I’ve the great pleasure to introduce Amanda Kespohl today as part of the Sirens blog. Ms. Kespohl wrote “The Fisherman and the Golem” in that anthology, which I enjoyed greatly and has some thoughts on Love.
I’ll let her speak for the rest of this entry and be back next time with some more thoughts.
Until next time,
Amanda Kespohl is a fantasy writer and appellate judicial clerk who lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her beagle, Bailey. Her work has previously been featured in Alien Abduction, a science fiction and fantasy anthology released by Robot Cowgirl Press. She can be found on the web at https://amandakespohl.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter at @amandakespohl.
Love at First Sight
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by Frank Dicksee (1902).
Christopher Marlowe once wrote, “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?”1 This sentiment was echoed in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It.2 When it came to love at first sight as a plot point, Shakespeare was, himself, a repeat offender. In plays such as As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet, his characters swooned over one another after a single encounter. Of course, the concept of love at first sight was not Shakespeare’s invention. In fairy tales, one magic moment has long been all that was required for couples to fall in love—one dance, one kiss, sometimes even a single smile. Similarly, love at first sight played a role in Greek mythology, often brought about by the mischief of Cupid’s arrows.3 However, in these modern times, is there still a place for love at first sight in fiction?
I’ve debated the matter with a friend who is the realist to my romantic. By now, we’ve thoroughly discussed all the pros and cons of relying on love at first sight as a plot point. The obvious con is that it might sound improbable to a modern reader, this notion that a character can determine with one look who his/her ideal mate is. You would expect a couple to need to spend time with each other to develop the rapport required for real, lasting love. Yet, even in our fact-bound world, one hears accounts of a twin who can sense when the other is hurt even when they’re miles apart, or a mother who senses when her children need her without being told. Given these phenomena, can love at first sight be completely discounted?
Indeed, there is some research that backs up the notion that a first impression may be a crucial factor in a relationship. In one study, participants were paired together to talk for three, six, or ten minutes, and then asked to make a prediction as to whether a relationship would result.4 Regardless of the length of time they spent together, it was discovered that a strong first impression was a better predictor for an ensuing relationship than the number of things the pair had in common, when the researchers followed up with them nine weeks later.5
Even beyond the question of whether it is realistic, the further question I have to ask myself as a writer is: does it need to be? Some of us read to escape—to dwell temporarily in a world where taxes, bills, and our own personal responsibilities don’t exist. In the pages of a good book, it can be refreshing to see evil-doers punished and good rewarded, something that doesn’t always occur consistently in the real world. Similarly, it can be compelling to become engrossed in a relationship that seems almost predestined. It’s a romantic notion. And if it’s written well enough, who cares whether it’s realistic?
Besides, as a fantasy writer, my genre is peopled by dragons, fairies, mermaids, and unicorns. Is love at first sight really any more improbable that the existence of such creatures? And practically speaking, some plots don’t leave room to describe how the prince and princess met, went out a few times, met each other’s parents, then moved in together for a while to make sure the chemistry was right before they got married. Sometimes, love at first sight is a necessary device to keep the plot wheels turning.
Myself, I prefer a compromise—a strong initial attraction buttressed by further interaction. In my short story, “The Fisherman and the Golem,” from the Sirens anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish, the fisherman is unquestionably smitten by his first glimpse of the beautiful golem. However, in the days to come, it’s her mannerisms and her gentle nature that truly win his heart.
The bottom line is that a well-written love scene can make even the most stubborn of us doubt our own skepticism. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to believe that it could be so simple? Personally, I can believe in a great many things on the page that I might scoff at in real life. So I say, let the sparks fly and the sighs ring out.
- Marlowe, Christopher. Hero and Leander. http://www.potw.org/archive/potw38.html.
- Scheer, Steven C. “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?” Words Matter. March 2, 2008. Web. June 12, 2016. http://stevencscheers.blogspot.com/2008/03/whoever-loved-that-loved-not-at-first.html.
- “Cupid.” Encyclopaedia Brittanica. May 5, 2015. Web. June 12, 2016. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Cupid.
- Mark, Alexis. “Health and Science: Love at First Sight May Not be as Implausible as it Seems.” The Heights. Feb. 13, 2006. Web. June 12, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20091125154944/http://www.bcheights.com/2.6173/health-science-love-at-first-sight-may-not-be-as-implausible-as-it-seems-1.913678.