Do You Want the Guy Singing This Song?

Since we’ve been home under shelter-in-place orders, my husband and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary at home. Our botched celebration involved a plan for takeout and an at-home Paint-And-Pour event cobbled together from existing art supplies and our wine rack after the kids went to bed. Unfortunately, my husband had an allergic reaction to something in his dinner, so he ended up going to bed early after lounging on the couch watching a concert uploaded to YouTube.

We found and watched a few classic concerts over the following days and then received a recommendation for some similar music videos. As big fans of 80s music, we landed on REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” which inspired a spirited discussion.

For the record, I really like this song, and I’m pretty sure at one point I owned REO’s greatest hits album.

The Guy

From K’s perspective, the song’s male narrator sounds like a total flake. “Who would want to be in a relationship with a guy like that?” he asked me.

A guy who’s friends with a girl and doesn’t want to confess his feelings…

(“What started out as friendship has grown stronger and I only wish I had the strength to let it show”)

A guy claiming to have no sense of life purpose…

(“‘Cause I feel so secure when we’re together,” “Even as I wander,” and “My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you”)

A guy following the lead of this girl he seems to trust and believes he loves…

(“And it always seems that I’m following you, girl, ‘cause you take me to the places that alone I’d never find”)

A guy who apparently plans to crash on her couch until she reciprocates his feelings…

(“If I have to crawl upon the floor, come crashing through your door”)

Seriously, he’s acting like my kid throwing a tantrum and not respecting my boundaries…

The Girl

This analysis brought us to the girl. What kind of person is this woman? Based on the lyrics, she sounds like a really stable, capable person who goes after her goals and inspires longing in this guy she’s been friends with for a long time.

(“I feel so secure when we’re together,” “You give my life direction, you make everything so clear”, and “You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night”)

Who actually leaves candles in windows on winter nights anymore? The song is from the 1980s, when we had electricity. The last time I heard about someone doing this was during the Great Depression to offer extra food to the hungry, or that scene in the “Little House” books when Ma left the candle for Pa after a shopping trip to town went late.

K felt that the girl could do much better.

The Relationship 

While I don’t disagree, I then flipped the script and considered the fact that many of the romance novels I read, especially the historical ones, have a flaky, helpless heroine who thinks she has it all figured out but actually needs the big strong hero to come and fix her life for her. Oh, and he also has to love her because what is the point of stability in the Middle Ages without his telling her that he loves her?

Yes, now I’m questioning what I like about these alpha male heroes and the damsel-in-distress heroines who think they’re so brave…

Of course, since K has not read (any) romance novels to be able to appreciate the tropes, I also approached the song from a practical standpoint. Of course a spontaneous person would appreciate stability in their significant other, and surely a staid homebody could use a little less structure in their life and they relationships.

Just the same, we both questioned the long-term happiness of such a couple, where one is so dependent on the other to provide their purpose and direction.

The Conclusion

In the end, we did agree on one thing. The girl was a catch, and pretty soon this guy was going to be “wishing that I had Jessie’s girl.”

Saturday Snippet: Introducing Old Relationships in a New Story

On Saturdays or Sundays, you can check out a snippet from my latest writing efforts.  All snippets are copyrighted.  These excerpts from my writing are first draft, unedited words, and may not appear in the final work.

This excerpt focuses on the relationship between Del and Tolemius, a relationship that has existed since before the start of Dark Empire. It’s important to reintroduce the characters, to describe them and how they tie together in each new book of the series. While I think it’s unlikely that someone will pick up Book 2 without having read Book 1, it may have been a while since they last read it (especially, unfortunately, at the pace I write), so it’s helpful for the returning reader to get little reminders to make reading the new book easier. It’s also not necessary to provide exhaustive physical descriptions of each character, but a few hints

Here you’ll find that I try to bring up different aspects of their characters, including Tolemius’s worst fears and Del’s hobbies, while still trying to show the newness of their relationship. The central conflict and other important players also show up here, in this first scene of Book 2 (still untitled).

Del tried not to huddle into the warmth of his strong form. The fever left her with a chill the heavy cloak hadn’t been able to overcome. “[The healer] Unimir has exhausted his magical reserves trying to heal me,” she said. “He can’t do any more. I’ll have to weather the rest a while longer.” She imagined Tolemius frowned behind her. Del knew he hated feeling powerless, particularly in the face of illness. Her heart warmed at the thought that he worried so on her account, despite the trouble she’d caused him since their betrothal and the dangers they had both faced on their travels into Worvanz.

 

“Miran or the count should be able to counter the effects of the poison once we reach Jelnan,” Tolemius muttered. Whether he tried to reassure her or himself Del couldn’t tell.

 

“Then we best make haste,” she said. She longed to see her brother again, to know he was safe in these magic-barred lands. What a prize Miran’s power would be for the mage-hunters! As much as Del longed to return to Jida, her desire paled next to the urgency to protect her younger brother from the evils she had seen in Worvanz. [spoiler deleted]

 

Neither her own magic nor Unimir’s had reached its peak since leaving Canveris, and they both kept draining what reserves they built in an effort to conquer the powerful toxin her captors had used while interrogating her and trying to steal her magic. Neither of them possessed enough magic to overwhelm the poison, which seemed to absorb their power with only the slightest improvement to show for it. Combined with the exhausting cycle of short euphoria followed by a lengthier downward spiral, Del felt no better, and possibly worse, after each healing session. She shivered again, not with cold but with remembrance of the mage-hunters’ cruelty and the terrifying magnetic crystals they used to steal magic. Mistaking her shiver for cold, Tolemius’s arms tightened around her in response, though he was careful not to press against the myriad half-healed injuries she still bore. Del knew his strength—he had lifted and carried her on more than one occasion recently—and was grateful for his restraint.

 

Del ran a gentle hand over the horse’s mane. “Will you let him run, just for a moment or two, my lord?”

 

Tolemius surprised her by tucking the reins into her hands. The heat of his breath tickled her ear. “As you will, my lady, but be mindful he carries two riders.”

 

Del nodded, scarcely needing the reminder. The hostler on her father’s estate had her riding nearly before she could walk, and his lessons on caring for her mount had served her in good stead in the years since she’d been campaigning with the Royal Militia. Pressing her knees to the horse’s flanks, Del exhaled as he responded eagerly, streaming past the other riders effortlessly. Del closed her eyes for a moment, breathing in the dry wind and imagining she was flying.

 

In writing Dark Empire, I uncovered a tendency to leave all the description out, and at times I still fear telling (rather than showing) the reader too much. Here I’ve tried to balance out the telling by using shorter phrases that still summarize events from the previous story without giving away too many spoilers for folks who haven’t yet read Dark Empire. I find it easier now to write in description and feeling in my first draft: over the few days that I’ve worked on the introductory scenes, I’ve only rarely gone back and added feelings and description.

After the harrowing experience of fleshing out Dark Empire from a first draft of <35,000 words to a final draft of x with only three additional scenes, I can tell you that having to shoehorn description and character feelings into an existing manuscript can feel redundant. It’s really refreshing to build here in the first draft knowing I’ve provided enough detail the first time around. While I don’t doubt that some parts of the story will change as I finish this book, I do have confidence that introductory scenes will still contain a lot of the same detail they have here.

What do you think of this first glimpse at Del and Tolemius?