The Point of Ritual Death

This week we cover the sixth of the eight essential elements of a romance novel as outlined by Pamela Regis in her pivotal work, A Natural History of the Romance Novel. According to Regis, the point of ritual death “marks the moment in the narrative when the union between heroine and hero, the hoped-for resolution, seems absolutely impossible, when it seems that the barrier will remain, more substantial than ever” (p. 35). It is at this point in your story that the happy outcome must be the most unattainable. 

The heroine is usually the character who experiences this ritual death. And remember, it is not an actual death, only a symbolic one. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, the ritual death is exemplified by Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. Lydia’s rash act seriously jeopardizes Lizzy’s chances with Darcy. Also, Lydia is now “dead” to her family. Lizzy even says at one point regarding Lydia that “she is lost forever.” 

The important thing to remember is to give your heroine a moment when everything she has hoped for seems impossible of attainment. 

Next week, we’ll explore Element #7: The Recognition

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Source cited:  Pamela Regis, A Natural History of the Romance Novel. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).

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One thought on “The Point of Ritual Death

  1. I’ve been thinking about this part and looking to see if I have this in my story. I do in two places. The first place is when Akeela accidently falls into a Moondancer ring and they can’t wake her up. Hawk wonders if he’ll ever see her alive again. Then near the end, Akeela thinks Hawk is dead and goes off to fight the dark lord. It all resolves at the end and they get married. 🙂

    March 24, 2010 at 12:15 PM