L is for Love and Lust
To the surprise of people who know me in the really real world and have read any of my works, I don’t shy away from either in my writing. In fact, doing so would probably destroy the plot. Seriously, think of any book or movie that fell flat for you…What was it missing?
Before we get too far into this, I should clarify that the love part of the equation doesn’t always have to be romantic love. Sometimes, it’s love of power or money. Love of self. Love of secrets.
Really, if characters would just love their vices or their virtues a little more fiercely, there would be fewer movies and books that make me feel like I’ve just wasted however many hours of my life on.
A look at lust
Lust is easy. It’s all chemicals and heat and desire. Lust doesn’t concern itself with trifling matters like responsibility or morality. Lust makes no distinction between right and wrong.
Lust simply wants what it wants. Now.
I love lust in fiction. Nothing ties up a plot in a billion little knots in quite the same way. And you know, it doesn’t even have to be a palpable part of the story the way it might be in erotica or romance.
Homer’s classic, The Iliad, is nothing if not lust in action.
For those of y’all who don’t kick back with M&Ms and epic Greek tales on a Friday night, we’re talking about the story of the Trojan War. And for those of you who’ve never heard of the Trojan War…Google.
While most of Greek mythological stories seem to start with a god or goddess who couldn’t keep it in their pants, this one is a little different. The goddess Aphrodite wanted to win a beauty contest over some other goddesses and bribed the human Paris with the most beautiful woman alive if he would pick her.
Lust at its finest, y’all. She didn’t promise the smartest woman or the kindest or the one with the mad skills on the B-ball court. No, she promised Helen, the most beautiful mortal alive.
So, Paris smuggles Helen back to Troy with him, caring not for the fact that she’s already married to a Spartan king. Minor details. Not the concern of lust.
When done right, it can set up an epic tale of a 10-year siege on Troy. Sure, other things were at play, but it was that silly mortal’s lust for Helen that started the whole blasted thing. Lust, y’all.
A look at love
Love isn’t easy. It’s not usually about chemicals and heat and want. It’s a bond, a connection, an obligation.
Unless kismet’s at play, love is a choice.
I know, y’all. I know. The hopeless romantics want love to be this grand all-conquering emotion that barrels through the heart like a freight train.
But, if we’re talking about romantic love, aren’t we really dealing with the after-effects of lust while tender feeling begins to set in?
It can be argued that the love one feels for their child isn’t a choice. Perhaps, but the choice becomes whether the parent will choose to love the child more than they love themselves. Unfortunately, there are plenty of crappy parents in the world who disprove the automatic, unconditional love for a child argument daily.
Anyway. Let’s keep going with our Trojan War example as we look at love.
After Helen was spirited away, her husband was enraged, not because he loved Helen, but because he loved his own pride. So, he went to his brother Agamemnon for help in getting her back and killing Paris. Agamemnon agreed, not because he loved his brother, but because he loved power and finally had an excuse to attack Troy.
Meanwhile, in Troy, good King Priam learned of what his son had done, but didn’t ship Helen back to her husband because of his love for his son Paris. When Paris was too cowardly to fight Helen’s husband, his brother Hector, most respected Trojan warrior and prince, took his place in battle and slayed the prideful Spartan king because he loved his brother.
Meanwhile, in a tent, famed Spartan warrior Achilles is sulking over…something. It’s usually a woman, but it really depends on which version of the story you’re reading/watching. Basically, he loves his pride and isn’t going to fight without an apology. So then his cousin (or lover, depending on version) Patroclus plays dress-up in the armor of Achilles and fights Hector because of his love of Sparta. He dies, probably from lack of love for battle training, and Achilles returns to battle because of his love for his cousin/squire/lover. Hector knows he can’t win in a battle against the Spartan hero, but he fights – and dies – anyway because of his love of Trojan honor.
With the exception of the version that places Achilles in love with his squire Patroclus, there’s not a drop of romantic love driving these events, yet this epic tale of war would have nothing without it.
Using love and lust
This is why I’m a huge fan of love and lust in writing. Sure, I’m obviously not going to write something as glorious as Homer’s works, but the concepts remain the same to this day. It’s practically formulaic at this point.
The trick is finding a way to blend love and lust in a story in such a way that it hasn’t been done too many times before.
What are your thoughts on love and lust in writing? What are your favorite examples?
Next up: Murder Most Horrid
© 2013, Sydney Katt. All rights reserved.