I’m about to do something I never do. I’m going to discuss writing romances in a scholarly way, sans heaving bosoms and throbbing members. I usually scoff at this type of thing.
Now, I’m going to really freak people out: I’m in an online class discussing writing romances. If Matthew MacFayden can be Mr. Darcy and Laurence Fox can propose to Jane Austen, then there must be something to all this stuff, yeah?
So, what does this have to do with Neil Gaiman?
I can make everything relate to Neil Gaiman, but this was an assignment for class. I had to look on my shelf of favorite stories and apply the elements of romance novels to them.
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make Primal Fear, Red Dragon, or Sandman work. (though I had a good go with the Lord of Dreams.)
To my surprise, though, Stardust did. I know die-hard fans will scoff, but I think Neil wanted to write a magical romance. He’s all mushy like that sometimes, in his own slightly altered reality.
(Although I am suspicious at times that maybe Neil is just a Puppet and the stories are the Ventriloquist.)
The Synopsis: Stardust ***spoiler alert***
For those who aren’t fortunate enough to have read it.
Tristran is the son of Dunstan Thorne of Wall, and Una, princess of Stormhold. When he’s 18 he dreams of traveling and marrying his love, Victoria. This is in Wall, England.
Meantime, in the magical world of Stormhold, just beyond the wall that gives Wall its name, the king dies but not before tossing a ruby in the air. The prince who can make it turn from white to red again will be the new king.
The ruby hits the star, Yvaine, and makes her fall to the ground. Now, as we all know, fallen stars look like people. Tristran vows to get the star for Victoria, crosses over into Stormhold, finds out who he really is, falls in love with Yvaine, and lives Happily Ever After, (HEA ending) as king of Stormhold.
So, here’s the analysis:
The Elements: ***spoilers abound***
- Society Defined: Very much rural England, classes defined, as evidenced by Victoria looking down on Tristran. In Stormhold, magical kingdom, political intrigue. Wall is the dividing line between the two worlds. Just like you aren’t supposed to cross political lines, you aren’t supposed to cross magical ones either.
- The Meeting: It does take us a little while into the story to get to the meeting because Neil sets us up for it. We really don’t like Victoria and know she’s not good for Tristran. We know immediately when Tristran meets Yvaine they’re made for each other. He literally runs into her, knocking her down. He’s surprised she’s a star but ties her to him with a piece of the silver chain his mother gave him. Yvaine is angry at him, yet goes along with him.
- The Barrier/Conflict: What doesn’t try to keep these two apart? The princes and witches wanting the ruby and Yvaine’s heart. The fact Yvaine will turn to dust if she goes to England through the Wall. Even Tristan’s infatuation for Victoria gets in the way.
- The Attraction: After Tristan saves Yvaine from the witch, and they get rescued by Shakespeare, they start talking. They dance and Yvaine shines—literally. (She’s a star, afterall). Shakespeare recognizes it and mentions it to Tristan.
- The Declaration: There are several times they say I love you: when Tristan is a mouse and Yvaine doesn’t think he can understand. At the Slaughtered Prince Inn Tristan admits Yvaine is his real true love. Yvaine shines—literally-- when she’s near Tristan. When Yvaine tells Tristan No Star Can Shine with a Broken Heart, implying he mended hers.
- The Point of Death Ritual: Tristan lets go of his infatuation with Victoria. Yvaine gives up her heart to Tristan.
- The Recognition: Tristan realizes he’s not some lowly country bumpkin, but a man worthy of a Star’s Heart. He realizes Yvanie is his true love. Yvaine realizes she’s found the love she watched from afar for hundreds of years.
- The Betrothal: at the end, Yvaine saves Tristan. The implication is they will be together forever, even if he doesn’t formally ask for her hand. I think the biggest point: when the ruby returns to red in Tristan’s hand when he tries to return it to Yvaine. It binds them together because it’s what brought them together in the first place.
- The Wedding/Fete/Dance: The coronation with Yvaine and Tristan on the throne and Tristan’s parents in the background. The Babylon Candle at the end of their happy lives (kids and grandkids) hurls them into the heavens where they will be stars forever shining together.
- The Scapegoat Exiled: Victoria dropped—literally—and Humphries now frightened of Tristan. Witches defeated.
- The Bad Turned Good: The dead princes excited about the wedding and set free to the afterlife.
It’s a cool story. Nothing too complicated yet intricately written.
For more on the elements of Romance:
Popular Romance Project
Romance Writers of America
Of course, for more on Neil and Stardust: