When writing, sometimes a rose is a rose because it isn’t a geranium.
Recently I reblogged a commentary by Seanan McGuire about sometimes someone’s a character is gay because they’re gay. Honestly it’s true of so much of fiction.
In an edition of Little Women that’s put out by Barnes & Noble there’s a contemplation about the girls‘ generosity and selflessness that doesn’t once contemplate that the girls are … wait for it … simply good people! It even contemplates ‘their masochism‘ in giving up their Christmas breakfast to a starving family! They can afford to have a nicer dinner to make up for skipping breakfast, afford to spare this breakfast to one poorer even that they are and so elect, on Christmas, not to let a poor woman and her children go hungry and this is masochism?!
Besides the criticism I could make of such short sighted analysis, it makes a beautiful point – at times you need look no further than the words in front of your face to find the reasons for it. Call it masochism or call it charity the reason is before you: because that woman and her family was hungry, and the sisters were not – not in that context in any case. Why are they so pious? Is it competition with one another? Emulation of their mother? Well, perhaps somewhat the latter in the sense that she was a good Christian woman and taught the girls to be good Christian women themselves.
It’s behaviour, it’s race, sexuality, height, eye colour, hair colour, tastes in music, all of it comes down to basic characterisation. In Now & Forever, Lauren is a redhead. Simply because she has red hair. Salencia is half Italian because her father is born and bred in Naples. They story is unaffected by it, it just is. Or is there some impact on the story? A subtle one? I think so, actually. You get to know the characters a little. You now know just a bit more about them. This helps one understand them better. Identifying with the character shouldn’t have to mean that she is just like yourself, it should mean that the author has done a fair job of giving you proper insight into the characters’ motivations, thoughts, and feelings.
The biggest question, though, comes back to why? Why should there be some purpose or meaning behind these details? Why should Lauren’s eyes being green-hazel have any significance or symbolism? Why should the fact that one of Sally’s best friends in Colorado is a heavyset girl matter as more than a marker to show that she isn’t skinny? Is there some significance that Sarah is black, or that she’s a cheerleader? No. They are because they are. Lucy isn’t generic Native American to try to include any tribal groups of the United States, she’s Native American and generically so because she’s Lucy. Just as the March girls are pious and generous because they’re part of the March family.
Is there, at times, symbolism and purpose in fiction? Absolutely. Intentional and unintentional. I’m almost guaranteed to commit the latter a thousand times more often than the former, but in Pride and Predjudice you can’t go three words without hitting a deliberate symbol. Sometimes a character is something because they must be; Love or Lust and its sequels can hardly be a girl-meets-girl love story if one or both of them is a firm zero on the Kinsey Scale.
Personally I think one should avoid ‘there’s a reason …’ thinking beyond what simply must be. If you want to write a romance, you need to pick some characters who’re attracted to one another, but beyond that just let them be. If they wind up all Asian, all Agnostic goat herdsmen, or a group of magenta aliens from Ultharen, then so be it. It needn’t mean anything. This goes for readers and writers alike. See the story that’s before you, write the story that’s in your mind. We needn’t always over think the words and the works.