When I was a little girl, I had the funniest habit. When I was watching movies or television, I would get reaaaaaallly uncomfortable when characters would show affection for one another. Holding hands, kissing, hugging... SINGING to each other (especially the singing)--All of it would make me cover my eyes and blush with embarrassment. I just didn't understand why they would do all that icky stuff. I had to look away. Hide. Wait in agonizing discomfort for it to end.
It all made watching a program from start to finish very difficult. Am I the only one who did this? (g) I have a theory that it was a combination of my age, shyness, and a lack of understanding when it came to grown-up romantic notions, but more about that later.
Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago when I was reading a young adult novel by a newly discovered author. There I am, reading along...and BAM. I couldn't believe it. I got an actual urge to cover my eyes and look away from the page. The characters' behavior embarrassed me THAT much. It was a definite WTF? moment. I had regressed to when I was seven years old and squirming in my seat due to the general ick factor involved.
People kissing. Ewwwww. People hugging. Ewwww. People making eyes at one another. EWWWWW, DOUBLE ICK, and GRODY TO THE MAX, DUDES.
*Jen covers her eyes*
Naturally, this all took me by surprise (g), and afterward I sat and tried to break it all down. WHY would this happen to me? I've read a lot of stories in my lifetime, and this stuff was definitely PG. Why would I react this way?
Well, let's take a step back to my theory from above -- about why I used to cover my eyes as a child. As I said, I was shy...and young... which means I wasn't exactly capable of grasping grown-up (or even pre-teen) emotions. I didn't understand why someone would want to kiss another person...why they would bat their eyes at them in adoration...hug, hold hands... and don't forget the singing. The thought process behind that notion was WAY beyond my understanding.
So why did this happen to me now? After all, I think I have a pretty good grasp on why people would do these things. (g)
And therein lies the problem. The characters, in my opinion, didn't have legitimate reasons to be feeling the emotions the author was telling me they were feeling. The talk didn't match the walk. Therefore, when they started acting on those emotions, it felt false and made me embarrassed to "watch."
The believability factor was at a pretty all-time low in this book, I'm not going to lie. To have characters feel an immediate attraction and be head over heels the next week isn't something I normally buy. It CAN work... lord knows I bought Bella and Edward in TWILIGHT (g), but usually I like to see a slower progression that allows me to see their feelings develop.. the hesitation, the heady excitement they feel when the other character looks at them, the things they say and do to show how much they care--even when they're reluctant to admit it to themselves. I love all of that stuff, and when an author does it Just Right, there's nothing better than when two characters hit that climatic moment of their first kiss.
When they don't do it right, well...that's when I cover my eyes. Who knew?
Now obviously you can't show the entire progression of every relationship. Readers would grow bored. I have characters who are in love when a book begins, characters who love each other but don't LOVE each other, only to later realize their feelings have developed into something more. I have characters who don't get along but eventually feel an attraction that slowly creeps up on them. It isn't WHERE you begin a relationship... it's how you portray them with the words and actions of your characters. In order to make it believable and organic, you have to do more than just have your characters musing on how hot the other is... how they've never felt such strong feelings for someone.. how they can't lose this person they've known for three days.
It's the words they say, the words they leave unspoken. The glance across the room when they think the other person isn't looking. The little things they do to show they care... all of it adds up to something that feels real. Something that would never make your reader want to turn away or cover their eyes.
Unfortunately, this author failed to make me believe... It was a good lesson.
What about you? Ever had the urge to cover your eyes in discomfort or is it just me? Tell me I'm not the only one. :)