Misc.

Insta-love 101: Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

I’m taking part in Insta-Love 101 hosted by A Novel Idea – a two week long event spread over many blogs (view the schedule) to discuss this ever so common feature of fiction today! If you know me, you know I don’t like romance novels. And I scorn insta-love. But now I want to explain just why I don’t like it…

Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

Imagine you are sat in a coffee shop, having your usual cappuccino and reading a book. You take your eyes off the page for just a second, and cast your gaze across the room. Immediately, you stop and stare at this breathtaking person, who in turn is staring at you. You can instantly feel the chemistry and right there you know you want to spend the rest of your life (or at least a large part of it) with this one person. You don’t know them, their name, their interests, story, anything. That latte they’re drinking may not even be their coffee preference. But still, you feel this overwhelming desire to be with them.

If that was me, I’d be completely and utterly freaked out.

Wouldn’t you? Why do our protaganists not think this feeling is weird? Why is it more acceptable or possible in fiction? Look, I get the whole star-crossed lovers, destined to be together thing – but I don’t think you can really come to that conclusion until you actually know someone (which rules Romeo and Juliet out…).

So why doesn’t insta-love work for me in books?

It is generally always based on appearances.

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(image source)

It often tends to happen when the protagonist has seen someone for the first time, not spoken to them or had an all night in-depth conversation. Which to me just screams ‘shallow!’ and doesn’t really put the main character in a good light. Of course you can be instantly attracted to someone, physically at least, but how could you fall in love with them if you don’t know a thing about them?

You miss the soul-crushing excitement of having a possibly unrequited crush.

belle gaston
(image source)

Or is that just me?? Not knowing whether that person that you really like likes you back, feeling those butterflies every time you see them or talk to them, getting super excited when they contact you first. In most books I’ve read lately where there has been a budding romance, there’s been none of this. No big build up, just one little moment where both characters declare their feelings – and they NEVER get turned down! What is this magical world where everyone is instantly attracted to the ‘right’ person? Where’s the excitement in that? The sheer terror of your feelings being thrown back into your face? Pssh, who wants soppy perfect romance when you can have possibly unrequited love!

Characters tend to ignore everyone else in their life for their new ‘love’.

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(image source)

Okay, so you’ve known Mr. Smouldering Eyes for all of two minutes. It’s TOTALLY OKAY to now abandon and ignore everyone else in your life. Yes, I’m looking at you, Bella Swan! Just forget about those people who tried to help you ease into life at your new school. Just forget about your poor neglected dad who is trying so hard to make you feel comfortable in his home. Just throw all your cautions to the wind and go off with this guy, who on one of your first meetings looked as though the very sight of you was going to make him puke. Yeah. Good choice. *two thumbs up*

It takes time to fall in love.

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(image source)

Maybe this is more of a personal thing – but I do not believe in love at first sight. Sure, you can be really attracted to someone’s appearance when you first see them, but you don’t know the person inside. And you won’t until you spend time with them. See, Hades knows how it works. You get to know someone first – you go on dates, you chat, you share interests and passions.

From past experiences, I’m not particularly optimistic in relationships. Things happen that you don’t expect, they can be hard to maintain, you can lose interest, one person can want more than the other – they are hard. And I don’t think just loving someone is enough to keep it going, so insta-love as a device and answer for the perfect relationship seems like a bit of a laughable idea to me. And as much as I love the idea, I don’t think there is a ‘The One’ for everybody – so two people can’t be ‘destined’ to be together. It’s just a matter of finding someone attractive, both internally and externally, enjoying spending time with them, feeling yourself with them and feeling happy.

In conclusion, Insta-Love just doesn’t work because it’s not possible to love someone just like that. You need time to get to know them. Instant attraction is probably what most of our protagonists are feeling!

What are your thoughts on Insta-Love? Do you like it in books, or does it annoy you?

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Misc.

Horror October: Representations of Vampires

vampire (noun), pronunciation: /ˈvampʌɪə/
(in European folklore) a corpse supposed to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth. — from the Oxford English Dictionary.

As part of today’s Horror October post, I plan on discussing the different representations of vampires in media. Vampires throughout history share many common features and habits, but some books, films or TV shows portray them in slightly different ways. I’d love to hear your views, or input on any other representations of vampires.
 
The very first vampire of literature appeared in eighteenth century poetry, and was soon followed by various works of gothic fiction, such as The Vampyre by John William Polidori  (1819), Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) and of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).
 
Whilst vampire literature has always been a popular genre, it has gone through a bit of boom recently with series like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels and the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer – not to mention the countless films, TV shows and video games.
 
I’ve picked out five different books/series that feature vampires in various ways – of course this is not a definitive list, and some have been chosen purely because they go against the norm.

 

  • Dracula is very much the ‘traditional’ vampire – although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he created the ‘modern’ vampire that we know today.
  • The book was published in 1897 and is mostly set in England, particularly around Whitby (in Yorkshire) and London.
  • Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, a fifteenth century prince of Wallachia. He was known as Vlad Dracula, or ‘Vlad, son of Dracul’. However, Stoker was inspired more by his name than his nature.
  • Dracula is a nocturnal creature, with an insatiable thirst for blood. He preys on innocents, particularly young women. He cannot go out in the daylight, and has a weakness for garlic – he can also be killed by being staked in the heart and beheaded. Dracula is able to turn into a dog, which is how he sneaks aboard the boat bound for Whitby.
  • Female vampires are featured in the book, referred to as ‘the sisters’ (or Brides of Dracula) and are shown as very seductive creatures.
  • It has since inspired a whole genre – the vampire novel. Some favourites of mine inspired by Dracula include Incarnation by Emma Cornwall and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
  • As well as books, Dracula has inspired many a film adaptation – some of the most famous being the 1958 version featuring Christopher Lee, the 1992 version featuring Gary Oldman and many, many Hammer horror films.
  • And don’t forget the TV shows – like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

  • A lesser known vampire story, Carmilla was actually published in 1872, twenty-five years before Dracula.
  • It is about a young woman who finds herself attracted to a female vampire named Carmilla. Although the text never specifically refers to the sexual attraction between the young woman, Laura, and Carmilla – as you would expect in a book of that period – it is obvious to the modern reader.
  • Carmilla only selects female victims, and whilst mostly nocturnal can actually go out in daylight, unlike Dracula. Like Dracula, however, she can change her shape and chooses the appearance of a black cat.
  • There have been many adaptations of Carmilla, including a 1964 version featuring Christopher Lee (again!). It is also supposedly the influence for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
  • True Blood references Carmilla – the vampire hotel in Dallas where Sookie and co stay is called Hotel Carmilla. The main antagonist in the 2009 film Lesbian Vampire Killers, starring Mat Horne and James Corden, is named Carmilla.

  • The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are a series of novels set in a fictional town in Louisiana, and featuring vampires, werewolves and a whole host of other supernatural beings. I wrote a guide to the series as part of Horror October two weeks ago.
  • The vampires in the books are very traditional: they can’t enter a house without an invitation from the owner, they have a thirst for blood, daylight burns them, they sleep in holes in the ground/dark spaces/coffins.
  • However, none of the vampires can transform into other creatures. Some do have extra powers e.g. Eric Northman can fly.
  • With the invention of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists, vampires ‘came out of the coffin’ – meaning they could live alongside humans and drink the synthetic blood, instead of feeding off of humans. However, some still do – mostly with the human’s consent.
  • The whole idea of the vampire in this series is very sexual – vampires themselves seem to have an insatiable sexual appetite, plus biting during sex heightens the pleasure for both vampires and humans.
  • Some see the series as a commentary on gay rights: vampires are denied many of the rights that humans have. A commonly used slogan by the anti-vampire Christian groups is ‘God hates fangs’, a play on the derogatory term for a homosexual person.

  • A huge teen hit sensation, The Twilight Saga tells the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire.
  • The vampires in Twilight are a rather radical change from the more ‘traditional’ vampires. They can go out in sunlight, but have to avoid direct sunlight because their skin sparkles. This means that some have integrated into society, but they have to choose more temperate climates in which to live, and must also move on from these places when it is obvious that they are not aging.
  • The vampires that have chosen to live within human society try to avoid feeding off of humans, and instead feed from animals. Vampires that eat humans have red eyes, whilst ‘vegetarian’ vampires have bronze eyes.
  • The series is responsible for a recent boom in the paranormal romance market, particularly series featuring vampires and werewolves. The books have also been adapted into films, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

  • I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic novel written by Richard Matheson, about a virus that affects the human race. It causes symptoms that look like vampirism, and follows Robert Neville, the last man left unaffected in Los Angeles.
  • The ‘vampires’ are created by a disease, for which there is no cure – but Neville is immune. He keeps himself alive by barricading himself in his house at night, and uses garlic, crucifixes and mirrors – but it is never shown whether these have any effect on the vampires, or whether Neville is just playing along with the legends.
  • The vampires can be killed by a stake to the heart, by exposure to direct sunlight or inflicting deep wounds on their bodies – the bacteria become parasites and consume the vampires.
  • Whilst the infected show many vampiric tendencies, it could be argued that they are zombies.
  • The book has been adapted four times, the most recent being the 2007 film I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith as Robert Neville.
  • Another novel that plays on this idea is The Passage by Justin Cronin, where vampirism is also spread by a virus.

Of course I don’t have the time or space to discuss every series or book I can think of – are there any that really stood out to you with their portrayal of vampires?