Do you mean to tell me they love each other?

I do not know these people.

The young man is going to marry the girl soon, and they are sitting in his future mother-in-law’s living room. They want to have four children. He already has a house on a lake and a good job. She thinks marriage will make everything all right.

These two people look like my parents and my grandmother told me they were my parents. I wouldn’t have a picture of strangers, so my parents they must be. But look at them–sitting together in a chair meant for one.

I don’t know who they are, but they are not the people I know.

In fiction, you get to put any character with another character as long as you can make your reader believe in it. Seeing is not enough. The words must come together in such a way that the reader knows those people must meet, and all contrivance is so cleverly hidden as to be unperceived or forgotten. Of course, Oedipus was on the road the same time as his father. Of course, the message missed Romeo. Of course, in the great, vast ocean Ahab could find his one, white whale. Why doubt it?

I was told the story of how these two people in the photograph met while sitting in cars at an intersection. Of course, that sounds completely contrived and ridiculous to me.

9 thoughts on “Do you mean to tell me they love each other?

  1. They certainly look like they like each other. Which obv. didn’t last. I wonder if they had an inkling then. My mother said that on her wedding day with my dad she told her best friend, “don’t worry. I’ll get out of this.” And she did 7 years later.

    By the way, I got my hair cut like this yesterday.

  2. That is such a good question – did they have an inkling of what would come? I think if I were writing your parents as characters, I might add something to that affect.

  3. P.S. This reminds me of when I was a little girl, and my mom and I watched some T.V. movie involving divorce. She asked me if I was afraid that she and dad would ever get divorced? Of course, I had never even thought about it. She said, “Don’t worry. We’ll never get a divorce.” A few years later, they did. In her case, I don’t think she had an inkling at all.

  4. Marta, I’m absolutely loving these stories and pictures about your history, and the way you tie them into writing. Sometimes when I don’t comment on here it’s because you’ve said everything so perfectly I don’t want to ruin it with my babbling. 🙂

    I think I may start posting some old pictures of my own.

  5. Isn’t this interesting? They look like some of the early photos of Prince Charles and Princess Diana!

    Read something in one of Donald Maas’s books about the challenges — and rewards — of getting the protagonist and an antagonist together in what would see, at first glance, an unlikely (and certainly uneasy) alliance. He was right: it ain’t easy to get them together, and then after you look at it, some time later, you wonder how you could have ever imagined them apart.

  6. i have had this exact same sense and question when looking at photos of these people who i do not know but from whom I came.
    did they know? how awful things would be, what would be set in motion?
    and even if they did, would it have changed anything?

  7. I can hardly believe the stories my mom tells about how she and my dad met and started a family. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she knew what a disaster it would be. Would she have passed him by and found some other guy and had an easier, happier life? Would my siblings and I never have been born? In fact, I tried to write a story something like that about 15 years ago. I, in essence, tried to erase my existence in my story. It was really hard and I gave up.

    Such a strange thing to think of your parents before all that went down, went down. They weren’t who you knew. They were young and innocent and full of hope.

    Like our characters at the beginning of the novel??? What will happen to them after life and a vicious god (the author) steps in to mess with their innocence? Who will they become? That is a good inquiry.

  8. sarah, I don’t think they had an inkling. Well, I know my mother didn’t. My father’s never said.

    shelli, if I were writing them in a story, I’d give the inkling to everyone else. Their inklings would come later. Maybe it is good they got divorced too early in my life for me to speculate.

    Sherri, you wouldn’t ruin anything with your babbling. I expect it wouldn’t even be babbling. But I’d be thrilled to inspire you to post pictures of your own.

    JES, I suppose I can see that… but its a bit difficult to imagine one’s parents as royalty.

    I have one of Maas’s books. His questions have helped me clarify my story.

    bella, have you ever read Sharon Olds? She has a poem about this. She wonders what she would do if she were given the chance to go back in time and stop her parents from getting together if she would. Now my parents had their problems, but were good to me. Her parents were from hell, and yet she describes how if she had to she would pick them up and bang them together because no matter what evil they would do, she wanted to exist.

  9. “if she had to she would pick them up and bang them together because no matter what evil they would do, she wanted to exist.”

    Wow! What a fascinating turn of phrase.

    I read this post and thought of “Free to Be You and Me” the ultra-hippy liberal album from Marlo Thomas and Friends. I wasn’t actually allowed to listen to it, but my then-boyfriend, now husband, got me hooked on it and we quote it constantly. There’s a song in there and the main chorus goes:
    “Parents are people, people with children. When parents were little, they used to be kids, but then they grew, like all of you and now parents are grown-ups. Grown-ups with children….” SO basic, but the truth is that we never know our parents. We met them as parents, not as the individuals they were b4 they got caught in the muck and mire of raising little kids. So pre-me, pre-you, and pre-you and you and you, they look like somewhat attractive aliens. There is something completely foreign about them.

    The same with characters. they are aliens until you find the piece that makes them human, and then the other piece that creates the “a-ha” or the “ooohhhh” in the reader. We bring the characters from who the hell are you? to a bewitched willingness to suspend disbelief and follow the character’s arc, which, of course, is where you step in. I do creative non-fiction. I am the arc. 🙂

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