Over the past week or so I have been writing a lot about love in literature – bad literary couples, most memorable romances, and erotic fiction too. It’s clear that readers respond to love stories in different ways; some like to read about dysfunctional relationships, others about love at first sight, or forbidden love, or unrequited love. Some like things hot and steamy, others more sweet and innocent. Some like a good old happy ending for a couple, some prefer something a little more tragic, others like it when obstacles are placed in the way, with things not always going according to plan in the end. I think it’s safe to say that there really is a love story to suit all readers.
But what about writing a love story? I have thought about this quite a lot when writing the love story element into my own novels. Its difficult to know whether the relationship I have created between the two characters is one of the good ones; one of those love stories that makes the reader want to follow every step, every obstacle, every stolen glance, every moment of denial, every smile, every tear, every heart wrenching look, all leading up to that moment of realisation, and that oh so anticipated first kiss. These things are the essence of a good, believable love story, no matter what the setting. I know how I feel about the characters I have created; I know how much I’m rooting for them because I know how much they love each other. I’ll even go so far as to say that I get a little bit of butterflies in my stomach feeling when I think about them and their struggle to be together. But will a reader feel the same?
The couple I am thinking of here feature in the fantasy trilogy I am currently writing. 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 love story between the pair is not the main focus of the book, as you can probably tell, so I have tried to come up with different angles for the reader to engage with this aspect of the story, and weave it in to the narrative as a whole. Hopefully these things will mean that the reader will be as connected to these two characters as I am.
- A range of emotions are felt and explored by the characters, not just love. Hatred, fear, regret, disgust, betrayal, doubt, anticipation, impatience, confusion, lust, anxiety, tenderness, happiness and hope…
- The obstacles put in the way of the couple threaten to overcome them. There are times when they almost give up on each other and on the belief that they can be together. This is mainly down to their cultural differences, a problem which manifests itself in different ways throughout the story. The obstacles drive their relationship, but their desire to overcome them is what makes their relationship strong.
- The setting, their goals outside of their relationship, and the other characters around them have to be as rich and varied and have as much attention paid to them as the two protagonists, otherwise, their story will fall a little flat. It’s the other things going on around them that make these two characters part of this unique story. 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.
- I’m not a fan of 100% happy endings. I haven’t yet written the ending of this trilogy but I have a firm view in my mind of what it will look like. It will not be “and they all lived happily ever after.” Relationships aren’t 100% blissful in real life. A fictional story, whether set in a fantasy world or not, should be no different.
- I have created inner turmoil as well as external; things they keep to themselves that can be just as interfering as the events going on around them.
- Sometimes I think fate should play a role in the coming together of a couple. Not everything is within our control, after all.