It’s Valentine’s Day.
Whether you see the occasion as just a way for businesses to make a killing on flowers, chocolates, and dinner reservations, or whether you see it as an opportunity to spoil that special someone in your life, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for us writers to think about L.O.V.E., and its significance in literature.
I daresay—it’s huge.
You don’t have to be a fan of romance novels to appreciate just how big a part love and romance play in fiction. Even the most suspenseful, horrific, or hilarious of stories can carry a romantic subplot.
What Makes a Good Love Story?
A good love story is one that:
- Is believable: The characters feelings for one another must be plausible. If your characters share an unlikely romance (say, between a young man and a much older woman), then you need to give that situation context. Under what circumstances do they fall in love? What makes their match plausible?
- Involves conflict: The characters must overcome conflict in order to be together or stay together. If there’s no conflict either between the couple or surrounding the couple, then there’s no story.
- Engages the reader through emotion: In a good love story, the reader feels the characters’ pain and triumphs (perhaps by drawing on his or her own life experiences), and wants to see the couple succeed.
Your Favourite Love Stories
I’m a huge fan of realistic stories—those that mimic the trials and tribulations of everyday life. That’s why one of my favourite love stories is from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Seven years before the story opens, Anne Elliot makes the biggest mistake of her life: she allows herself to be persuaded to not marry the young naval officer with whom she is in love. Now, verging on spinsterhood, Anne gets a second chance at love when Captain Wentworth steps back into her life.
Sounds simple enough, but I like the idea of the older-than-usual heroine getting another chance with ‘the one who got away’.
Like all good love stories, Persuasion hits the three key elements I noted above. The characters feelings for one another are believable, they must overcome conflict throughout the story in order to be together, and the story engages the reader by making us sympathize with the heroine’s plight.
And, it just goes to show that even the simplest of concepts can result in a gripping, well-told story.
What are your favourite love stories from literature? Why do they speak to you, in particular?
What do you think makes for a great love story?
Happy Valentine’s Day!