O Romeo, How Many Are There of You?

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Love, Love, Love.

It’s floating all around us this February, and here on Inspired Prompt, the crew is looking at some of the best love stories ever written.

For me, the one that rises to the top without question is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Now, you might call “Foul, sweet writer. ‘Tis not a novel nor a book. You, fiendish foe.”

And I would answer, “Tis true, but no sweeter love hath any two, then Juliet and her Romeo.”

Though a tragic play, the story of Romeo and Juliet has been reproduced in books, movies, and television shows throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, making it one of the most popular and beloved plots of Shakespeare.

A few of the more popular versions from the past of the Romeo and Juliet plotline are West Side Story, When You Were Mine, and Love Is All There Is.

More modern versions include Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Shakespeare In Love which talks about the writing of the play, and Warm Bodies which turns the issue of the feuding families into the issue of zombies and humans.

Not to be outdone by the zombies, even the animated world has a version of this play called Gnomeo and Juliet.

Some of the best-loved TV series have also done their own take on the Romeo and Juliet plot including Still Star-Crossed, Bones, and Castle. If you watch for it, you can find it in most series at least once if not as two teenagers in love from feuding families, then the classic Hatfield and McCoy type of scenario. Where Pa would never allow it.

According to the International Movie Database, there are thirty-four movie adaptations alone of Shakespeare’s tribute to young love. What a story!

So, in true Shakespearean form, I will leave you with this thought:

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

The sun for sorrow will not show his head:

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardoned and some punished:

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Prompt: Bernice sighed as she read over the playbill. She wanted to see Romeo and Juliet so bad she ached. It had been the last play that they had seen together.

Click-to-Tweet: #Love. It’s floating all around us this February, and here on Inspired Prompt, the crew is looking at some of the best love stories ever written. A classic look at love via @InspiredPrompt #ValentinesDay2020

Romancing Jane Eyre

Which came first, Beauty and the Beast, or Jane Eyre? There are definite similarities between the two stories. The answer to this question is, of course, Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête – fairy tale by French novelist Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve, published in 1740).

In Jane Eyre, Rochester is a bit of a beast when Jane first meets him. Really, he’s just angry all the time, and for good reason. Like Belle, Jane “tames” the beast with her kindness.

This famous Gothic romance is still a best-seller today, so let’s examine some of my favorite story elements that in my mind at least, make this story great.

Our heroine is an outcast, rejected by her family. Her ill-treatment among those who should have loved her seemed to prepare her for what lay ahead. Most children sent to Lowood School don’t survive, which may have been the main reason her aunt sent her there.

But Jane did survive. Rather than allow herself to rot away as a teacher at Lowood Academy, Jane Eyre advertises for a suitable position as a governess. She desires adventure, and she certainly finds that at Thornfield Hall.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.

Like Beauty and the Beast, Jane Eyre is a societal tale. Belle’s father is a merchant, Beast is a prince. Jane’s situation in life is far below that of Mr. Rochester, during a time when the class system was ironclad. A titled man of property never dared to marry a governess. It was frowned upon.

Jane Eyre also presents the reader with situations that require acceptance and forgiveness. According to Bronte, Rochester is not an attractive man in the usual sense. He’s ugly and brooding. Though he is in possession of a good income and a fine estate, bad decisions have left him in an unfortunate condition. I’m leaving the poor man’s history at that, in case you haven’t read the book or seen one of the movies. I don’t wish to spoil for you. 😊

Our heroine is plain. But in my opinion, she’s not a typical plain Jane. Though in the beginning, she is reserved and seems overly prudish, she exhibits inner beauty and peace that is awe-inspiring. She’s a gifted artist and speaks fluent French. The reader can’t help but admire her, and Rochester is immediately drawn to her character. It’s a classic case of “opposites attract.”

The romance element is strong in Jane Eyre. The attraction begins early on as the unlikely couple banter about ordinary subjects. Rochester is not put off by her reticence but draws her out. Her intelligence and wit inspire many brow-arching moments on his part. As their relationship deepens, their two souls seem almost intertwined, prompting him to remark that their hearts are connected by an unbreakable cord.

It’s a Gothic tale, for all is not as it seems at Thornfield Hall. The manor house is pokey and dark, but still ten times better than Lowood School, where she’s spent most of her life so far. Then there are times when Jane hears maniacal laughter and piercing screams. Her doorknob rattles as though someone is trying to open it. Is the house haunted? Or, is it a more ordinary circumstance, as the housekeeper assures her? A laundress with a propensity for over-imbibing alcohol.

Days of sunlit gardens give some relief from the dark interior of the house, along with Jane’s growing affection for Adele, the little girl in her care, who is Rochester’s ward. But just when things seem to be headed toward happily-ever-after, something terrible happens that nearly drives Jane over the edge. She must leave Thornfield Hall at once!

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

She takes the coach to the end of its route and finds herself alone on the moors. Now in a completely different world, she’s living another life with a new suitor, though I never accepted him as suitable for Jane. 😊

It is evident that the writing of this tale must have taken years. Jane Eyre is a well-thought-out story filled with symbolism and truths that you may not catch the first time through. I’ve read it more times than I can count, and I’ve watched several film versions. Still, the original novel is stunningly detailed.

One of Jane’s strongest character traits is a direct result of her religious upbringing. She can seem closed and judgmental at times, but those deep, spiritual roots keep her moving forward and on more than one occasion, keep her from making a really bad decision that would most certainly destroy her.

Oh, to pen such a story as this one! Though some modern readers will find the language stilted and the narrative a bit wordy, others will discover as I did, the beauty of a timeless theme. Love banishes darkness.

All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever.

If interested, you’ll find an excellent study of Jane Eyre here:  Jane Eyre Study Guide

Click-to-Tweet: “All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre from Romancing Jane Eyre via @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: “You say your heart belongs only to him. How then can you leave him? What terrible thing has he done to break your heart and bring your world crashing down?” How would your fictional heroine answer this question?

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone, by Richard Doddridge Blackmore, was published in 1869 and is set in the 17th century. Many readers today have never even heard of it, much less read it, so why is it my favorite romance and what makes it work?

How I Learned About It

I grew up in Nigeria as the child of missionaries. In our first through fourth grades, we were taught at home via a correspondence course. In the fourth grade, our curriculum included a child’s version of Lorna Doone. It set my heart on fire and made my mind take flight even at such a young age when I didn’t fully understand romance. Oh, I had a little boyfriend, so I understood puppy love but not true romance. Adventure, good guys vs. bad guys, plot twists, and even an element of surprise make this book a grand adventure and a wonderful romance!

child reading

I read it again as an adult and absolutely loved it! However, I must warn any potential readers, Blackmore wrote in 17th century European English, which varies pretty significantly from modern American English. It took some getting used to and there was a bit of a learning curve to it. Even after I grew accustomed to the words, there was a small section told by a maid that I had to skip over because it proved too difficult to read. That did not affect the story. I loved it as much as I had as a child. (There are versions available in more modern English that would be easier to read.)

What Makes the Romance in it work?

Some years ago, I wrote my only novel, The Whisper of the Palms. It is women’s fiction that contains romance. At the time, I researched romance writing. It must have a happy ending. A love story, on the other hand, can end sadly. Romeo and Juliet is a love story, not a romance.

Also, in romances, the male and female protagonists should be introduced early on and never be more than a few pages apart. So, if they get separated for some reason, the writer needs to not go too long without mentioning the other. (This can be accomplished through letters, dreams, daydreams, etc.)

I’m not a romance writer, so I’m not trying to give lessons on romance writing, just passing on what I found through research. At one point I found this line, “All romance essentially has the same plot: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back.” I cannot remember where I found that advice, but it stuck with me. In my opinion, this is why Lorna Doone is one of the greatest romances ever written.

The plotline is repeated a couple of times in Lorna Doone, and the causes of John Ridd (sometimes called Jan), the male protagonist, meeting and winning Lorna Doone, the female protagonist, then losing her, winning her again, then losing her and winning her all over again are imaginative and full of action! They just don’t write books like that anymore.

Possible spoiler alert: John meets Lorna as a child when he ventures off his family’s land and stumbles upon her playing. It turns out she is a member of the feared and hated Doone clan. She is much younger and smaller than he. Just as they are getting to know each other, she hears a male family member coming. She leads John through a small opening completely obscured by thick greenery. He likes her immediately and makes return trips to her hiding place to play with her.

 

In time, their romance grows but other things happen too. His father was killed by a Doone making him responsible for his mother and sister even as a young man. This happened before he met Lorna, but he forged a friendship with her anyway. She was so different from the other Doones. She was sweet, gentle, and lovely. Lorna gets promised to marry one of the meanest of the Doones against her will. John has to rescue her, which he does in dramatic form.

See the pattern? Boy meets girl (they met as kids and played together.) Boy wins girl. (He wins her child’s heart and becomes her favorite playmate.) Boy loses girl. (So many things either caused or potentially caused him to lose her. Her family killing his father made it dangerous and taboo to see her in the first place, then when she is promised to another man and the day of that union grows ever closer, it seems all is lost.) Boy wins girl back (he did this in his gallant rescue).

But it didn’t stop there … although I will. I don’t want to spoil everything for those who might want to read it. Suffice it to say he loses her again and has to try and win her all over again. The reasons are fascinating and well worth the read!

There is an ongoing debate among writers as to which is most important in fiction writing—plot or character development. The answer is that both are important. If you have a great plot, it doesn’t matter how well developed or poorly developed the characters are, people will keep reading to see what happens. Likewise, if you have well-developed characters, people will not care if the plot is weak. They like the characters and will keep reading just to see what happens to these characters they have grown to love.

Well, this book has it all—great characters and a fascinating plot with twists and turns that take these cherished characters on the ride of their lives carrying the readers along with them!

Resources for the Healthy Writer

By Jennifer Hallmark

Resources. They’re gold to any writer. They rate right up there with research and time. But I’m not talking about a new computer, online classes, or a critique group. This month, we’ve shared articles on lessons the Crew has learned when it comes to physical health. Did you miss any?

I hope you enjoyed the articles as much as I did and learned a lot about fitness. Would you like a few more resources?

Books

Apps

Self-care is important to writers. I haven’t always listened to my body and I’ve paid dearly for ignoring the warnings. But I’ve started changing the way I look at myself and my writing and you can too.

Click to tweet: Writing and good health can go together. And we share some resources that you might find interesting. #WritingCommunity #health

If you know any great resources, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas! 

Start The Year Out Right

By Tammy Trail

January is the month of new beginnings. We celebrate a new year and make resolutions that most of us will follow for a few weeks, and then our resolve disappears like melting snow. For some of us, those promises made to ourselves don’t come with consequences. But for others who need to make major health choices, the consequences may be detrimental.

About four years ago I found out that I am a diabetic. At first, this didn’t mean much to me because I had no symptoms. My overall health was not affected. There were no outward appearances that made a person think, “Hey there goes that diabetic.”

I didn’t fully understand diabetes until I took a class a few months ago. This class taught me the causes of diabetes and why my lifestyle choices can make my diabetes manageable or suffer some pretty awful health issues if I don’t pay attention and make good choices.

I have Type 2 diabetes. That means my pancreas produces too much insulin and dumps it into my bloodstream. When I have too much insulin (sugar) in my system my body can’t use it all for energy. I need to help my body out by not eating foods that cause even MORE insulin because my pancreas is working too hard. That insulin will be delivered to other organs that can’t use it and may cause damage.  Your nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and eventually your heart can be damaged from not managing your diabetes correctly.

I’m not up for more doctor visits, medication, or medical tests because I can’t control what I’m putting in my mouth. Now for some folks, no matter what they do, diabetes controls them instead of the other way around. It’s hard. But I’m willing to try and make a difference for myself.

Another fact that this class taught me is the kinds of foods I can eat, and the ones to stay away from. That is so hard.  Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes and gravy, or bread? Those are two of my favorite carbs. But carbohydrates are just as bad as sugar for a diabetic. There are carbs and sugar in almost everything we eat. The trick is to find foods that are very low in sugar and carbs.

What I am trying to do is to stay away from processed foods. Eat more vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates, like cauliflower, squash, broccoli and green beans. More lean meats, like turkey, chicken, and fish. I do eat brown rice, and sprouted grain bread, but I try and eat those only occasionally. I cut soda pop from an everyday beverage to once in a great while, maybe twice a month.

It’s hard to say no. But I keep telling myself that one day I may be able to stop taking my diabetic medicine altogether if I work hard. And if I don’t stay the course? Well, I don’t like to think of the consequences. I would like to be around to see my grandsons graduate from school and have families of their own someday. I won’t be able to do that if I don’t take care of myself.

So, I’m here to encourage you too.  If you have health issues, stop and think about the consequences. We have more power over our health than we may think.  It’s all in how we look at it.

Better health this year #2020 @trail_j https://ctt.ac/MehL0