Monday, June 27, 2011

Looking at a Trope

Now and then I have to push myself in a new direction. Reexamine why I think a certain way or like or dislike something. The unexamined life is not worth living and all that. Elsewhere in my ramblings here, I've mentioned that I don't care for soul mates as a trope.

So, in this new reviewing mode, I had to think about that. I've been running from the trope if it's explicitly stated ahead of time, and gotten grumpy if it popped up late.  Soul mates gets used a lot, especially with vampires and were creatures, and I come from a fandom background of  vampires and weres, so I don't really want to leave all that behind. Maybe I'm being too harsh.

Two books I've read recently have used the trope in wildly different ways. More extensive reviews to follow on both. Sorry about the reviewing silence, BTW, Dark Divas and I have been getting the details worked out, and I have a few reviews uploaded for editing, so hopefully we'll be back on track here shortly.

One book uses the trope so subtly that I didn't even realize it had gotten in there until just now. Very likely because the association of the two characters in certain ways was required by the greater plot arc, but getting sexual was their idea. They are fated, in a way that is about as big as it's possible for FATE to get, to deal with one another, but they are choosing how to do it. So I feel like the author did something truly new and unusual here. I'm waiting for more, not running away.

The other has vampires and werewolves, and you've seen the story before. So have I. Lots of times. One vamp, one wolf. Much sex. But it did make me think -- why exactly does this bother me?

Short answer -- because in all the "you are meant for me" posturing and sex, the probability  for the characters to do something magnificently stupid in terms of the greater plot is really, really high. Stupidity is not something I find attractive.

It happens a lot. And the rest of the time, I'm braced for it.

So, I guess I need to be more open about the concept in general, because I've just proven to myself that if it's done well, with something new and different, I'll like it. And if it's tired and obvious, I still probably won't. If it's the traditional method, even if done really well, I'm not sure I'll get over being braced for something preventable, but the surprise could be good.


  1. I think the Fated Mates thing bugs me the most if the writer uses it as an excuse for not bothering to show us how and why these people are actually falling in love. It takes a lot to convince me that characters are actually In Love, as in forever. Lust, sure. Infatuation, that happens constantly. But then the lust wears off and you're left staring at this person in your bed and wondering what the frack you were thinking, while frantically dressing as quietly as you can. [wry smile]

    Some writers seem to think that showing the characters boinking all the time, everywhere, in a wide variety of ways, is enough to convince me that they're in love. Not so much, in actuality. Being in-love-forever means being compatible in all the other aspects of their life too. What do they do out of bed? What activities do they share, and what do they do alone, and how does each handle that? What are their at-home habits, and are they compatible or negotiable? Do they obviously enjoy having each other in their lives, even when they're not boinking? It takes some thought and some verbage to show this, and with the Fated Mates thing, I often get the impression the writer figured "Fate" meant they didn't have to show all the rest of the stuff.

    The one writing team I think got this trope right is Wendy and Richard Pini, in their Elfquest comic. Elves have very few children, and there's a mechanism called "Recognition" where two opposite-sex elves recognize each other, and feel a powerful urge to get together and mate. It's purely biological, and it has to do with having healthy children. There's nothing in the Recognition mechanism that guarantees love, or even compatibility. Through the course of the series, one pair of elves experiences recognition, which the female resists for a while because she doesn't want to just be handed off to some kid a tenth her age, even though he's kind of hot. :) They finally get together and have twins, and fall in love over time, and stay together. Another female elf is in love with a guy, but then meets a second guy she Recognizes. They get together and have a baby, then she goes back to the guy she loves. And there are couples in the series who are just in love, one or two of them have a kid, some don't, and the variety works fine.

    They don't try to make their Recognition into a push-button mechanism for short-cutting love and compatibility and getting to know one another. It works because it's limited. If anything, it's often another obstacle to a relationship, which is always a good thing. :)


  2. Hee hee. I have a novella coming out in September that tackles "fated mates" with tongue firmly in cheek.

    And these captcha things are hysterical at times. "Mulases?" When I first looked I double-taked, seeing "Mule asses."

  3. @ Angie -You have a point about "fated mates" being a variety of insta-love. And no getting out of it later. I don't much like insta-love either. Given that I had one of those coyote experiences for sneaking away once reality set in, uh, no thanks. What happens if your fated mate is a rotten person and you need to get away? Has anyone written that? I'd read it.

    @Eden -- if your tongue is in your cheek and it's as funny as Barry and Adam stories, I hafta hafta read it!


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