my hero's and heroine's relationship is heading in a monogamous direction. In the case of the "Created In Fire" characters, Michael Larson and Carrie Addison, they begin already monogamous in the greater sense of the word, but they are going to have to work very hard to find the rest of a worth-while relationship.
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