Okay, yes this a post about a puppy… but so much more too.
A couple weeks ago we got a new puppy. “Patchington Bear from Darkest Montana” – yes, that his name. Thank goodness, we only call him “Patch.” And considering that he joins “Triple Grande Non-Fat Extra Foamy Latte” (called “Trip”), his n
ame doesn’t sound so odd. But our whacky dog names must be the subject of another post for another day…
The point is I was against a new puppy. I was the lone voice in the family calling for reason, caution, less mess and much less fur. I was out numbered and out maneuvered. In fact, even my husband joined my side in the eleventh hour and told our middle child, “We’d be crazy to get a puppy right now?” Her reply? “Dad, we are crazy. That’s what makes us great.” Well… Welcome the puppy!
Two weeks later, I’m besotted. There is innocence and unbridled affection bouncing from Patch every second that he isn’t passed out from exhaustion. And this is where we venture beyond an actual puppy.
I LOVE “Puppy Love.” I revel in the innocence of first love, real love and transformative love… no matter the character’s age or previous experience. I savor that first moment that nudges the reader “Pay Attention. This is different.” It can be subtle, should be subtle, but you should feel it – in a look, a glance, a touch, a shrug… (Come on – where’s that quote from?) Your heart skips a beat as you catch on to something beautiful, fleeting and yet coming within reach – the sense that things are changing and this relationship will contradict your expectations of love in our post-modern, highly cynical culture. It is so transformative that it will return our character, and perhaps us, to a moment of innocence.
This may be more easily done in historical romances because the time period and social constraints work in a writer’s favor. We readers suspend our disbelief that “a look, a glance” can communicate all that needs to be spoken or felt. But what about today? Do those of us who read and write contemporary stories get left out of this heart quickening moment, this slow progression of romance? I certainly hope not – because when it occurs in today’s world it’s all the sweeter.
I got explore this a little – just a little – in my novel, Lizzy & Jane, which will release in October. If you’ve read Dear Mr. Knightley, you know my books pull a bit from Austen – I know, that’s a shocking admission. J But I think Jane (writer not character) really did it best. Lizzy and Jane mention it in the below beat:
“How does she do that?” Jane opened her eyes and stared at me. “She says virtually nothing and I’m having a hot flash.” Her face shot beet red as she realized we weren’t alone. “It could just be the chemo.”
I laughed. “It’s all Austen. She’s a clever lady.”
“She never goes for the obvious. Her hero puts you in a carriage because that’s what we want—someone to love us like that, to woo us even if our egos or our fear makes us resist . . .” Jane’s voice drifted away. She wasn’t talking about Austen.
I think Jane (character not writer) is on to something. We want careers, we want to manage our finances, make decisions and be relevant to our kids, our families, in our lives and within our spheres of influence – but we also want that higher level romance that starts with an innocent affection, a deeper draw, and pulls us in, woos us and surprises us – that it can exist, endure and delight.
Maybe calling it “Puppy Love” simplifies it too much. We tend to use the expression for teenage love, unsubstantiated and naïve love. But I think it can harken to something more as well: A return ourselves to an innocent, pure emotion, untouched by our cynicism and experience. I also believe it can be experienced at any age. I guess like Austen I too believe life and love can be better at 27 than 18. (Same book alluded to above…I know this is getting too easy. J)
Please share your thoughts. What stories do feel capture this best? As you can tell by what I write – I tend to return to the classics. But I write contemporary – because I LOVE the contrast between our experiences and our desires; what we wear on our sleeves vs. feel in the depths of our hearts…. Do you have favorites?