Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing 101: Love is in the Air

So, how do you get two fictional people to fall in love?

To some writers, the answer to this question may be the most natural thing in the world. To others, it may strike fear into your hearts. Well, I'm here for you, members of the latter group! Writing about falling in love is not some magical, mysterious gift possessed by only romance writers. In fact, there are some pretty basic formulas you can follow.

Here are the three I've defined for myself. I'm naming them after boys in The Hunger Games, whose divided fanbase illustrates how different types of falling in love can all be effective for readers.

The Gale Method: Make Them Talk

For two people to fall in love with each other, first they have to know each other reasonably well. And for two people to know each other reasonably well, they'll have to talk to each other. A lot.

It can be face-to-face, online, on the telephone. It can be friendly conversation, serious shop talk, angry arguments. Come to think of it, the "conversing" could consist mostly of facial expressions and body language, provided you're really good at it!

You don't have to record all the talking in the story. In many cases, it's probably better if you don't. Time spent together can be summed up easily in transitional sentences. (Don't do this with all the talking, though, or you're telling and not showing!)

With this method, you are, in effect, creating a friendship. Yes, even if they start off hating each other and their talking consists mostly of insults--then you're showing the transition from enemy to friend.

A non-Hunger Games example of this type of romance: Oh so many, but the most recent on my mind is Bianca and Wesley in The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. An especially interesting case since kissing and sex come before friendship and love, but the transition is believable and romantic.

The Peeta Method: Make Them Go Through Crap Together

Don't have time for hours and hours of talking? That's alright. Just have them get kidnapped or something!

Intense life-or-death situations have a way of slowing down time and magnifying everything that goes on... at least in fiction. One day of fighting for their lives is equivalent to a month of pleasant chatter for two young single people. (This has been proven by science, don't worry.) As a bonus, if they are the only ones experiencing the trauma, they will likely have to rely on each other once they get back to safety.

Naturally, this method only works completely in some genres. But you can still use mini-disasters to accelerate your contemp high school romance. Take getting trapped in an elevator or a car breaking down on the roadside. (Both cliches, but it should give you an idea of what I mean.)

A non-Hunger Games example of this type of romance: This sort is often found in fantasy, such as Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. Ai Ling and Chen Yong only spend a few days together during the book, but damn does a lot of bad stuff happen to them! There's no way they couldn't have one hell of a bond after that adventure.

The Finnick Method: Give Them Really Magnetic Chemistry

Okay, so, Finnick was never a real contender for Katniss's affections, but you probably can't deny that he sizzles with pretty much anyone he talks to. He creates chemistry.

Sometimes, two people just seem to be made for each other. You can try to keep them apart, but they'll inevitably get pulled back together. You may even know real people who have a relationship like this, the kind of bond that exists from the beginning and weathers years, decades even, of adversity. It's almost like love at first sight, but it's not based on physical appearance. It's something... magnetic.

One thing, though: this type of romance is really really hard to pull off well. There's like a 90% chance readers are going to roll their eyes. In fact, you should probably just give up now. Pull these two kissing dolls apart and have them go about things in a more conventional manner.

...what's that? You can't pull them apart? Well, okay then. You may have one of the few cases where it works. Just make sure you get a second opinion!

A non-Hunger Games example of this type of romance: Not everyone will agree with me, since readers will always react differently to a meant-to-be scenario, but my choice is Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam and Grace have barely spent five minutes of quality time together before they're inseparable. But it just works. I can't stand to see them apart.

And there you have three ways to make characters fall in love, from simple to elusive. Just remember that writing about love, just like writing about anything else, is part art and part science. Plan out what feels right to you, but ultimately, go with your gut. If you think it's romantic, there's a good chance your readers will, too!


Jess said...

Thank you so much for this! I've been trying to write this kind of romantic scene in my novel and I couldn't figure out how to do it so I checked some blogs LOL! I love this! Thanks!

Michelle Julian said...

This is helpful, thanks!

Lauren Hunter said...

Hooray, Jess, I'm glad it helped you!