Fan Girl moment here...
I'm so excited to have Kris Kennedy blogging with us today. I'm a huge fan of medieval romances and those written by Kris are among the best I've read in recent years. Her debut book, The Conqueror recieved good reviews, her most recent book, The Irish Warrior was on many Top 10 lists of 2010, including mine, and I can't wait to read her upcoming release, Defiant (April 26th). In fact, when you read this, I'll be sitting on the beach with Defiant in my (hopefully) hot little hands! Please join me in giving Kris a very warm welcome to The Romance Dish!
What Appears A Blessing may Be A Curse...
I think this is one of my (many) favorite elements of fiction, and it’s used to great effect in romance fiction.
This is the time when the hero thinks everything’s going his way, and he couldn’t be happier. I mean, his plans are unfolding precisely as he wanted, right? What a confidence-booster.
Then wham—he suddenly realizes/learns/discovers it’s all terribly wrong. (Note: This is the most fun when it’s due to the heroine.
The flipside is when the heroine has been dragged down further and further into, oh, let’s say some pit of despair. (Because pits of despair are fun in fiction.) When every attempt at problem-solving has resulted only in digging herself in deeper, when everything is going absolutely, positively wrong. (Note: This is most enjoyable when the hero is either the cause of the bad stuff, or the consequence of them—i.e. She has to spend more time with him.) Which, of course, will turn out to be the very best thing that could have happened.
Some of the best storytelling tension, the best humor, the best sensual tension comes from these reversals or switches of expectation/desire and outcome. Some of the best kiss scenes, some of the best clues to solving the mystery, to getting the bad guy, to facing the inner demons, to resolving the core story questions—almost always, some of the best ones come directly from this.
I think this is because this same phenomena happens in our everyday lives, very, very often.
Something happens to us that seems terrible. Perhaps we made a mistake, or maybe we missed the exit. Somehow, we lose out on an opportunity we think was the Very Best Thing and, furthermore, Exactly What We Needed.
But a lot of time, later on--maybe an hour, maybe ten years--we realize that Very Best Thing would have been all wrong. Maybe it would have closed off an opportunity that could lead to something we now cherish. Or maybe something wonderful came out of the ‘mistake’ or the loss, something we can’t imagine our lives without.
Perhaps some (most?) of this attitude, “Hey, it’s Actually A Good Thing!” is just our human capacity for storytelling, our drive to create narratives that explain the world, our desire to find meaning and make sense of the world. It’s a hard-wired thing. So, who knows, maybe we’re just making up these “Hey, it’s really a good thing now!” stories to make ourselves feel better.
But you know what? Most of the time, I don’t think so.
I remember once turning down a job offer that was pretty demanding and inflexible about how I put in my time. Almost immediately after I turned it down, I began second-guessing myself, berating myself for passing up the (not insignificant) increase in pay and prestige. I had a rough few months of it, especially as I was constantly encountering the person who took the job instead. I kept seeing what ‘could have been.’
But . . . a few months later, I re-discovered writing, and you know what? I needed that time, to not only to re-discover writing, but then to stay up until 2am writing, to flex my schedule so I could fit in the obsessive, 23-hours-a-day writing I was sometimes doing. I needed time to be inspired. I needed time to get it all down. Time I’d never have had with the other job.
Turns out, turning down the job was the best thing I could have done.
I’m not (necessarily) saying that things happen for a reason. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. I’m just saying that often, if we keep an open mind, (or have one forced upon us—oh, hello Romance Hero) a lot of times, the thing we wanted turns out not to be essential at all. And the thing we dreaded, that error in judgment, turns not to be an error at all. It’s not only not as bad as we dreaded, but it might just expose opportunities we could never have dreamt of.
This kind of irony is fabulous fodder for dramatic tension in stories. I think that’s because it resonates somewhere deep inside us, because we see it in our lives, every day.
But what it really does is drive them closer together (all I’ll say is, in DEFIANT, there are ropes involved. . . .) And that, of course, is the best thing that could ever have happened.
So, what are some of your favorite stories / moments in stories, where the best thing turns out to be the worst thing, or vice-versa? Or, even in your own life?
One person who shares their story will win a copy of my upcoming May release, DEFIANT!
And below, for anyone interested, is my paltry re-telling of a Chinese proverb that speaks this notion of reversals, and the value of adopting a mindful, accepting embrace of life as it comes, because we never, ever know what lies around the bend:
A humble man in a village owned the most magnificent horse in the countryside, a powerful, beautiful stallion. All the villagers told the old man how blessed he was. But he would always reply, "Maybe so, maybe not. What appears a blessing can be a curse, and what appears a curse can be a blessing."
Now it happens that one day, the stallion ran away, and the villagers lamented for the man, saying now that he must be cursed. And he replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a curse can be a blessing, and what appears a blessing can be a curse."
A few days later, the horse returned, and had a whole line of beautiful wild horses following behind. By the law of the land, this made them all the old man's. His neighbors exclaimed at how truly blessed he was. As always, he replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a blessing can be a curse, and what appears a curse can be a blessing."
A few days later, the man's eldest son was out riding the stallion, and got thrown. He broke his leg. Now the villagers all cried, "Ah, how cursed you are." The old man replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a curse can be a blessing, and what appears a blessing can be a curse."
The next day, the army came through the village, conscripting all able-bodied men for their campaign, a war being fought for no reason other than to satisfy the emperor's greed. The army took every young man and boy in the village, but they left the old man's son behind, because his leg was broken. All the men and boys of the village who went were killed in terrible battle, but the man's son, being home, lived.
Now, that’s certainly not what you’d call a romance, and to my mind, the village menfolk had to suffer pretty horrifically in order to make the point, but at its core, the story speaks to reversals of fortune. In fiction and in life, this is pretty compelling stuff.
So, let me hear your stories, either fiction or real life!
Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!