“Everything seems simple until you think about it.”—Audrey Niffenegger, from The Time Traveler’s Wife
I recently finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the first time. I know, I know—it’s about time, right? It only came out sixteen years ago! If only I could go back and read it sooner (heh). The nudge to finally act came from a thread in a writers’ forum, asking which books writers have read more than once. TTTW came up quite a few times, and made the all-time favorite list of quite a few writers. I now see why (it left me floating in a puddle for the rest of the day that I finished).
The book left me thinking long after I hoisted myself from the puddle and dried out. I can see myself rereading it, too. The book has special meaning because one of its main themes is determinism versus free-will. Which is one of the central themes in my WIP.
Even before I was halfway through, I began to notice similarities between the book’s protagonists, Clare and Henry, and Vahldan and Elan—my WIP’s protagonists. Henry is a reluctant time-traveler. Due to a genetic disorder, he has no choice as to when he travels or to what destination (geographic or chronologic). Vahldan is a reluctant chieftain. Due to his legacy, and his seemingly perfect fit in a prophesy, (he believes) he has no choice in becoming the catalyst to an insurgency within his Gothic nation.
Both Clare and Elan come to feel duty-bound to the fated men they love. But both of them feel torn between accepting and rejecting that fate. Though Clare seems comfortable with the inevitability of marrying Henry, she frequently questions his determinism, asking him if the future can’t somehow be changed—particularly when it comes to her becoming a mother. Elan, too, constantly pushes back against Vahldan’s adherence to his foretold destiny, at one point luring him to an almost deserted island and pleading with him to just stay there with her. “We can just let it go. We’d be free of it at last.”
But the one thing neither Clare nor Elan can do is walk away from these epic loves of their lives. Is it fate that holds them, or is it choice?
Intuitively Exploring Destiny
Looking back on my body of work, I can see that I have always been drawn to exploring this age-old debate. I suppose a lot of it derives from my rebellious nature in regard to dogma. I’ve always been interested in my characters’ reactions to imposed expectations and conventions. I originally included a prophecy not to meet any sort of trope expectations for the fantasy genre, but to reveal how nebulous such foretelling often is, and how the interpretation of prophecies often suits the purposes of those who propagate them. [Read more…]