Friday, May 18, 2012

Obstacles in the Way of Love

In glancing at a book lying on my desk, entitled, 20  Master Plots and  how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias, I had a look at master plot number fourteen: Love.

While I would not describe myself as a fan of the romance novel, I can attest to having a great deal of affection for a beautiful love story. The structure appears to be quite simple. You put an attractive pair together and then toss obstacles in their path. We become involved to such an extent that we want to see the hero ford the raging river, ride through woods filled with stinging nettles, capture and rescue the trapped object of his affections and we are only satisfied when we are assured that they will be together in the end.

The idea of obstacles, defined as hindrances, things standing in the way, or in opposition to, sits as an uneasy topic with me. I am a person who likes to smooth the way, not make it more difficult. I fall in love with my characters, with my protagonist most of all, so the task of making things block the way to success, does not come naturally to me. Yet for a work of fiction, it is essential.

These roadblocks come in all shapes and sizes; adding a surprise factor can make events more exciting. There are different ways to think of them. My most literal memory of an obstacle happened to occur all too  frequently when on long canoe trips. In my childhood and teen years, cooler heads had to coax us to accept the challenge before us with some modicum of good cheer.  We would be on slow moving rivers, dazzled by what looked to be fields of floating water lilies. We would line the gunnels of the canoe with pink and white blossoms by weaving the tendrils through the wooden slats. We would imagine away the grime of our days in the bush by feeling as if we had become like the Lady of Shallot. Then around a soft bend we'd turn and alas, we would find ourselves foiled by the work of the industrious beaver. The dam would block our way completely. If it was sturdy enough to hold the weight of a strong man, our guide could sometimes crest it and heave the canoe over. This could only happen if we had attempted to beach our craft on soggy, uncertain ground, somehow manage to unload our large, green canvas packs and then disembark, gingerly.  Many attempts would see one foot securely planted and our problem swiftly remedied, when whoosh, in we would sink, sometimes up to our waist in inky, stinky, floating mud. Then the man atop the dam would hear a great snap and his footing would give way plunging him down into a sticky wicket. So there we would be. Sunk in the mud, stopped in our path, with mosquitoes on the attack without mercy. Some would cry, others would swear, but most of us would laugh and start to figure our way out.

Whether getting bogged down, literally, or slogging through a novel, or being stymied by rejection, every writer needs courage and determination, as well as relentless focus on the goal. Obstacles come in many forms.  We do not know who first said the words, "where there is a will there is a way." I would venture to guess it was someone's grandmother.

We can credit Virgil for these words.
“Every calamity is to overcome by endurance.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard the old story of Evangeline and her lost love, while dining one evening at Nathaniel Hawthorne's house. The tale was well know at the time. It told the sad story of lovers parted on their wedding day by the cruelty of the governor of English Canada. Acadia, what is now Nova Scotia, having been happily settled by intrepid folks from the coast of Brittany, in 1640, were now, after more than one hundred fruitful years, under threat of expulsion. If they would swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown and renounce their Catholic faith, they could stay. If not, they would be banished to ports unknown, irregardless of family ties. Evangeline and her Gabriel were separated. She ended up in the swamps of Lafayette where a statue, pictured above, remains to this day.  They were reunited only at the end: Gabriel died in her arms.

Longfellow wrote:

"This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss and in garments green open and indistinct in the twilight,   
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.
Stand like the harper's hoar with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rock comes the deep voiced neighboring ocean,
Speaks and in accents disconsolate
answers the wail of the forest"

As a young girl, my father gave me the nickname of la fille du bois, girl of the woods, in English. The forest primeval, throughout the whole of my life to date, has been my refuge, my inspiration, and my safe haven. I have been a lucky girl, so very fortunate, to have never had to veer far from the personal heaven I have always known, my home beneath the murmuring pines.


Chris said...

Like your commitment to a particular style. It's light years away from ine but I always admire commitment. I love my own heroine, but she is a consultant assasin and knocks off evil-doers by a mixture of witchcraft and technology. I'll try to prove I'm not a robot but the thing is not getting many chances. Love from UK

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you, Chris. It was very nice to hear from you.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Another wonderful & well written post, dear "girl of the woods" ( a title i wouldn't mind owning myself). Yes, courage and determination a good reminder of what every writer needs

LL Bolme said...

I enjoy reading the posts here at Writing North Idaho. Watching all of you, I'm learning how to take something I've read and weave it in to another topic. It reminds me of the way my mother used to teach me Biblical principals. By taking a life happening and showing me how a Bible story applied to it. Thank you for your very helpful and motivational posts.

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you so much for the lovely comments. L.L. Bolme, it warms my heart to no end to hear that we have been helpful to you in any way. It is our purpose at Writing North Idaho to provide a service to others. Please consider entering one of our contests. We hope to keep them ongoing.