It's Valentine's Day - how could today's post be about anything other than love stories? We all know them, we've read a few whether we admit it or not, and there is an entire sub-industry within the writing community that thrives on love and romance. This seems like it would be the most natural thing to write about. Not all of us have experiences adventure, thrilling tales of derring-do, or epic fantasy, but love - it's everywhere. How can this be difficult to write about?
It's not difficult to write about. Writing it well, however, is a challenge.
Before I go any further, there are a number of stories about two people in love and their relationship grows throughout the narrative. However, a story requires obstacles and challenge, and in these continuing relationship stories, the tension comes from that connection being challenged or threatened, and the reader hoping the two can find each other again. These are still love stories, but perhaps they should be called threatened-love stories.
Now, looking at the mainstream of this genre, maybe it would be too wordy to call these "falling-in-love" stories, but that's where the story lies. Two people meet, there's some kind of connection but there are hurdles to be overcome, challenges to be faced, and usually at least one of the characters is already in a relationship. This is where the bulk of the story is; this drives the narrative.
The part that makes the real love stories stand out is that our main characters experience love as the story develops, but it is not fully recognized, acknowledged, and made real for hundreds of pages. A good writer will give the characters moments together where the chemistry shows, perhaps even showing how each character feels but never communicates to the other. He is drawn to her, she is drawn to him, but they just can't bring themselves to tell each other. This is a very tense experience for the reader, who should want them to finally get together because they can see both sides of the situation, but things get increasingly hopeless as the world seems to be against them. They love each other, but they don't know the other loves them. "Incomplete love story" is also too wordy.
And, of course, there are the stories where the two people do find each other, but the world keeps pulling them apart. Whether it is a socially forbidden love like Romeo and Juliet, or any other set of circumstances that keeps a couple from being a couple, now the reader is with the characters in hoping they overcome the world's obstacles and are together happily ever after. Same level of tension, but as opposed to the previous example, the reader participates in the characters' adventure.
If you want to write a love story, don't think about the love part. Think first about what separates, what divides, and what resists. Think about the tensions, the complications, the troubles in the world that keep us from happiness. Think about the story, and make the characters do everything to overcome them in the name of love, because that's what people want to read about - doing everything to end up happily ever after..
But for now, go enjoy your Valentine's Day, then write about it Monday.
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