I feel like I’m contractually obligated to do something about this. But here’s the problem: Most people have pretty strong feelings about Valentine’s Day, one way or the other. Personally, my level of apathy regarding this commercialized saint’s day could not possibly be higher. I don’t hate February 14th with the burning indignation of the bitter, single twenty-something. Nor do I wake up in pink pajamas expecting some poor dude to make me breakfast in bed.
That being said, I hang out with a lot of theatre people who have pretty much all hooked up with each other at some point and we manage to make it a fun day without getting weird.
Long story short: I don’t like romance as a rule. If you want me to get invested in a love story, it had better be compelling and impeccably well-written or it’s just going to piss me off.
There are a few things I’ve learned about love in the process of writing:
- You can’t avoid it. And it’s not in your best interest to. A romantic subplot will have readers tearing through pages like nothing else. Why? I have no idea.
- It’s easy to overdose. When writing ‘love scenes,’ for lack of a better term, it’s difficult to avoid the sappy and the cliché. It doesn’t matter how sincere you are. It will look ludicrous if you take it one word too far.
- It’s as unique as every other aspect of a story. Too often we think of love as this big, abstract concept that’s the same for everyone. You fall in love, and if it’s mutual you live happily ever after. But no two relationships are the same, and love comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes yes, it’s mushy and Disney and wonderful. And sometimes it’s dark and suffocating and destructive. Love is not a fragrant pink miasma that hangs over everything. It is something specific and powerful that exists between two people. At least, it should be.
And to finish: Love, much like violence, cannot be frivolous. It must be there for a reason. If you write a love scene that doesn’t alter the course of the story in any way, it shouldn’t be there. It’s gratuitous. So for a love story to work it’s got to have a little gravity. Consider the greats: Les Mis, Gone With the Wind, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet. What do they all have in common? The stakes are high. Life or death. Financial ruin. Civil war. Love can’t be the only thing you stand to lose. People fall in and out of love every day. There must be something more than that.
At least, in my humble opinion.
Thoughts? I’d love to hear them.
And in the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes – unabashedly, powerfully romantic:
“I was at once content and stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to see more. Yet, for a long time, I treated you distantly, and sought your company rarely. I was an intellectual epicure, and wished to prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant acquaintance: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade – the sweet charm of freshness would leave it. I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom; but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”
–Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre