Marriages that include one writer can present unique challenges. One more obvious scenario is the non-writer finding his or her life on display, quirks and all, in books, articles, or blog posts. Another might involve the writer becoming lost in their own make-believe world instead of staying engaged in the present reality. Or the nonwriter feeling abandoned by the writer’s constant pull toward the writing desk for hours on end, often late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.
But the challenge I’ve only lately realized is the writer’s ability to re-write everyday conversations (in which the hero has fallen short in some way) into fantasy scenes where said hero proves so loving and considerate, her fantasy heroine cannot help but feel as cherished and precious as the writer longs to feel in real life.
Here’s an example.
In the real-life scene, the married couple (let’s call them Bill and Susan) are driving home from church and discussing plans for the following morning. Susan, who normally walks to work, has been suffering from a sore knee and has not made the walk for a couple of weeks. She’s hoping to try walking again tomorrow, but she’s waffling—especially given the sub-zero winter temperatures. But Bill needs the car to drive to the city for an appointment. He offers to drop Susan off at work in the morning, but he won’t return for hours after Susan gets off, leaving her no way home. Should she try walking home in the cold on that bad knee? She’s not sure what to do.
“Well,” Bill says, “if you don’t want to walk, you can always take a four-dollar shuttle.”
Problem solved. Right?
Maybe for Bill. But Susan is a writer. The next day as she limps home in the freezing wind, she rewrites the scene in her mind. If she were scripting a romantic novel in which she wanted readers to swoon over Bill, she might write the scene something like this:
Bill ran a hand through Susan’s hair and brought it to rest on her chin, lifting it slightly so he could gaze into her eyes. “Sweetheart, I don’t like the idea of you walking in this cold with that bad knee. Here.” She felt him slip something into her hand, folding her fingers around it. “Promise me that if you don’t feel up to walking, you’ll call for a ride. All right?” He kissed her forehead and waited for her nod before he pulled away. Susan opened her hand to discover a five-dollar bill and a phone number for a local shuttle company.
Fantasy Bill is now a hero. He has acknowledged that Susan is a grown woman capable of making her own decision. But he has also made her feel precious with his care and his kiss. She feels provided for with the money and the phone number. And she feels important to him. Chances are, she will choose to walk home anyway, but she will do so feeling loved and cherished.
Susan compares the scene in her mind to the real-life scene, and Bill comes up sadly lacking in the romantic hero department. Instead of feeling treasured, she interprets his solution the same as if he had coldly said, “Well, I need the car. So deal with it.”
In fact, no matter how hard Bill tries, he is never going to meet the standards of the chivalrous fantasy heroes Susan is capable of conjuring. His words won’t sound as loving, or his sentences as cleverly constructed. For that matter, he’ll probably never be as smartly dressed or smell as sexy or work as hard or earn as much or…
You get the picture.
Meanwhile, real-life Susan laments the fact she can never measure up to the air-brushed, photo-shopped, youthful models smiling at her husband every day from billboards, magazines, and the internet. It’s not fair! her heart cries, not seeing that Bill is being dealt the same brutally unfair hand.
Maybe it isn’t just a writer thing. Maybe it’s a female thing. I don’t know, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.