image courtesy of Pixabay
I’ve noticed a lot of talking and joking on social media the last few months about one’s favorite “book boyfriends.”
I have mixed feelings about that.
As a reader, when I’m reading a book, I want to understand and experience the story from inside the protagonist, whether we are similar or not. That includes “falling in love” within the context of the book with whomever the character falls in love with (although there are times when I separate myself out and go, “no, that one’s not right for you, what are you doing?”
Part of the power of reading is connecting or understanding or having a crush or falling in love (for the duration of the read) with characters in the book.
And, yes, after putting the book down, during bouts of singleness, I might wish I had someone in my life with traits similar to that of the character with whom I fell in love for the book.
There are plenty of love interests in books with whom I don’t fall in love, even for the duration of the book. Especially when they start talking about their love interests as possessions or as “mates for life” or any such thing. As a teenager, briefly, I thought that all-encompassing love was exciting; now I find it creepy. Even in a book. Even as a fantasy.
I want us to choose EACH OTHER. I don’t want to be dominated or owned or tamed. I want a partner, not a master.
Even in books.
I’m discussing this in terms of heterosexual couples, because that’s my experience. This isn’t meant to exclude same sex or pansexual couples. But I’m speaking from personal responses to the books and to the chatter.
While I’ve wished to have a partner in my life who embodies traits of a character with whom I’ve “fallen in love” (or lust, or a crush) in a book, I stop short of calling those men my “book boyfriends.”
Because I am not the woman with whom the various men fell in love with.
Sometimes (often), I wish I embodied those characteristics. But I’m me. I’m not this particular hero’s One True Love.
He fell in love with the heroine of the world they both inhabit.
One of the reasons he’s so attractive is that he loves HER. They found each other. They managed, in a world of thousands of possibilities, to sort through the noise and find each other, and build happiness together.
I’m happy for them.
Should I insert myself, Mary Sue-style, into their world, he still wouldn’t fall in love with me, because they found each other. Should I pull him out of his world and into mine, he might be dependent on me initially to learn how to navigate my world, but we still wouldn’t find true love together.
What makes an HEA work is that those two individuals in the book found their best match.
I’ve often said I believe there are a number of people with whom one can be content, or even happy, but I do believe there is one true love for each of us. Many don’t find that individual.
If this particular “he” turned away from his true love to me — be it in his world or my world — it would diminish him. He would no longer be the character with whom I “fell in love” in the book. That extra frisson of attraction that made him so enticing would be destroyed. I would have less respect for him.
I can’t be with someone I don’t respect.
Let’s face it — many of the traits we find attractive in fiction would grate on us in daily life. It’s fun to play with them for a few hours, to have that fantasy, but bring that character into day-to-day reality? How many of us could cope with each other then? Many of these characters lack the flexibility for the daily details that can make or break a relationship. Part of what makes them so attractive as a fantasy makes them irritating as a reality.
Am I over thinking? Of course! Talking about “book boyfriends” is a fun game and it makes one think about qualities that one finds attractive in a partner. It’s a fantasy, a daydream, an escape from the mundane.
And yet, yet, it always makes me feel uncomfortable when I do it. Not when other people joke about it or talk about it or whatever. I can enjoy their enjoyment. But when I try to do it, it feels wrong.
It makes me feel as though I’m intruding on an established relationship. Even though those in the relationship are fictional.
I am happy to embody the heroine while I read the book, “fall in love” during the book, and then go back to my life when I’m done. The characters continue their lives on their fictional plane. I continue mine on my own plane of existence.
All kinds of ideas can spin from these different planes of existence and interaction. Many have been done. Entire series have been built on a fictional character coming to life, or a person entering a fictional world.
What about as a writer? Do I write my ideal partner?
Yes and no. As a writer, in order to accomplish what I wish, when I write from inside a character, I embody that character, no matter what the gender. Each character in one of my books is me and is not me simultaneously. As I wrote in Ink in My Coffee, the piece, “Can Writers Have Friends?” — when I do my job properly as a writer, the character evolves away from the original inspiration — and away from ME — into a unique individual.
What I try to do, when I write romantic partners in my work, is write the ideal partner for the character. Not for me, but the character. Again, the characters are me and not-me simultaneously, and then evolve farther and farther away from me as the book grows.
Recently, two men entered my life, one romantically and one platonically, who inspired characters in upcoming work. However, as I wrote the characters these men inspired, they evolved further and further away from the men who inspired them. They became the right characters for the context of their fictional worlds, and my friends remained in the right context of this world.
“Book boyfriends” can be a fun game and a fun fantasy. But unless I turn into a different person, I’m wrong for all of them. I’ve worked very hard to become the person I am, flawed as that is, and I don’t want to be someone else. So, yes, I can indulge myself here and there. But then return to being the real me rather than a fictional combination of me & the heroine, and find a real person with whom to have an even better partnership.