tagHow ToWriting in Love

Writing in Love


Love is silly.

This is not to say that love is laughable, or funny; it's neither. Love is not trivial. It is sublime, life-altering. Love changes.

But love, especially new love, makes us act silly, makes us think differently. We do things out of character for us, we say things we normally wouldn't say and almost immediately the changes begin. The playboy doesn't go out anymore, he only wants one person. The strong woman is weak for her love and cannot stand against it, doesn't want to. When they are apart, each feels the void of the other's absence, and when they are together, they are completed.

Those of us lucky enough to be in love, or that have ever been in love, know the changes it brings to us. When writing about love between characters, the contrast between who they are and who they were can be explored in detail, and can resonate with the reader in a way that mere sex cannot. Sex as a whole is enhanced by love and if a character should have sex with someone else the contrast should be felt. It feels empty, meaningless. It's a form of masturbation.

But get with your lover...the one you truly love...and the sparks fly. Sex transcends physicality and moves into the realm of the spiritual, a connection with another, a synergy. It's become 'making love' and has the power to shift the world.

Real people are usually surprised and may be shocked by the contrast. When writing of a character falling in love, the reader may want to see that difference and remember it. A good way to do this is the way a reader would do it: compare the two experiences and explore them.

Suppose Jack parties a lot with his buddies, goes to bars, picks up a bunch of superficial 'chicks' that he takes home and 'bangs out'. These liaisons mean nothing to Jack. He gains the respect of his friends with his ability to get the women he finds attractive into bed, and demonstrates his power over them by his ability to forget they ever exist. In his way, Jack is a happy man.

And then he meets Jill and falls in love, and his world is changed. He doesn't go out with his friends anymore. They call him 'pussy-whipped' and he doesn't care; his life has become Jill, being with Jill, and after making love to Jill he realizes that he's been a fool. He recognizes that all the women he's loved and left may have hurt like he hurts when Jill leaves him for Bill. He regrets; he will never see his life and his world the same way again.

Or suppose Jill is a successful businesswoman, on her way up; she has no time for sex, or love. She avoids situations that may complicate her life and focuses on her career. She has the occasional lover as a distraction, but afterward he goes home and she goes to bed and the sun will dawn on the same day tomorrow.

And then she meets her new client Jack and she feels a click with him, a connection she has never felt before. He distracts her. She thinks of him all the time. Her work falls off. She feels most alive when he is near her and when he is gone she feels his absence, she hears the ticking of the clock and feels her own mortality. She realizes her life is empty and broken. And when Jack and Jill finally make love...she is whole.

By exploring the changes within our characters, we can demonstrate the vast power this emotion has over us to make us different than we were--maybe better, maybe not, but not the same. Love transcends everything. Racial and social boundaries are meaningless; mores become laughable. Love permeates life and lives beyond death. It transcends education, station, and gender. It makes people run gladly from safety into chaos. The characters we create will stop at nothing to be with the people they love. They will tear through everybody in their way, breach any wall. We who have been in love know this feeling and recognize it, those who have never been may be confused by how different one becomes and catch a glimpse of what they've missed thus far.

Interactions between characters are not always about love. It could be about sex, desire, fantasy, lifestyle, etc. But love--real love--is an all-consuming flame and a new person is born from the ashes.

Older love is different, a flame between two people that warms them and makes finding someone else out of the question. That's not who they are anymore. They may have affairs, but they cannot see living apart from the one they have been with. Jill might like to be caned before sex, and Jack just won't. Jack might secretly want sex with men and Jill just won't do for that. But they know they are in love and cannot live without their partner.

Unless they fall in love with their lover.

They may share the experience with their spouse or significant other, seeking threesomes or exhibition; but love cleaves them together. This type of experience might lead to insecurity on the part of one or the other, for what if the person they adore likes the third person more? Then one character will see it as an invasion of something that is sacred to them.

Exploring the differences in who characters were and who they are now is the surest yardstick for the depth of their love. Some will agree to stop wearing corduroy pants because their partner can't stand the swishing sound when they walk. Some might throw their whole life away and travel halfway across the globe to be with someone they have never seen. The depth, the differences are dependent on the love, the character, and of course the author's view of who that character is and what they need.

In the end, love is the most powerful emotion we can feel, and so it should transform a character, make them see the world differently, think differently and act differently. And stories are about the story, and if the story is about love, it should be realistic and demonstrate the power of this killing and saving emotion in order to make the reader more fully aware of a character's depth of feeling.

If you've never been in love, there's plenty here to give you an idea of its strength. If you have been or you are, draw on your own experience--what was it like for you, and how deeply did you feel it? And would your characters, if they should somehow become real, act on the emotion as portrayed, in the way they are portrayed as acting? Would you act on a one-dimensional emotion?

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