This is just included as a PSA for all you single folks. Wal-Mart for the heart & soul.
But seriously. I am currently reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, and while very enjoyable and beautifully written, it has me thinking about the use of love at first sight as a literary device. In Shiver, Grace falls in love with a wolf, because of its entrancing golden eyes (the fact that the wolf saves her from being eaten by the rest of its pack probably assists in this instant romance). The werewolf, Sam, instantly loves her as well, protecting her in his wolf-form and infatuated in human form.
The fated love, immediately recognized, is a pretty common theme, especially in YA books, and especially-especially in YA fantasy. It always strikes me as a convenient, and somewhat ridiculous, plot device. The same Greco-Roman tragedies that brought us deux-machina (which is certainly considered an inappropriately convenient plot device these days) also brought us the idea of love at first sight, as madness inspired by the gods. Those crazy Greek and Roman gods -- you have to love those guys.
Well, most of the stories where love at first sight occurs now don't have recourse to a god trifling with human emotions for his or her own amusement. I think instead it tends to be a way to skip over the courtship period and create an immediate relationship and obligation towards each other; a sort of short-hand that one trusts the reader to accept. The readers had better be hopeless romantics themelves! I guess I am not, because every time I run across love at first sight, it makes me crook an eyebrow at the author.
Now, in defense of my own romanticism: MJ is the closest I have ever come to love at first sight. Let me set the preposterous setting of our first meeting. It was in college. My best friend and roomie, Aulia, was dating a guy named Lars, who lived with three other guys. Aulia and I went over to the boys' apartment one night to order pizzas and watch a movie. That night when I walked in, I met a handsome blond roommate in a blue button-down shirt. He and Lars were arguing politics, and MJ was devastating him, which I found pretty appealing.
He was well-spoken, intelligent, and the same geek-jock type as me (MJ was a soccer player, I ran track and cross country, and we're both dorks for science, tech, and well, just generally dorks). MJ and I could not stop talking all night -- we teamed up against Lars, played devil's advocate against each other, bantered and teased. At the end of the night, Aulia stayed with Lars, and MJ walked me home. We spent another hour on the front porch of my apartment, because we just could not stop talking.
This still wasn't what I would call love at first sight. We clicked because there were certain key elements in place that made us "fit", but it could have gone in many directions from there. With just a few minor tweaks to that early storyline, MJ would just be a distant memory now, one more guy I flirted with in college, maybe dated a few times before moving on. I wouldn't be thinking of him now. But instead, we discovered more and more ways we clicked, and that led to love. The initial things that attracted us to each other have been born out.
I'm not trying to pick on Shiver here. I haven't even finished the book yet. It just made me think about whether or not I believe in love-at-first-sight (I don't, I think love is too complex to wrap up into a moment) and how I write it (initial infatuation, maybe enhanced by other events, which *may* grow into something meaningful).
So how about you? Do you believe in love at first sight, and do you include it in your writing? Am I wrong in labeling it as a convenient plot device -- is it a real thing?