This week I have been writing the reunion scene between two main characters in the fantasy trilogy I have been working on. I have been thinking a lot about what makes a good love story and why some are more well written than others despite having the seemingly correct ingredients, since I wrote a post about Jane Austen and the continuing passion for the love stories she created 200 years ago.
My two characters did not love each other at first sight – in fact, they hated each other. They were brought together by a common goal, but with different reasons for wanting to achieve that goal, and they realised that despite their differences, they wanted to be together. Over the course of the story they are torn apart by war, their families, responsibilities and cultural differences. The scene I am trying to write sees the pair reach a point where much of what they’re trying to do to protect their people from the war around them seems quite hopeless – they start to wonder whether the reasons for them being apart are at all worth it.
Deconstructing the scene like this has helped me to think about the ingredients that come together to make this part of the story and how those different elements work together to form a relationship that the reader will want to hear about, leading to a reunion scene that they have been waiting for and will be keen to see. It also helps me to think about all of the other things that surround their love story that make it a little different – when you just read these basic facts, they could be coming from any story, any novel. But it’s the other things around them that make these two characters part of this unique story – the setting, their goals, the other characters around them. They have to be as rich and varied and have as much attention paid to them as the two protagonists, otherwise, the story will fall a little flat. Perhaps that’s why some love stories are such a pleasure to read and manage to stand the test of time, while others don’t. If the couple aren’t in a believable situation with real issues to face, (and by real I mean convincing or credible, whether in the “real” world or a fantasy world), the reader can be left wondering what the point is of telling their story, as there doesn’t seem to be much of a story to tell. The best example of this I can think of are the Twilight novels – there was nothing going on around the two main characters that had any substance, therefore I was just left thinking, what’s the point?
Lots of novels feature love stories in one form or another, but I prefer the ones that aren’t solely focussed on the will-they-won’t-they nature of the lovers. I prefer it when their story doesn’t end up being the sole purpose of the book, when they have other things to think about other that how much they love/miss/need the other person in that relationship, and when the setting around them goes hand in hand with their actions, rather than one being more prevalent or more of a primary focus than the other.