Thursday, May 21, 2020

Problem-Solvers: Talking it Out in Fiction (And Reality)

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When we first started putting Owl's Flower together, we decided on a handful of ground rules — or, more accurately, those "ground rules" were part of the reason we wanted to write Owl's Flower in the first place. We've talked about them a lot here, at conventions, and on podcasts, because they're so important to the making of our stories. We have certain things we want to put forward, and in many ways those things make Herne and Iris's relationship what it is on the most basic of levels.

One of our first (and most talked-about) choices was to never ever use misunderstandings or a lack of communication to build drama or conflict. Humor? Sure. Addressing a lack of willingness to broach certain topics? Sure. (There are a handful of things they just aren't ready to tell each other — but they will.) But fiction has plenty of examples of how not to resolve conflict. It was important to us to offer an alternative.

That doesn't mean our kids never fight. But it does force us to be careful with how that's depicted. And hopefully to offer examples of how to get through disagreements in the real world. Or, at least, little things to remember.

Such as.

Your Way of Thinking Is Not the Baseline

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We can't read minds. That's a good thing, all things considered. But it makes things challenging when we try to see each other's points of view. In the absence of knowledge about other people's thought processes and experiences, we may wedge in our own... which makes sense. It's the mentality we're most used to, so it's easy to go to. But it can cause more harm than good if we hold our partner to our own standards — from an experience standpoint, at least.

Take a moment from the second book, Ghost Fall. Herne is aware that a situation has veered more into "his" area — difficult, if not impossible, for a human to survive. In Iris's human experience, being told something is "too big" or "too much" for her tends to amount to passing judgment on the individual's abilities. Naturally, Herne will not understand her being offended at being put off, and she won't understand why he can't see that he's insulted her. The situation is only resolved by reading each person's responses through the lens of their own experience.

It's easy to assume that our way of thinking is the standard: what we're okay with, offended by, or confused by is the natural state of things. But if we operate on the assumption that our brain is the only one aligned with reality, we set ourselves up for a lot of bad misunderstandings. Similarly:

Expect Honesty

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"This isn't what it looks like" is a very tropey setup for misunderstandings. For the sake of comedy, it's great. But used for dramatic purposes, there's a lot of baggage attached.

Let's say Herne saw Iris talking to a guy he doesn't know, and the guy kissed her on the cheek and she didn't do anything about it. Should he freak out? Is this a sign of another boyfriend being seen behind his back? Or is this the moment she decides to leave him?... Well, we know the answer is no, of course  not; but even Herne knows that's almost certainly not the case.

If your immediate assumption when someone does something odd is to construe it as unfaithful, that implies something about either the person or yourself. If you're naturally untrusting, ask why that is. Perhaps there's a good reason from your own past, but it's not right to inflict that on your partner. If it's about you rather than the person... why are you with them?

Trust is a difficult commodity to give and receive. It's hard to trust someone outside ourselves, especially if we've had our own trust betrayed in the past. But if we have thrown in with someone, the least we can do is be ready to take them at their word.

The Goal Isn't to Win

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It feels better to be right. Being in an argument or conflict, only to discover we had the wrong end of the stick and need to step back, just sucks — to the point that some of us will fight 'til we're burger not for truth, but to win. And despite what one of the finest anime series of recent years may have you believe, love is not a battle for supremacy.

One thing we steered hard against, and which we bring up quite a bit, is the idea of "right" and "wrong" members of a couple in paranormal romance. The immortal knows everything and the mortal doesn't; or the human has to melt the non-human's heart. Placing one in a position of superiority over the other is... well, it's a trope. But it's not the romance we're going for.

Both in fiction and in the real world, healthy couples need to be able to sort out conflicts without the goal of making their partner see sense. Sure, there are a few situations where one may have experience or an objectively correct answer — but not in matters of the heart. There aren't victors. There are two people working together.

We hope that's the sort of thing people want to see more of in the world and their own lives. If it happens to be what you want more of in your fiction, check out our books! Book 1 is free to download in your favorite ereader format, and Book 2 is available at pay-what-you-want pricing. Book 3 is on the way!


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