February 11, 2013
Writers Tip #105: How to Write About Love
When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.
Today’s tip: How to Write About Love
Because, if you’re a writer, you must. It doesn’t have to be sex but it has to take readers right to the edge of the cliff. Yes, you can leave the lurid details out, but let readers peek over the edge.
How do you do that?
Start with a few decisions:
- Is it platonic?
- Is it unrequited?
- Is there conflict?
- Is it lust disguised as love?
- Is it serial love? Or one-of-a-kind?
- Is it kinky or traditional?
- Does love bring joy or sadness–or misery?
- Is the manifestation of love baby-ish or mature–goo-goo eyes and saccharin words or Paris vacations?
- Is love verbal or silent?
- Is this love constructive or destructive? Flowery or brutal?
- what part does the spiritual play in the emotion–or is it uninvolved?
- Is it a subplot or a cameo?
- Is it an inciting incident or a throw-away?
- Is it violent or passive?
- How did it start? Online or physical world?
- Are True Pheromones involved?
- What are the personal flaws that attracted each to the other?
You may not know any of these answers, but by the end of the book, these questions will drive the actions of the characters.
Another important questions is: What’s your genre? If you’re writing romance, you’ll have to delve into this subject much more than if you write mystery/thrillers. Romance readers buy books as much for the lusty love lost as the plot. But not thriller readers. There, if the love interest is secondary to the plot, they’re fine. If it’s only alluded to, you will likely still satisfy them. What about literary fiction? Emotion is good. Introspective questioning is better. Romance is secondary.
An article on Insider talks about how love is an emotion. That’s where you write it. How do the character’s feel? Are they distracted at the scent worn by her/his love interest, even when worn by another? Or does s/he barely notice? Are they Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory) or Lolita?
When you’ve thought through the emotion, write the backstory. Answer the questions listed above. You may never use this detail in your novel, but it will fill out your understanding of the characters and their motivations.
Still unsure? Read books in your genre. How do your favorite authors write about love (there’s rarely a novel that doesn’t at least touch on it)? Take note of what seems effective for you. Borrow the technique, not the words. Ask friends about love. Most people are eager to talk about new hook-ups. Pick their brains.
One final point: A bit of humor is fine. Perfect People and Riveting Romances are boring–and unrealistic. Who among us hasn’t been stupid in love? Understanding that it is part of the human condition, that we shouldn’t take ourselves as seriously as Romeo and Juliet did, got us through it.
On the other hand, if the plot requires a psychological meltdown because of the love interest, forget the humor. It won’t work.
–Click to have Writer’s Tips delivered to your email box
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.