What is love? Romantic…

What is love? Romantic love, the kind a person is supposed to feel for her husband, their beloved, on the day she gets married. The happiest day of her life -- so far. It would be too grim, if it were the happiest day of her life entirely.

Is love a momentary bliss, not unlike the endorphin rush received from eating a curry rich in red chili powder, with perhaps a few extra green chilies chopped in for an overwhelming kick? Is love a quieter kind of springing joy, a sense of well-being, of knowing that you are in the right place, at the right time, with the right person, the person who knows you better than anyone else in the world? Is love a willingness to compromise, to set aside your own needs and desires for the sake of the other, the beloved? Or to go beyond compromise, to abase yourself at the altar of love, to endure torment and grief and uncertainty, all manner of abuse, in order that people might say of you, afterwards -- she really did love him. Perhaps love is merely the ability to endure the beloved's company for the next sixty to seventy years, without wanting to strangle them by the end of it.

Shefali didn't know which, if any, of these definitions actually fit love -- she was just glad that she was out of the game at last, giving up on the endless, frustrating, exhausting chase for that perfect love that always seemed to hover on the edge of the next relationship. She had tried -- no one could claim that she hadn't tried. She had fallen madly in love, over and over again, had offered her heart to one lover after another. There had been times when she had thought she'd found it after all, that great love that had been promised her by all the storybooks, all the fairy tales. The happy-ever-after kind. And then love had disappeared, dissolved in her hands like fairy gold come morning, leaving only dusty dry leaves, crumbling, in its wake.

And now Shefali stood here, in this city council office, beside the man who would soon be her husband. She felt calm, content, sure of her decision. The clerk looked up from his desk, his form, and asked her, "Do you, Shefali Chelliah, take this man, Roshan Manavalan, to be your lawfully wedding husband?" She answered with a steady voice, "I do."

So, y'all complained about my last attempt at an opening to the new novel. Too grim, too depressing, you said. Like this one better? Would you keep reading? (Standard caveats apply -- all of this obviously very first-draft-ish.)

7 thoughts on “What is love? Romantic…”

  1. Not to be mean, but honest: No, I wouldn’t keep reading. I don’t care about the crises of someone who thinks that love may be about being a martyr to abuse. Sure this isn’t a harlequin romance?

  2. I liked the first one better. The sudden unexpected attack, followed by the even more startling response to it. I would keep reading it, but maybe not this one.

  3. I don’t remember the other start, but I generally prefer to connect to a character, setting, plot, etc., a little sooner than this. Of course, I’ve rewritten the opening to my new novel about 15 times now, so I feel your pain. Maybe consider going on from here, and then coming back later to see if you want to start somewhere different?

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oh, no worries, Jenn. I’m about four chapters in now, chugging along. But I do think it’d help to know what my opening will be, at least vaguely. Helps set the voice/tone of the book…

    I sort of want to respond to the whole romance thing, but I think it deserves its own entry. So. Soon, an entry.

    I do like slow starts to novels, though. Rambling thoughts, descriptions of setting, that kind of thing. Personally, it helps ground me, helps me settle in, to say, ‘ah, this is a novel — I’ll be here for a while.’ I realize this goes somewhat against conventional wisdom, and perhaps against most people’s experience. But I likes ’em, I do. So I may write it that way. We’ll see. At the moment, it’s all in flux. 🙂

  5. Having read some of the later stuff (what you let me read at SH workshop), this doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the book in setting up what that short story did. Knowing what her marriage is, this doesn’t give enough of a hint there.

    The first paragraph is a combo of abstract & character thoughts, but it is not clear which is where.

    The happiest day of her life — so far. It would be too grim, if it were the happiest day of her life entirely.

    Really doesn’t work for me, knowing that this is a marriage of convience and not for love because then this wouldn’t be the traditional “happiest day of her life.” Having been married, not only was it and is still the happiest day of my life — it was also the most stressful and most blurry. So this statement rings very false for me, the married woman.

    The curry reference is great, as far as abstract musings go.

    It feels like you are striving for the surprise ending. “It is her wedding day, she’s truly found love! No wait, I lied, it is just a marriage for the sake of being married.” Leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t read past it.

    Which is a shame ’cause I like what comes later.


  6. I think maybe I am confused. The previous beginning that I remember your posting was on November 10, 2003. Entry number 1553, according to my browser. Is that the one you wanted us to compare with?? If so, I repeat that the November one was much more likely to get me to keep reading.

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