On Writing Love


One of the most important questions we ask in fiction is WHY. Why would the young farm boy take up a sword and start off on an epic quest? Why would a normally intelligent person walk into what she knows is a trap? Why doesn’t the amateur sleuth throw his hands up in the air and stop poking around in a case when things turn deadly? In fiction we need the reader to understand why these characters would make such decisions. Why they would choose danger. And as writers we need to make sure their motivation is strong enough that the reader believes with the character that there is no other choice–it has to be done.

“Why?” It’s such an important question. But, it tends to become obsolete when it comes to love.

Why would two characters fall in love? Why does anyone fall in love? And not just in fiction. There is no magic or even logical formula to love. In real life I’m sure we all know very unlikely couples. We probably also know people who we think might be perfect together but they just don’t click. That’s why being set up on a blind date is such a harrowing experience.

Love isn’t about why. It’s about chemistry.

Which makes putting it on the page very interesting because when it comes to telling a good story, it is far less about ‘would these two really fall in love?’ and much more about ‘will the reader WANT these two to fall in love?’ Of course, there are always readers who will pick odd pairings–that is what slash fan-fic is all about–but if you write chemistry and tension into the budding relationship of your couple, that potential will grab your reader. They will want those two together.

So who are some of your favorite couples in fiction? Anyone you’re dying to see get together because the chemistry is burning hot? (Personally, I have a bad habit of falling for the sexy bad guy. Trent and Rachel Morgan anyone? or maybe Al and Rachel? Snow and Delilah Street? How about Leo and Jane Yellowrock? *snicker* Yeah, sexy evil for me all the way. LOL)


16 comments to On Writing Love

  • Ken

    Yah, I’m hoping that Rachel and Trent end up together. How about Harry Dresden and Karin Murphy? Joanne Walker and Mike Morrison?

    Even though he’s all but said that it doesn’t turn out that way, I’m still holding out on the hope that Kvothe and Denna get together.

  • sagablessed

    I agree, K, it is about what makes them click to the readers, as well as each other.

    Ken: I agree that Dresden and Karin need to get it together. K: Leo and and Jane? (hinthinthint to Faith)
    Others? Henry Fitzroy and Tony need to commit, but Tanya has stopped writing those. I am so bummed.
    I cannot think of others right now. I am so out of touch with reading that I am ashamed.

    I can say my current WIP has this and the opposite. One relationship is developing, another is failing. Since two of the characters are closely related, it will make for some interesting times. Other than “Ew, not that”, I won’t say more.

  • Megan B.

    I think this is why I never (okay, rarely) set out to write a romantic subplot into my stories. Sometimes it turns out that certain characters fall for each other, sometimes it doesn’t. But hopefully it will never seem forced.

    I can’t think of any favorite couple from fiction, or any I’d like to see. But I always thought [Harry Potter spoiler alert, for the one person who hasn’t read it] Lupin and Tonks didn’t seem like a natural fit. That seemed forced, to me.

  • Thanks for the heads up there on Jane and Leo, y’all! 🙂

    And yeah. I have problems with the love interests in every series I write. I introduce the perfect love interest and the more I write them and the story, the worse they are for each other. I kinda think it sucks.

    However, there is a certain Death character in *your* series that I am voting for…

    As for Harry? Oh yeah. Karrin all the way. And Molly for Thomas, with magic keeping his soul-drain from killing her. And the new gal-fairey for Toot Toot. Are you listening, Jim Butcher? Hmmm. Guess not.

  • sagablessed

    Toot-toot! I forgot about him!

  • Playing with various couples was one of my favorite parts of writing the Forelands books. On the other hand, I wanted to try something a little different (for me) with the Thieftaker books. So I gave Ethan a steady love, and made the romantic side a bit more about maintaining a relationship rather than starting (or not) one. That said, I also introduced a bit of sexual tension between Ethan and Sephira, just to keep things lively . . .

    Favorite couples? Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that. I have to admit that I find the “Will they or won’t they get together thing” that goes on for book after book (or TV episode after TV episode) somewhat tiresome. But that’s just me.

  • Megan B.

    “I have to admit that I find the “Will they or won’t they get together thing” that goes on for book after book (or TV episode after TV episode) somewhat tiresome. But that’s just me.”

    It’s not just you! It drives me crazy when they play up the sexual/romantic tension and then drag it out on purpose. Do that for a little while and it’s interesting, but do it for too long (*cough*X-Files*cough*) and it just gets old.

  • I started writing after making up a host of characters…and I didn’t expect that two of them would fall for each other. But they did. It shocked me, but now I don’t know how I ever saw it any other way. I spent so much time getting to know these characters that their natural chemistry took over once I imagined them in the same room. Weird.

    And I agree – “will they or won’t they” is a game I don’t stick around for. If the writers can’t decide then they’ve got nothing to show me.

  • I have to admit that I find the “Will they or won’t they get together thing” that goes on for book after book (or TV episode after TV episode) somewhat tiresome. But that’s just me.

    Nope, not just you. I despise that sort of indecisiveness. Then again, in my real life I’ve never vacillated in matters of the heart. When I fall, I fall hard and determinedly. 😀

    Couples I like together? Cyllan and Tarod from the Time Master trilogy. Helena Justina and Didius Falco from Lindsey Davis’ Falco mysteries. Jack and Gia from the Repairman Jack stories. And Ashbless and Jacqueline Tichy from Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.

  • TwilightHero

    I have to admit that I find the “Will they or won’t they get together thing” that goes on for book after book (or TV episode after TV episode) somewhat tiresome. But that’s just me.

    Me too. That sort of thing gets old fast.

    This is a timely post for me, since for my next WIP, the MC begins to develop feelings for someone. Love isn’t about why. It’s about chemistry. I’ll remember this 🙂

    Favorite couple? (Wheel of Time spoiler alert) Rand and Min. They just work so well together.

  • skaadi

    Ha! So glad to find I’m not the only one craving some serious Leo-Jane action. Also a big Trent-Rachel fan. Was crushed after the way Kisten-Rachel ended up (I cried, yes I did).

    Always prefer the bad boy/dark horse/sexy evil over the guy that seems “right” for the FMC. I set out in my own writing to do that. The unlikely, questionable-motive, often domineering and arrogant antagonist character that eventually turns out to be the match/complement for the MC.

  • It’s not enough for the readers to want them to get together. Being a slash fanficer (which is a lot more about seeing what is actually there and wondering what would happen if there was equal opportunity gayness – and which makes Rachel/Ivy one of the most painful ships – because it /is/ there, but Rachel is a stubborn child.) and someone who reads a lot of fic of varying quality, it’s clear that writing chemistry is REALLY DIFFICULT. ‘Will they won’t they’ can get annoying after six or so books, but if there isn’t any tension, isn’t any reason why not to be together, there isn’t really reason why they should be together. As I learned in social psych, forbidden love is something people really like, and often, the more reasons you stack up regarding why they shouldn’t be together, the more people will believe it’s MEANT TO BE. 🙂

  • Cindy

    I too hate the “will they or won’t they” that drags on forever. The characters should flip a coin or grow up.

    I think Bruiser would be interesting with Jane. I find myself curious about his back story.

  • Put me in the category of “will they or won’t they” haters.

    But I do find it frustrating when characters get together for no apparent reason. I know – in real life people end up together for all sorts of reasons, some of them terrible ones. And some couples work even though everyone on the outside is think “WTF?” But when I’m reading a story I want the chemistry to be internally convincing – I need to feel why the MC wants this person even if I wouldn’t want him/her. AND I want it to not make me hate the MC for being a complete fool – I’m not saying all MCs must be morally straight and make wise choices all the time, that would be boring, but I don’t like characters who refuse to even try to grow.

    Since Jane’s been batted around as an example, I’ll say that I’m really glad that so far she’s chosen not to get involved with Bruiser. I think it adds depth to her character that she can say no to her impulses and that she actually wrestles with complicated choices instead of just throwing herself into the worst choice.

  • wrybread

    I’m going to quote pretty much the last writer you’d expect to hear from where Love & Romance are concerned. Tom Clancy is quoted as saying-and I doubt he’s the first to make this observation-that the difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. That probably applies more than anything to something like Love which, most of the time doesn’t make any sense in real life. We know that in reality there are hundreds of factors that go into determining who you’re with-chemistry, proximity, past experiences, future plans, present life-and we know those are mostly random, but in a fictional story nothing is random. The character’s circumstances are all the creation of the writer. If we create those circumstances in such a way as that they don’t believably lead the character to the romantic choices they make, then the reader won’t buy it.

    And yes, put me down for disliking the dragged out “Will They Or Won’t They.” It worked for X-Files, but I’d say there the quality of the storytelling, and the fact that Anderson & Duchovny created two very charismatic and intriguing characters, made that work when it really shouldn’t have. Everything that shouldn’t work works at least once, but generally nothing happening when something might happen, any minute now, is excruciatingly boring, and that’s what you get with Will They Or Won’t They.

  • quillet

    “Will the reader WANT these two to fall in love?” That phrase right there was a serious lightbulb moment for me. *head-smack* I should know that, because it’s true in so many aspects of story-telling. Having characters and outcomes that readers root for makes them want to keep reading, to see if it’ll all work out the way they hope.

    Couples I really rooted for: Faramir and Éowyn in LOTR. Ista and Illvin in Paladin of Souls. And…Darcy and Lizzy in Pride & Prejudice (can’t help myself).