Fear Of Loss. Fear Of Love.
I was watching a video—I want to say the speaker was a negotiator—and he said this in passing. When trying to understand what a person wants, some people are afraid of loss, and some people are afraid of love. It was this blip of a sentence he didn’t really go into, and yet so freaking profound. It’s also very interesting in the case of character development in stories.
In romance, there are a few types of stories out there, some that never really made sense to me personally even as I could readily accept they were well accepted within their community of like minded readers. I couldn’t understand the appeal. As a reader first, I never felt anything for these characters, which was partly why I turned to writing. I wanted to create characters who reflected an internal psyche I understood. I think at the core, all my characters fear love.
Fearing love requires a different character dynamic. Romance is not necessarily fun, a gift, soul mates meeting and everything sunshine and roses. It’s not even a focus on the quirk of falling in love with cutesy setups like buying a date for charity or a genie granting a love wish. These types of characters don’t want love. They’re not hanging out waiting for cupid to strike—if it’s a meat market, they are aware and miles away. Love and/or human connection is actually rather terrible, something to be avoided at all costs.
Dark romance is a safe genre to explore this kind of dynamic. There is less expectation of vulnerability. Opening this type of character’s heart is like opening a damn safe, and there will be blood, sweat, and tears to get there. It doesn’t fit well with normal romance where the characters are usually seeking love, desperate for it, so welcoming and open. For those who fear love it is the most sickly-sweet display and just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. These sweet characters fear losing love and are willing to cling so damn tight it’s just offensive to the sensibilities of someone who fears being clung too.
It’s intriguing the psyche reflected in the dynamic between characters. It varies author to author. I think for some authors to even know they’re seen in their characters could be reason enough for them to run and never share a story again. It’s why writing can be so difficult for some, especially erotica. It’s an exposure. Even if the readers don’t understand what they’re seeing, an author reveals a lot of self in the most mundane of words. Which is why as much as I don’t get characters who so readily, openly rush toward love, I also don’t understand the books where they are turned into objects incapable of love.
I see it a lot in very dark BDSM, where relationships become roles instead of connections. I look at these stories and see so much detachment from the body, from the soul, from the emotional center of self so greatly that the very characters created are intentionally flat and dead like furniture there to be abused and nothing more. Main characters turned into dehumanized holes and flesh. Their experiences aren’t even marked as emotional, just bland endurance as a human is broken down into basic hardware, software ignored. I never really understood it until that little line kept spinning in my mind.
Fear of love.
My characters fear love, but in the same breath crave it. They’re running from something they ultimately want, which creates the internal conflict, the push and pull. I think there are some psyches so afraid of love—I suspect after experience of severe trauma—they can’t even reach for it through their characters. They feel more comfortable recreating the dark places where they went numb, cold, dead inside because that’s how they know the inner world to be. A place to freeze and be smothered instead of finding self and transformation. It’s safe there. If they can normalize it enough in the mind, they might even stop feeling lost there. It might even stop being so terrifying to look out and consider leaving such an empty place.
This is of course a narrative on my part seeing as I have no idea as to what actually crafts characters like those, just that I find them as alien as the bright, open-hearted ones who feel so freely. But I know this dark place exists, a void that I have been grateful to slip free of every time it rears. It has only been a frozen second before the instinct to battle and survive burned through, where sensation and emotion saved. Pain is a savior against dehumanizing numbness, life among the psyche’s death. I’m not a cutter, but I understand it 100%. It probably doesn’t help that the few authors I’ve spoken to who write these objectified characters seem to reflect this detachment from inner self. I suppose that’s why I jump to trauma as the source; it’s prevalent. How people deal with trauma is different, the way the psyche recreates itself to either pocket around the incident or adapt into a reflection of it; but trauma is a norm in a population that thinks it’s rare.
What character would be created when knowing, truly knowing, he feared love? Do people who fear loss hate themselves as much? To fear losing something outside you, does that mean the world is never safe, that self is found in connections instead of within? I can’t even imagine being so secure as to readily create connections to be afraid to lose. It’s such a foreign, interesting concept.