A Writer’s Problem: Love, sex, and emotions for dummies

(Update: formatting issue corrected Nov 2, 2016)

I think I’m supposed to be embarrassed to admit at my age that I know nothing about love and even less about sex.

I had to bring up this topic because it is a subject I’ve been wrestling with; I am often baffled by current trends and general human nature. I have many thoughts, beliefs, dreams, daydreams, and the like. Quite a few of them revolve around love—wanting it, pursuing it, living it, enjoying, and hating it, etc. I find myself stymied trying to put anything that smacks of love into words, though. After all, as a writer, how does one go about writing two characters in (gulp!) love and yet not know a damned thing about it?

I admit I’ve been curious and had many crushes on those impossible-to-meet-but-not-dream about sorts of people. My own awkwardness with emotions makes it hard to find a good starting point to work with. The closest I’ve probably ever felt to love or intense physical (positive) emotion for most of my life hasn’t come from another person, but rather short film scenes, a book page, or a lovely piece of music. Maybe it is because I was so late to being sociable, or maybe the takeover of “social media” (said with all due sarcasm), but other than a handful of people, I have had very little meaningful emotional connection with other human beings. My limited experience has led to more apprehension, anger, fear, or annoyance far more than anything enjoyable. I want to change that, and will need to learn more to experience life far better, and write better.

But music—oh, there are pieces that make me use my imagination or just close my eyes and let me be carried away. And I can’t ignore film scores and the scenes they represent—whew! My heart starts to flutter or pound and I’m there; sometimes it’s like my soul wants to shout.

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My favorite example of a “moment,” from Crimson Peak (2015). I could watch that dance scene any day, and not just because of the lovely Mr. Hiddleston.

Then we get to film scenes, those tinier moments in a story that just catch the attention. And I’m definitely not talking sex scenes (strange, right?). I mean, when you have a great film with a great story and great actors who know how to act, you can forget the sex. Some films just have that moment, the moment of connection—a look, a touch of the hand, a conversation. Many a time I’ve felt my breath catch at the first touch of fingers; better than most any sex scene in another film. I think we’ve lost appreciation for many of the more basic emotions these days, all in a hurry to get to “the prize”: usually sex.

No wonder I never quite fit in. Sex never occupied primary real estate in my mind. That gets tough when you’re too scared to actually meet people, let alone date, let alone…you know.

What I find amusing about “the prize” is I don’t really think I’m alone in feeling this way, at least in relation to pop culture and “love.” Take T.V. shows, for example—shows can keep viewership high through good storytelling and/or sexual tension. The suspense is dragged on, sometimes for years, while fans speculate about the “will-they-won’t-they” between two characters. With supporting characters, there seems to be more leeway, but when main characters finally cross that line (or appear to) and get together, how many times have ratings dropped? It feels like its happened so often in many shows, and they have to do some clever maneuvering to keep interest or the show has to fold.

Perhaps it is the vicarious thrill, a viewer’s remembrance of first love (or speculation, in my case). Hell, romantic comedies would be little more than commercial-free sitcoms if the writers didn’t build in one or two misunderstandings in Act Two to pad the plot and delay the inevitable happy ending. Its almost like 1984 has reared its head and the great machine is churning out mass-produced crappy fiction for the masses, except this time in movie form. Romantic comedy scripts are practically fill-in-the-blank stories: introduce characters and buddies, characters meet, don’t like each other, buddies meet (optional), insert conflict, do like each other, conflict happens, buddy consoles, understanding, reconciliation, dating/marriage/babies, end.

And people wonder why I started to avoid romantic comedies in the past few years. Part of it is the annoyance factor, and part of it makes me mopey enough to want to confront some hidden recess in my heart that says I still want (to a degree) what those bastards at Disney promised every little girl growing up. Grr…. “Prince Charming”s are boring in stories. I want someone I can write about, dammit!

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Wow–Doug Savage just summed it up a lot better.

But that’s the way the story plays out in romantic comedies: as soon as “the prize” is achieved (characters have sex/realize love/declare love), the misunderstanding/trap rears its ugly head, they bitch at each other and break up…only to get back together again within the last 10 minutes. Ugh.

That’s the mass-produced understanding of love in pop culture. But how does one recognize love in actuality? I may have an okay grasp on general love for human kind, and am writing a story now that evolves from that understanding, but what about the certainty of romantic love? No one I’ve met has stirred possibilities me about them, not much more than a stray thought. Correction—one high school boyfriend (and my first kiss) made me speculate, but not long and not far. I came to realize over time it was more of a puppy love crush on my side that was never going to go anywhere, but I didn’t want to be single again so I kept at it long past its expiration date.

Ah, time, the great defiler of illusions…when you let it be. If that first relationship taught me anything (other than if it sucks, work on it or get out of it), it taught me I wouldn’t always be a space alien and I could develop other private relationships, and feel for and with other people.

It just hasn’t happened since. My imagination, a great piece of music, a film scene, or an amazingly-written moment in a book are all that’ve made me blush and my heart race, and forced me to take a breather to compose myself. It’s not enough—we are social creatures and must find more of our kind in person to enjoy.

You know you are in Writer’s Hell just this side of wasting your time searching for “how to write about love” on the internet. Then you realize what you’re doing and have to go burn off energy elsewhere, or crank up the tunes, (or write blog posts expressing your confusion—wink).

And after all that, meaning the betraying of your own ignorance about personal, emotional, confusing love, you’d probably have a panic attack at the idea of asking anybody about sex.

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