Jan
20
2014

Shaped by Young Love: What I Needed at the Time

Skin (Sarabeth)
Rascal Flatts
YouTube     Lyrics

I feel that young love gets a great deal of criticism, both deserved and some overly harsh. I remember being that age, where the end of every relationship felt like the end of the world, where every first date felt like the beginning of forever. Looking back, I laugh a bit at myself. When I was younger, I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be with. I chose partners for all sorts of bad reasons, but each relationship taught me something different not only about myself, but about whom I wanted to be. Looking back, I feel that my relationships were what I needed at the time, even though I was blind to that fact.

Continuation of the species is biologically programmed, and as we are becoming adults, those urges are especially strong. Though people get romantically involved for a variety of selfish and unhealthy reasons, many more are honestly looking for something that they feel is missing in their lives. As a species, this motivation for love and sex has inspired both epically bad decisions, and acts of nobility and sacrifice. It seems perfectly reasonable that it play a large role in our storytelling, especially for the YA market.

It was the storytelling in Skin by the Rascal Flatts is what first inspired me to begin this sequence, and now that I’ve seen the music video, I find that I like it even more. The song tells a story of a young girl named Sarabeth and her struggles with cancer in chemotherapy as a young adult. Through most of the verses, we are shown Sarabeth’s pain, her fear, and her hopelessness. But it is in the refrain that we see her light. Every time the world overwhelms her, she closes her eyes and dreams that she is dancing with her first love. It is the simplicity and purity that imbues the image its power.

The song ends when Sarabeth’s prom date shaves his head in a show of support. The plot point is followed by a shift in the narrative rhythm, where the refrain changes slightly to indicate the realization of the hope. It was a happy ending to a story that promised one.

Though this sort of happy ending is not unique, it is only one of many options available to the storyteller. After all, Romeo and Juliet ended with a double suicide. Both history and fiction are filled with relationships, some ugly and some beautiful. When otherwise unattached, most adults will evaluate people they meet as possible mates. Their temperament, along with their preferences, will decide how they act. Therefore, as a writer I must consider each of my characters romantic arcs, what they are looking for, and what they will eventually find. I look at the people they meet through their eyes, and decide if there’s a story there. Young or not, their relationships will change them.

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