Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 22:02
With today being Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be only appropriate that my column address the thorniness of writing lust and romance. There are many different approaches to writing about lust and romance, and hopefully I’ll touch on whatever interests you somewhere in this column. Let’s get to it.
The most quintessential idea of love in writing is the love poem. Traditionally, a love poem is written in the form of a sonnet, and we have one William Shakespeare to thank for that. The way a sonnet (about love or otherwise) usually works is thus: the first three stanzas establish an idea, and the ending couplet adds a twist. For example, in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, which begins “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” the first three stanzas express the idea that the narrator’s mistress does not meet any of the more flowery comparisons allegedly found in other poets’ lovers. He ends the sonnet with the couplet, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare,” i.e. it is because of her genuine qualities that he loves her. The sonnet is a tried-and-true love poem. Why do anything different?
The second most popular instance of love in writing is probably the harlequin novel. Frankly, I’ve never read more than a few lines of one, so my advice here is to be taken with a grain of salt. The general idea of love in these novels is either a forbidden romance or a love as an unassailable fortress that bests all evil. In my opinion, harlequin novels are probably cheap, dime-a-dozen fantasies comparable to those found on fanfiction.net. Structurally, I imagine they’re sound enough, but I think they lack in originality and genuineness.
Another type of romance that has reared its head in today’s popular culture is the “edgy” glorification of abusive relationships found in the “Twilight” series and the “Fifty Shades” series. My opinion on these romances is low. My advice on writing about abusive relationships is this: be realistic and don’t glorify it. They’re abusive; the abused parties are not going to be enjoying themselves.
So what makes a good love story? Two things: realism and originality. When I say realism, I don’t mean that great love stories don’t take place in the fantasy or sci-fi genres. I mean that the characters involved in the romance need to be realistic people. They need to have both strengths and flaws, and they have to express these. If the characters are simply Prince Charming and Cinderella, there ceases to be a conflict romance-wise, which makes things boring. On a related note, originality matters. Every person has their own ideas on what love is like. Therefore, you have to present it in a way that isn’t just an affirmation of previously held beliefs. There’s no reason that a love story can’t be as gripping as a thriller or as dramatic as “Downton Abbey.”
I hope this helps any potential wooers reading this today. Good luck on your wooing.