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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Soul Mate Issue

So let's talk about soul mates/destined mates/whatever mates. Paranormal writers in particular seem to use this idea a lot and I've seen comments from readers about how tired they are of this because it takes the place of relationship development. It's left me leery of using any of these trigger words in my stories/synopses even though I look at soul mates in a drastically different way.

My view of soul mates is that both the hero and heroine have free will and they can decide not to pursue the connection. With my heroes and heroines, they generally have a lot of changing they have to do before a relationship will work between them and I operate on the theory that my characters have as little desire to change as real people do. And who actually wants to deal with their issues? If they weren't deep-seated and emotionally difficult, the characters would have faced them long ago.

For an example, Kel from the fourth Light Warriors book has been running from his problems for more than a year. It's not working great for him, but that doesn't matter--he remains in full avoidance mode. And then his heroine shows up and asks for help. He has several reasons why he agrees to come to her aid, but the one that swings him is that when he touches her, his mind quiets. Kel wants to use her presence to silence his nightmares, his memories, the turmoil he's in. In other words, he thinks she can help him avoid his issues more successfully than he's managing on his own. Do you see a man here who's thinking, whoo hoo, I found my soul mate and now my life will be rainbows?

I don't. If Kel didn't believe there was something in it for him (lessening of his torment), he'd walk away from her without a second thought.

Or to discuss a book that's been released, how about Conor and Mika from Through a Crimson Veil? A demon can recognize his destined mate the moment he lays eyes on her. Conor is unaware of this, but Mika knows and she's aware immediately of who Conor is to her. But Conor is emotionally damaged by his upbringing. Although he's half demon, he was raised to hate all demons and he hates that part of himself. There's no way, no how he's falling for a female demon, but once it starts happening anyway, it still might not work out because Conor continues to suppress and deny his own demon heritage.

Mika's not stupid. She understands that if Conor can't accept himself, he won't be able to accept what she is either, and the moment she does something he considers too demon, their relationship would start to crumble. It doesn't matter that they're mates. Things won't work between them long term if he doesn't do the hard work it takes to change.

That's my take on soul mates--it's a nice component, but it's no guarantee of anything. Free will. Maybe the idea of love scares the character enough to run from it and the heroine. Maybe the character isn't willing to do what it takes to heal and change so that they can have a long and happy relationship with the hero. To me, that soul connection is only an extra prod to encourage the character to move forward, but it's no guarantee that they will. So far, I haven't had a character refuse to change, but then I tend to put them in positions where no matter how hard it is to change, it's worse for them to not change.