By Lynn Crandall, author of Dancing with Detective Danger
Let me explain.
I went through a phase in life when I believed that any book worth my time needed to be a self-help book. I was on a path of growth and I needed input from “serious” sources.
Fortunately for me, I woke up. It turns out that many of the most profound life-changing opportunities have been presented to me in fiction. Embedded in the pages amongst character expression and plot are truths about living articulated in such ways that we can allow them to live, maybe even shine a light on ourselves. When we do, we are changed. It also turns out that the old adage People Never Change isn’t true. We have the capacity to change and we do, often becoming better versions of ourselves.
For instance, I breathed bigger and got a new lease on life when a writer illustrated in a romance novel the concept that sometimes a woman can find her destiny on a path she took to avoid it. There is hope in that and acceptance that we don’t always have to know everything and do everything right. A pretty common theme in fiction is that we’re not all alike, but I found that truth to be not trite, but so expanding when read in the pages of a paranormal romance.
In fact, the phenomenon of finding life-changing truth in fiction is particularly available in romance novels because of their focus on relationships. Within the safety of reading about characters’ pain and trouble, coupled with the assurance of a happy ending, we can experience a variety of very human but mostly ineffective ways of relating to others and getting through life. I’ve had many an “Aha!” moment while reading about mistakes characters have made. Delicious entertainment? Sure. Seriously helpful? Oh yeah.
This capacity of fiction has gifted me countless times and forms a basis for what I want to present in books I write. In Dancing with Detective Danger, main characters Sterling Aegar and Ben Kirby have walked away from love. Past wounding has left them with patterns intended to protect them from ever hurting again. But as long as they live within the demands of the patterns, their chances for enjoying enduring love are minimal. However, patterns are powerful and are coping mechanisms they know, as depicted in this scene:
Sterling’s temper instantly flared. “It won’t work, you know. Your little comments won’t
change anything. You’re only driving me crazy!”
“I’m driving you crazy? I’m driving you crazy?” Ben stood to face her as Joe ambled away
into the living room.
“Yes.” Slamming her hands on her hips, Sterling stared Ben down. “Your comments keep
bringing up old stuff. Stuff we settled two years ago.”
In one second, he slammed the door shut and strode close to her. Standing inches from
Sterling’s face, Ben peered down at her. “We never settled anything. You may have, I don’t know, but we never settled anything.”
This scene presents an opportunity for Sterling and Ben to do things differently, but will they?
The truth in any particular story propels character development. It’s not a given that all the characters will grow, just as it isn’t in life. But romance novels often give us a new frame for our own experiences and offer opportunities to find our real selves.
Agree with Lynn that romance novels have the ability to offer — sometime life-changing — truth? Share your thoughts in the comments!