For hundreds, maybe thousands of years the Spring equinox has been a time to salute the coming of light and new life (here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about the goddess Eostre and all kinds of Paschal traditions). Makes sense to me. I’ve always found this time of year to be my most positive, productive and creative. There’s something about the light that makes me feel energized and inspired. I get the feeling everything is new, change is in the air and anything is possible.
I was daydreaming yesterday about how much I’d like that feeling to saturate my current WIP when it struck me that almost all romance writing is about rebirth and reinvention. Maybe that’s why I find it such an effective pick-me-up in the depths of winter or when I’m feeling under the weather.
I love a powerful character arc, a hero or heroine who is changed by their choices and actions under pressure so that by the end of the story they are transformed into their true self, revealed in all their fascinating glory. They can never again be the person they were when we first met them.
I’m thinking the distinction between characters who are reinvented and those who are reborn depends on whether they seek out change or have it forced upon them.
Characters who are reborn die a psychic death. They lose the things they hold most dear and from that desperate loss they emerge, new-minted and triumphant.
Here’s Phin, the hero of Jenny Crusie’s Welcome To Temptation, talking to his mother about Sophie, the heroine:
“She destroyed my life…My life was a fucking wasteland; all Sophie did was clear the brush.”
Or Loretta and Ronny in John Patrick Shanley’s Moonstruck:
Loretta: I’m really afraid.
Loretta: I’m afraid of who I am.
Ronny: I was.
Loretta: And you’re not now?
He shakes his head.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips does this really well. As soon as I see one of her books open with an all-powerful hero, I know his worldview will be reduced to ashes within a couple of hundred pages (Match Me if You Can; Kiss an Angel; Heaven, Texas and many more). And I’d put wonderful, uptight, snobbish Fitzwilliam Darcy in this camp too.
Characters reinvented seek or welcome change, though they inevitably get more than they bargained for.
Here’s some blurb from Sarah Maclean’s Nine Rule to Break When Romancing a Rake:
A lady does not smoke cheroot.
She does not ride astride.
She does not fence or attend duels.
She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.
It works well in a contemporary setting, too. Take Jenny Crusie’s Manhunting:
Kate Svenson may be a dynamite businesswoman—but after three failed engagements, she’s decided she’s hopeless at romance. What she needs is a Business Plan to help her find Mr. Right.
I’m planning to celebrate today by reading what sounds like a classic frothy, frivolous, fabulous piece of reinvention, Susan Wiggs’ The Charm School:
An awkward misfit in an accomplished Boston family, Isadora Peabody yearns to escape her social isolation and sneaks aboard the Silver Swan, bound for Rio, leaving it all behind.
Ryan Calhoun, too, had a good family name. But he’d purposely walked away from everything it afforded him. Driven by his quest to right an old wrong, the fiery, temperamental sea captain barely registers the meek young woman who comes aboard his ship.
To the Swan’s motley crew, the tides of attraction clearly flow between the two. Teaching her the charms of a lady, they hope to build the confidence she needs to attract not only their lonely captain’s attention, but his heart, as well.
Do you have a favorite tale of rebirth or reinvention? Care to share?