Friday, July 8, 2016

Love Stories vs. Not Love Stories

So, I'm in the middle of my pre - publication year. My debut novel, The Star Thief, is still many months away from it's big premiere. There is plenty to do to prepare, but in writing life, it's time to get into new projects. 

One of these potential new projects involves a love story. I've been ruminating on what kinds of love stories I find interesting, and what I do not, paying attention to anything that stands out as wow or eeewww. These all apply equally to books as well, but for this post, I've given some examples from films. 

What's Wow?
Genuine connection. Two characters with enough in common that you can see the bond growing between them even before they realize it? And not just matched-on-paper, but with fully realized personalities that would (or already do) compliment each other? Yes. I'm on board. I will cheer for this couple.
See: Drinking Buddies, The Drop, Before Sunrise, Sideways, Defending Your Life

Longtime love. This one is hard to find, because Falling in Love stories are just so much more exciting than Staying in Love stories, but there's something wonderful about a deep connection that has survived a real duration of time. I love a pair with enough history together that they really know each other, and accept one another, even through conflict. 
See: Only Lovers Left Alive, Before Midnight

Mutual attraction. When a pair is really right for each other, and they both feel it, however long it takes for their feelings to be revealed, even if they don't end up together. 
See: Before Sunset, Tin Cup, 10 Things I Hate About You (even though it treads dangerously close to many of the Eewws, but we can blame that on Shakespeare. Once they spend time together, they do really like each other)

Authenticity. Do these seem like real people? Can the reader or viewer relate? Are they experiencing real human emotions, instead of pantomiming chemistry and connection that isn't there? If an on-page or on-screen couple has a moment I can relate too, or that reminds me of something I've experienced, I'm that much more invested in their story. 
See: Adventureland, Last Night, and Drinking Buddies (again)

What's Eeww? 

Insta-Love. Sigh, boo, shrug. Especially with underdeveloped characters. Instant Attraction or Instant Interest, sure. Absolutely. But to portray that as True Love before the characters even know each other is lazy and kind of gross, if you try to apply that idea to real life. 

Relationships as the Defining Character Trait. Does the hero/heroine ultimately exist only to be In Love or part of the central couple? Booooooring. Not fun. Even pretend people need to be a little complex, or why are we bothering to watch their story?

Stalking, Coercion, Ignoring the Concept of Consent - basically most things that go on in Romantic Comedies. When one person A is in love, and person B is not or doesn't know how A feels, but B's feelings and what they want is completely ignored for the sake of the plot. For instance, when the girl is with a gigantic jerk, but doesn't know it until Hero Guy explains this to her? Hate this. When girl and guy clearly don't like each other, but just don't realize they're destined to be in love? Hate This Too. When protagonist hears a firm "No." from Love Interest, but proceeds anyway, sometimes aggressively, sometimes at Love Interest's expense, this is once again gross. "Convincing" someone to be in love with a speech or a Grand Romantic Gesture? Equally gross. Breaking up someone's wedding? Go to Romance Jail until you learn to act like a person.
Surgically Sterile Breakups. This is one of the overlooked deadly sins of romantic entanglements in fiction, which is weird, considering how often the Love Triangle dynamic is invoked. When character A spends an entire narrative torn between B and C, but then the alternate graciously steps aside at the last minute, so that the True Lovers can be together? This may be the biggest fantasy of all. Breaking up is often hard. The only reason to make it painless is to avoid making the protagonist look bad. But this is also avoiding a way to make a character complex and real. 

Petty Misunderstandings. I have a hard, nigh on impossible time caring about a couple if they are so terrible at communicating that they are kept apart for long stretches by something that could have been resolved with one conversation. (Single exception being Jane Austen, as rules of social etiquette from the 18th century are about the only legitimate reason for these kinds of misunderstandings.)

Anything else? What makes a good love story for you? Any you'd love to recommend? 


Stephanie Faris said...

My book comes out in exactly a month, so yikes!!! I love love stories, though. I started out writing romance and sometimes I miss it.

Lily Cate said...

Ooooh, that's getting close!!
I would love to try writing romance, but I don't know if I could make it saucy enough :D