Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Gentle Touch

Earlier this week, at work, I had a headache. Not a terrible one, it's true, but it was starting to get me down. I was on my way to the Annual General Meeting of the organisation I used to work for, and wondering if I was going to last the day.

Within five minutes of arriving, I'd given an received three hugs with former colleagues of TWO organisations in my former employment history (it occured to me later that this isn't a bad track record, to be on hugging terms with all your previous employers....) and my headache was definitely lifting.

I was back in the bosom of friendly like-minds and their touch was simply healing.

Inevitably, I started thinking about this in terms of writing and reading. Is this the habit of the blogger or the novelists, I wonder? I immediately wanted to check that the latest work-in-progress had comforting, caring touches between the heroine and hero, as well as sexual, passionate ones.

There's a fantastic YA historical fantasy called The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley (find this book, read this book, keep this book forever). It's romance and an adventure, and I remember its battles, magic, conflict and the fierceness of the heroine's battle for identity in the face of overwhelming destiny. The romance is fantastic, I love the hero, and there is plenty of sexual tension, but the touch that I remember of that much-read book is when the heroine, Harry (short for Angharad), recently kidnapped by a strange people and their king, Corlath, and trying to come to terms with her awakening power, has a vision:-

"... out of the firelight came a figure, wavering with the leap and flicker of the flames, and with hair that was fire itself.... Harry stared until her eyes felt as dry as sand, and then the figure's face swam into focus, and it was a woman's face, and it smiled at her. But it didn't smile, it grinned, the wry affectionate grin of an elder sister; and Harry's head swam with love and despair. Then the woman shook her head gently, and her aureole of hair flamed and rippled about her, and she reached out her empty left hand, and Harry found herself on her hands and knees, reaching her hand back. But a gust of wind came from nowhere and whipped the fire as though it were an unruly dog, and the figure vanished. Harry fell where she had knelt, and pressed her face to the eary. One real dog sat up and howled.

Corlath picked her up as gently as she were a baby, fallen down after its first steps; and she found there were tears running down her face. He stood up, holding her in his arms, and she cared nothing but that Lady Aerin, Firehair and Dragon-Killer, had come to her and then left her again, more alone than she had ever been before."

It's that gentle touch I remember, more than the rest. Now I need to make sure there are gentle touches in my stories, too, comfort without an agenda.

What do you think?

And don't forget to visit us again on Thursday, to see what Christina has to say.


  1. Can't stay... rushes off to check current work


    ps great post

  2. I wrote a scene yesterday it was about the hero holding the heroine's hand to comfort her even though they both just found out she is married.

  3. I love *The Blue Sword.* And I absolutely agree.

    It's the little touches, the small caring things.

  4. Great post, Anna! I've put "The Blue Sword" on my Xmas list, it sounds lovely! I think you're right, there definitely needs to be comforting touches in a novel too. I love it when a hero just holds the heroine close and she feels truly safe, as if nothing bad can ever hurt her again.

  5. I'm a great fan of hand-holding, myself. It's such a small, instinctive, comfotable and comforting thing -- a reassurance that there's someone there to keep you from falling.

    Curious thing is, I'm writing a book now in which both the heroine and hero have to avoid touching each other, and I'm finding that a challenge.

  6. Lovely post, Anna. I'm going to have to read The Blue Sword too, after such a reccomendation.

    I love those caring, comforting touches in a story - that's part of what draws me back to read a book over and over.

  7. I'm way late to the game, but when you mentioned The Blue Sword, I had to comment. I love those little touches that reveal so much emotion.