How to Write Good Love Stories Even if You Haven't Ever Been in Love
Love is one of those complex concepts that can't be easily translated onto paper or any other medium of entertainment. We all have a general idea of what love is because we see and hear it all around us. Movies, TV shows, love songs, novels, friends, family, etc. However, even though we think we know what love is, you can't have an accurate portrayal of romance without being in love. That's not to say you can't write a love story, but it's important to accept that you don't have personal experience in that area.
When I was asked to write this article, I never put much thought into how to write a love story if you've never been in love. Our job as writers isn't necessarily to capture or describe the character's exact feelings. It's our job to make a representation that resonates with the reader, which can be a daunting task if you've never been in love. Many of us crave love, and we apply the idealized version we have into our writing, which can be both good and bad. The best part is that there is no rule of thumb for writing love stories. There's no blueprint, but it doesn't hurt to know a few tips and tricks from someone who has written her fair share of love stories.
#1 Perfection is a big fat lie.
There is no such thing as perfection. You won't ever find the perfect person for you. Ever. Sorry for being a downer. However, that's what makes love and relationships beautiful. They're imperfect and flawed. The best way to make love real in your writing is to keep it as far from becoming perfect as possible. It's okay to have a happily ever after, but if the characters' love story doesn't have the occasional ups-and-downs, bumps in the road, or disagreements, it won't be believable. Don't let your imagination fool you into writing the ideal love story. Let your characters argue with each other. Show that there's more to a relationship than hugs, kisses, cuddles, and long monologues about how much one loves the other. The reality of love is imperfect, and that's how you should write it.
We've established that perfection is unattainable. Now, we need to focus on your characters. As the writer, you're in control of your character's choices and actions. You're their voice. However, don't treat them like puppets and force them to fall in love with each other. Don't force them to change themselves for the sake of keeping their love or to manipulate the other into falling for them. Forcing them to change their character removes all authenticity. Even if there's an ulterior motive that one of the characters is unaware of, there always needs to be authenticity behind it.
Being in love does cause a person to mature, but it doesn't change their entire personality. If it does, then you don't know your characters and your characters don't know themselves, which will cause a train wreck later in your writing. Romance isn't easy. If you think that it is, then you're living in a misconception. Your life won't magically become easy now that you're "in love." You're human and so are your characters (unless you're writing a sci-fi novel and the characters aren't human, but that's a totally different topic).
#3 Honesty is key
We're always told to write what we know. In the case of writing a love story when you've never been in love, be honest about what you know and what you don't know. That's the only way you can learn as a writer. Stay true to the things you know and not merely the things you imagined. Be aware if your characters begin to fall into a cliché. Catch the stereotypes that creep their way into your story.
If the relationship/development of love isn't working or it becomes difficult to predict your character's actions, that may be a sign that you're forcing it. I know it sucks when you've written a few pages and you have to delete a good chunk of your writing, but it's a good move on your part because changing it and starting over is all part of the process. You'll learn more about love just like your characters will as you write.
The most important thing I took away from my Creative Writing professor was that we learn so much about people and the world through observation. One day, for homework, she made us go to a public setting and just sit, watch and write what we see. I chose a Starbucks at the time (very basic, I know). I sat alone at a table with my laptop and just wrote what I saw. Literally everything. As I wrote, I used more than just my sense of sight to describe my surroundings. If I saw a suspicious looking person, my heart rate increased. The speed of my typing became suspiciously audible, resulting in a few stares from customers and a lot of typos. There was another moment when a couple walked in and they sat on a leather loveseat adjacent to the entrance. I noted their body language, the way they looked at each other, and most importantly, how they spoke to each other. Now, I know we've all been taught not to eavesdrop on people's conversations and to mind our own business, but it's one of the most useful acts a writer can perform (just don't get caught).
Communication is essential to love, and without knowing/observing how people in a relationship speak to one another, all you have left to work with is idealization and imagination. You'd be surprised how often pet names aren't used. The occasional "babe" or "baby" is totally okay, but don't overuse it. Another tip would be to ask your friends and family. Ask them what it's like to be in love or in a relationship. Observe them. Be open to what they say, even if it comes across as mundane. Sometimes the mundane is the most enjoyable part of a love story.
Writing a love story will take some trial and error, and I can guarantee you'll get frustrated. However, it's such a fun learning experience for both you and your characters. So, don't think that you can't write a love story just because you've never been in love. You can, and you'll learn more as you write. When you finally experience love and look back at your writing, you'll be surprised at just how different reality is from your imagination. The best part is that it will always change. Like I said before, there's no blueprint to writing about love. Sky's the limit. So, go out there, people-watch, and write!
Do you find it easy to write about love?
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