Hello, faeries and happy (almost) Valentine’s Day.
I was once naive enough to think it possible to craft an entire novel without including love. The novel sputtered and choked but never came to life. Not until, that is, I surrendered my ego and created meaningful relationships.
In my head, creating a story without love would make it cold, aggressive, and dark. It never occurred to me that it would instead create a flat, unbelievable world with cardboard characters. The work I created read like a murder-mystery story I had written in second grade. Dull. Boring. Words on a page.
I dropped the idea, let the world fall into the shredder, but I clung onto what I had learned.
A story without love, isn’t a story at all because love is an integral part of the human condition. That isn’t to say there aren’t people who are incapable of loving or feeling loved but those individuals have a disorder; they aren’t the norm. So, when I tried to create a story without any love in it, it made sense that it felt so wrong.
Now that we’re talking about love, what kind of love was I talking about in my book?
When I first embarked on that journey years back, love only belonged in sexual relationships. I was oblivious to the other sorts of love and how important they are when trying to realistically craft a story.
A mother loving her child. A father loving his brother. A man loving the plant he takes care of. A woman looking fondly down at a caterpillar inching over a rock. A child loving itself. All of these loves have a different place and expose different sorts of things about the setting, characters, and plot. It’s important that we focus on love in all relationships, not only the sexual ones.
We know how relationships look and work, for the most part. We’ll get there in a second. But what we tend to ignore as writers, are the small moments of love we witness and experience every single day. Something as small as smiling at ourselves when we pass by a mirror can crack the surface of a character and give it depth. Animal companion? Make it nervous, shy, and make a point of showing it come cuddle nearby to the main character. We gain insight that doesn’t need to explained in chunky paragraphs through small moments like these.
Briefly, let’s discuss sexual relationships.
They’re great, but they require an honest touch. Sometimes, people are garbage. I’m all about romance in books, but when I’m writing, I crave the realistic aspect of it. People getting heartbroken. Staying up until three a.m with a spouse because they refuse to go to bed angry. A woman cheating on a man, abusing him. A man being too soft, without a spine, and causing conflicts. Going for fifteen minute walks instead of elaborate dates. A woman combing through a man’s long hair when he’s tired instead of cooking a candlelight dinner.
In novels, including moments of reality make the elaborate, highly decorated scenes easier to believe. Moonlit walks on the beach are wonderful, but have you ever been on one? I have and it isn’t hardly as romantic as you’d believe. There’s an overwhelming, awe-inspiring smallness you feel surrounded by the darkness. You can’t see the ocean only feel its presence. You can’t see hardly anything. It’s primal, not romantic. It is incredibly special, but for different reasons than is often portrayed.
To sum up, if you’re writing about romantic relationships, be sure to look to reality. Crafting believable characters is hard enough, creating relationships is tough. Look at couples around you. Pay attention to people in stores, cars, and movies where they are in their own bubble and are more often themselves.
And please, remember to include small pieces of greater loves. We don’t see enough of it in literature but those moments are the ones that stick with us.