Ok, I admit it; I’m addicted to angst. I love watching movies with some great tragedy in them, TV shows where I’m bawling my eyes out. Yeah—I cry when the president’s wife dies in Independence Day. My favorite Anne McCaffrey book is Moreta. I used to spend my Sunday nights watching a double-header of ER because, in the span of two episodes, someone was guaranteed to die or face a major life catastrophe. Actually—I like catastrophe movies too. Deep Impact, Day After Tomorrow, 2012.
Yeah, I’m an #angstmuffin. Yet, I also write (and read) paranormal romance, and the romance genre requires a Happily Ever After.
You might be thinking, what gives, right?
Often, I’m looking to watch (or read) something that is more intense, more full of the tension of impending doom. With the battle they can’t possibly win. With the beloved character who dies to save them all. Kira throwing Jen the crystal shard in the Dark Crystal. The army on horseback, riding for days to save Minas Tirith though they know they will all likely die in the trying. Spock dying in the engine room compartment from the radiation after saving the ship.
Heck, I even cried when Daniel Jackson ascended in Stargate SG-1.
Probably my most favorite—and most dreaded—moment in the original Star Wars trilogy is in Return of the Jedi. Of course, there are a number of devastating moments in the original trilogy; Luke sees the burning bones of his aunt and uncle. Obi-Wan is murdered in front of him. Luke gets the crap beaten out of him in his first lightsaber duel with Vader…loses a hand…then finds out Vader is his father.
The scene that seals it for me, though, is when Luke voluntarily goes to face the Emperor, knowing he’s probably going to die. He tries to turn his father back to the good side, but instead, the Emperor starts to fry him with Force lightning. Luke’s on the ground, writhing in agony. The scene gets me every time. Every damn time. It’s one thing to get attacked by Force lightning…but to have gone there of your own volition? To have walked into the lion’s den knowing you’re going to probably be tortured, probably be killed? And after everything Vader has done to Luke—to those he loves—finally Vader turns back to the good side. Vader’s been the relentless bad guy through the whole trilogy, and then he sacrifices himself to save his son.
Braveheart—I can’t even list all the angst. But when he dies at the end and sees the image of his love…. Or the movie The Patriot, when the small band goes to try and get revenge on the cavalry unit that burned the church, and the revolutionaries get wiped out…and the main character’s son dies trying to avenge his wife…. Highlander when his wife dies of old age…. The original Terminator movie when Reece saves Sarah Connor after their one night together, but dies in the effort.
I’d say that my favorite shows (and books) are ones where there’s that perfect blend of angst and romance. The hopeless battles, the tortured heroes, the brave sacrifices, and the lovers kept apart. I’m always the one who wants to see the couple finally get together. I think I’ve heard that being referred to in fandom as being a “shipper” (short for relationshipper). One of my favorite couples in Sci-Fi is Farscape’s John Crichton and Aeryn Sun.
I was rooting for couples way back when I was a kid. I wanted Keith and the Princess to get it together in Voltron. ThunderCats? Yup, wanted Lion-O and Cheetarah to get over themselves. I watched the Legend of Zelda cartoon and eagerly awaited the day when Zelda would stop rebuffing Link. I remember being drawn into the romance between Cecil and Rosa in Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan), and my brother and I sat their crying as all the various characters sacrificed themselves to save Cecil over the course of the game.
I get absolutely sucked into stories like that, though it can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. As a reader, I definitely like to know what I’m getting into before I dig into a book.
I’ve published a pretty tragic urban fantasy novella, The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves, and I have a number of urban and epic fantasy novels in the works that—though there’s romantic content—don’t always end “happily ever after.” Or at least, not for everyone.
And I think that’s part of why I like reading romances, and why I like writing them. Not that there isn’t challenge and heartbreak for the characters in the story—it’s just that sometimes when I read I’m just looking for a sexy book with a happily ever after. It’s relaxing to know it’ll all work out.
When I read a romance novel, and when I write them, I try to find that careful balance; if things are too easy for the characters, there’s no tension, no story. My characters have all gone through pain in their lives, and the protagonists face complications and disasters, but generally the angst isn’t crushing since everything turns out in the end. In a romance, you at least know that the main characters aren’t going to get killed off! In some of my forthcoming urban and epic fantasy novels, you can’t count on that at all.
In my novel A Fading Amaranth, Nathaniel and Alexandra have both been through the wringer already in their lives. Nathaniel became a vampire so that he’d have an eternity to perfect his writing, to become a brilliant poet…and once he was turned, he lost his muse. Worse, over time the other vampires of his clan began to torture him for their amusement. Alexandra discovered she was psychic not long after her parents died. She and her twin brother both manifested the strange telepathic abilities in different ways; with Adam, it drove him mad and he took his own life. Alexandra found that she couldn’t be around anyone for long without their thoughts invading her mind, and she’s lived as a recluse for a decade.
Nathan and Alexandra definitely have challenges before them, but it’s a romance novel, so I have a feeling that love will win the day. Of course, the question is always just how it’ll work out. I can’t make the same happily-ever-after guarantee for the mage guardians introduced in this story; they’ll soon have their own urban fantasy series, but that’s still in the works.
So what about you? What stories grab you? Do you like romance and #HappilyEverAfter or are you an #AngstMuffin like me?
Shauna Aura Knight
An artist, author, ritualist, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. Shauna’s work is inspired by the mythic stories of heroes, of swords and magic, and of the darkness we each must overcome. That the challenges we face shape us, and help each character—each person–to become heroes.
She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for CIRCLE Magazine, and her writing also appears in the anthologies Stepping in to Ourselves, A Mantle of Stars, Calling to our Ancestors, and Bringing Race to the Table.
She’s also the author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels including Werewolves in the Kitchen, Werewolves with Chocolate, A Winter Knight’s Vigil, A Fading Amaranth, and The Truth Upon Her Lips. Shauna’s mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces.
Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.
To buy A Fading Amaranth: