Lord Lothwick of Lumberdine stood outside of Geraldine’s window and gazed soulfully up into its dark depths. His beloved slept there, not knowing that she was being watched from below. Lothwick was weary. After all, he had followed Geraldine all day from her picnic in the park to the afternoon lunch with friends and finally to the ball, during which he had stared at her from behind a potted plant until supper time. She had danced until nearly dawn, unaware of his pining gaze. And now she was home at last. He could not bear to sleep now, not when he knew that dearest Geraldine was dreaming so peacefully and it was his duty to watch over her. He was In Love, and that is what people In Love must do.
If you are feeling at all supportive of Lord Lothwick’s endeavors, you most certainly need to read this post and Learn From It. Unfortunately, too many books are beginning to follow this trend in romance. No, Twilight was not the first, and it will certainly not be the last. Many a romance novel, romantic film, and even your general adventure tale seems to feel the need to include a stalker.
Now, stalkers can be quite useful in a story. I think of Danger in the Shadows, a great novel by Christian writer Dee Henderson, who was able to actually capture the scary elements of being on the run from a psychopath. However, many of the stalkers who make their way into today’s novels are not supposed to be psychopaths (although really, that is exactly what they turn out to be). Here is the dictionary definition of a stalker:
- a person who stealthily hunts or pursues an animal or another person.
- a person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.
Notice the key elements of this term. A stalker hunts, pursues, harasses, and persecutes. Their attention is considered “unwanted” and “obsessive.” These ought to be alarming. However, books (yes, books like Twilight) have turned the art of stalkery into something romantic, desirable, and enviable. To have someone pursue you and refuse to leave you alone is dramatic. *swoon!* Instead of being hunted, the chase becomes a game. Because, of course, the person following you will always be attractive and ultimately desirable (although not at first, for whatever reason). Here is today’s definition of a stalker:
- a person whose love is so strong that he will not leave the object of his desire alone until she comes to love him as much as he loves her
- a dark, angsty hero whose obsession is unwelcome at first, but we all really can’t wait until she comes around
- Edward McSparkles
This probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it was perhaps a little more light hearted and a little less creepifying. For instance, I was able to employ the concept of stalking in my book about Danni as a more hilariously alarming aspect of the story. Crazy teenage girls chasing after a boy, to the horror of Danni, who wants out of the mess entirely, makes for a fun storyline, but also acknowledges the fact that stalking isn’t precisely a healthy, mature, or truly romantic way to woo the object of one’s interest.
Searching for and striving for a loved one is a great way to add interesting drama and romance to a story, but it must be done carefully to avoid unwittingly falling under the definition of “stalking”. Characters can do very rash things, but the author (and the readers) should always be aware of how admirable those actions are – or aren’t. Stupidity and creepiness should not be mistaken for attractive and impressive behavior.
The dramatic stalking of such ilk as Lord Lothwick is exactly such stupidity. Books that emphasize the romance and drama and attraction of having someone pursue and obsess are giving readers a very false impression of true love and healthy relationships. They are also indulging in a truly worn out cliché.
And so, I suggest that in real life (or at least in a story that I would write), the story of Lothwick and Geraldine might end something like this:
Geraldine woke with an uncomfortable sensation of being watched. It had begun early that morning and lasted throughout the day and she was growing concerned. She had a sneaking suspicion that she knew who it was that haunted her every move. And she was sick of it.
Geraldine lit a candle and went to the window. Sure enough, a man stood outside, staring up at her with hopeful, dark-rimmed eyes.
“Lothwick, get out of here! I have told you many times that I do not care for you at all,” Geraldine informed him. “Leave now before I awake the house!”
“But, my love! I pine for you! I yearn for you! I must be with you! I cannot leave you! Let me stand here and guard your sleep, dearest, fairest, Geraldine!”
Geraldine picked up a priceless china figurine and threw it at Lord Lothwick.
“Get out, you disturbing creature! I do not like you.”
“I will follow you all my life,” Lord Lothwick vowed, staggering slightly from the blow to his head, a crazed light in his eyes. “Until the day I die, I will never leave your shadow!”
“Go!” screamed Geraldine. “I said I don’t like you!”
“My love, my goddess!” Lord Lothwick gasped as he began to climb the trellis outside Geraldine’s window.
Geraldine found the small pistol that she kept on hand for just such occasions as this. The overenthusiastic Lord Lothwick was almost to the window by the time she returned. She aimed the pistol and said once more,
“I would die for you!” Lord Lothwick declared, clearly deranged.
So Geraldine pulled the trigger and obliged him.