Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love story plots, or 13 ways to mess with your characters

One of the great appeals of fiction writing is getting to inflict your own fantasies (and miseries) on your characters. While we often don't have much control over our own affairs of the heart (as Valentine's day so poignantly reminds us), at least we can write a love story exactly the way we want.

In honor of/in derision of Valentine's Day, I looked over some famous love stories and grouped them into 13 ways to mess with your character's hearts:
  1. Forbidden love: Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Paris and Helen, Anna Karenina, Casablanca, the Thornbirds, Twilight. I think perhaps the most archetypal and most-used love story plot.
  2. Love triangle: these proliferate the YA scene today, led by Bella/Edward/Jacob and Katniss/Peeta/Gale, but they've been around a long time, such as in The Phantom of the Opera.
  3. Secret love: where one person loves the other secretly, believing the object of his/her love is unattainable. Examples: Shiver (Sam loves Grace for years but she knows him only as a wolf), the Little Mermaid, Memoirs of a Geisha
  4. One-sided love: similar to the secret love plot, except the besmitten one announces his/her love instead of keeping it secret. Beauty and the Beast, the Hunger Games (Peeta and Katniss)
  5. Love forsaken: a pair of lovers where one rejects the other (usually because of unequal status or to honor the family), and then regrets it (Wuthering Heights, Persuasion)
  6. You're the last person I'd ever love: two characters start out disliking each other, often quite intensely, and then fall in love as they get to know each other better. Pride and Prejudice (Elizabeth and Darcy), Stardust (Tristran and Yvaine), Shrek (sort of)
  7. Happily-ever-after love: the classic fairytale love story, where lovers must overcome obstacles to be together. Examples: Westley and Buttercup (Princess Bride), Captain Navarre and Isabeau (LadyHawke)
  8. Love torn apart: the opposite of a happily-ever after, where love reigns for a while, but then is torn apart by circumstances (The Time Traveler's Wife, Jane Eyre, Orpheus and Eurydice)
  9. In love with the wrong person: the classic is Gone With the Wind, where Scarlett thinks she and Ashley are destined for each other, but she's really meant for Rhett. More recent example is the movie Enchanted.
  10. Reluctant love: where two people are forced by circumstances into a betrothal or marriage. Sometimes both are reluctant partners; sometimes one is willing, the other reluctant. As the reluctant one comes to know her partner better, they genuinely fall in love. The great Bollywood love story Jodhaa Akbar. Outlander by Diana Galbadon. Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke. I know there are lots of others... anyone?
  11. Discovering love in a strange place: Tarzan and Jane, Jake and Neytiri in Avatar, the pair in Stargate
  12. Re-discovered love: two lovers have a falling-out, and but fate forces them to work together and they rediscover their love. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the Abyss, Jeff Goldblum and Margaret Colin in Independance Day, Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfieffer in the Story of Us. Can anyone think of any novels with this sort of relationship?
  13. Platonic love: Rose and Lissa in Vampire Academy; Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings; Thelma and Louise; Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Harry Potter series. Striking examples are often in a guardian/guarded relationship, master/protege relationship (Obi-Wan and Luke), parent/child or sibling relationship, hero/sidekick, human/animal pair (Calvin and Hobbes, the knight and the dragon in Dragonheart)
I thought I'd be able to pick out my favorite type of love mess, but I really can't. Do you have a favorite kind of love story? Did I miss any? And if you've read Across the Universe, what type of love story would you call Amy's and Elder's?


  1. Hehe nothing better than messing with a character, and what's messier than love? I must say I'm a fan of some species of happy ending, no matter what kind of love we're dealing with.

  2. WOW. I thought I'd be able to pick at least my top 3 that I love but I can't do with out any of those love-story lines. Great Post Crusader!

  3. Twisted love? Murderous love? As in Postman always rings twice kinda love?

    Awwww but I'm a sucker for happily ever after love though!! Take care

  4. This list is awesome!

    An example of Re-discovered Love that I enjoyed was Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen, sort of a romantic zombie comedy where the couple is about to get divorced but fall in love again the zombie apocalypse.

    I also read a historical romance called Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas where the couple separates the day after their wedding and rekindles their romance 10 years later when the wife asks for a divorce. Both excellent books!

  5. LOVE this post! These were so much fun to read through...I have to admit, one-sided love is the hardest for me to read (as it should be). I was mad at Katniss by the end of Hunger Games for not loving Peeta sooner :)

  6. I like Old Kitty's twisted love/murderous love addition. What about May/December romantic love (I suppose that could be put under some of the other categories)? Oh, and how about Never Quite Gets a Chance to Be Love But It Really Is (I'm thinking Remains of the Day -- the movie anyway...the book is on my TBR list). Love this list! :)

  7. Oh, I do love a good love story! And I don't think, I have a favorite kind, long as somewhere along the way I fall in love with the characters.


  8. Rediscovered love is the plot of so many classic screwball comedies from the 1930s and '40s - The Awful Truth with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is a good example. I'm thinking, but I can't come up with a novel that has this plot yet.

  9. Great list!

    I would say my favorite storylines are:

    1. You're the last person I'd ever love: I am fascinated by love/hate relationships and witnessing the transformation.

    2. Secret love: I especially like it when the best friend is in love and helps the other find love elsewhere. Good examples of this storyline are the 80's movies: Secret Admirer and Some Kind of Wonderful.

    3. Reluctant Love: This one is similar to the love/hate relationships. It especially works well in historical fiction when the protagonist is forced to marry in order to save her family from poverty, scandal... fill in the blank.

    I am also drawn to love triangles, although it is often obvious for the reader/viewer who the main character is going to pick.

    Interesting subject!


  10. This is a great way to start my Valentine's Day eve. Too bad I'm not working on anything romantic right now.
    Great post!

  11. I love your list and Old Kitty's two kinds of love stories. Also thought you could add love lost and found. :)

  12. Oh, sorry, I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog, Margo. Please hop in any time you are able, I've got book giveaways! :)

  13. HI, Margo,

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing your story with me. "Earthly Angels" has been received with much enthusiasm and I am looking forward to posting this feature every Friday.

    Welcome to my group of friends and I have joined yours as well. I will look forward to getting to know you better.


  14. Love in any form is pretty great in my opinion. I love this list. You may have given me an idea for my WIP. :)

  15. Oh, I forgot to add. I really liked your post.

    In my newest Y/A Contemporary novel, My mc moves to a new town and falls for a girl who in fall for him, but she has a history with his new buddy who is still in love with her. It gets complicated because the only reason why she broke up with him was because he became blind and she couldn't handle it.

    So now the mc is torn between his friend and the girl he's falling in love with.


  16. I'm feeling all the messed up types of love e.g. one-sided, love forsaken, you're the last person I'd ever love and in love with the wrong person-- it's more drama! At the moment I'm brainstorming two messed up love stories, I didn't realise my obsession with love until I figured out that just because they love each other they don't have to be happy about it. I feel like there should be some maniacal laughter here or something.
    - Sophia.

  17. To answer your question, no, I can't think of anything you've missed. However, this did help me see what my wip - should I decide to accept the assignment before it blows up in my face - would be the Love Forsaken plot. I think perhaps I'll try and reread a few of those stories.... Thanks!

  18. I can't believe it's taken me this long to find you. Well, technically you found me. But who's keeping track? Amazing post. I loved it!! Thanks for entering my giveaway!

  19. I don't think I have a favorite. It all depends on how well the story is written in order for me to adore the whole love angle.

  20. Did I miss it, or is the Nerd's Bane there; the nerd is just smitten, but the object of the devotion thinks of them as a "Special Friend."

  21. This is a great list- it covers all of my favorites! I'm a romance junkie!

    I think Elder and Amy would be Finding Love in Strange Places. Or perhaps Reluctant Love. Either way, it was a great story!

  22. Wow! You covered everything!! I hope you have an awesome Valentine's Day:)

  23. PS I see your wordcount is almost there!!!

  24. Howdy, fellow Crusader,

    Ooo, I love new ways to screw with characters! (no pun intended, but take it if you want ... It's Valentine's Day, after all) Great suggestions.


  25. LOVE THESE!! I'm going to go tweet right away. Brilliant post, and I haven't read Across the Universe yet, but it's next on my list!!

  26. What a great break down of different ways to approach the love story. I love combinations of forbidden love and finding it in a strange way or place! Great post!

  27. I like platonic love because friendship is a strong force; put it together with love and you've got one powerful combo! (It's even better when best friends fall in love!) I also like happily-ever-after love!

    Happy Valentine's Day, Margo!

  28. I am working on a love story...sort of. It is the reluctant one. Where a pastor in the old west has to marry a fellow pastor's widow - it was a law back then. Only he has promised to never marry anyone but the perfect girl - but Emily is almost the complete opposite of what he was looking for.
    Other then that I only do the friendship ones. My newest is about two best friends named Peter and Tony and Peter's younger sister Irene.
    The friendship ones are my favrote it read and watch movies about, though I do like some movies that have other types of love - such as Stardust and the Princess Bride - but really, who cannot help but like that movie?
    My favorite though would be the one where they start out disliking each other. I like those stories 8-D

  29. Hi there! how is the writing going?
    For "Warped" I would suggest buy the "cheaper" one. I'm still a tough sell on e-readers so I don't have one and I only get "real" books. Either way I'm sure it won't affect the read.
    Happy Valentines Day.

  30. Margo, What a wonderful post! I'll have to come back and read this carefully. ; ) I'm following you back from my blog.

  31. WOW! This is an incredible list! I scrolled through it three times. Love Jodha Akbar :) and so many of your examples. This is perfect for plotting and studying other stories.

  32. Hi Margo.

    This is a very thought provoking list :D

    I think I might be overdoing it, but my plot outline has him loving her, but her disdainful (one sided), her then falling for him as he is lured away by another (love triangle), then he turns back to her just as she is kidnapped (love torn apart), before we finally have the reunion (happily ever after)! *phew*! You can read excerpts on my Valentines Day post showing the transition from love triangle to love torn apart and the final reunion. :D hehehe

    Thanks for the follow Margo. It's always great to meet fellow crusaders.


  33. Oh, I think I'm mostly a sucker for 1,2,7 & 8. (Love that you added LadyHawke to this list, I just rewatched it recently - love it!) I've got a little mix of love/hate, triangle, in-love w/the wrong person going in one of my wips right now. So fun! Thanks for the breakdown - and happy v-day to you!

  34. What a great list! I'm a fan of all of them, but I've written #2 and #7, so I must have a special fondness for those! :)

  35. I love this list!!!! I haven't read Across the Universe yet. I'll have to get back to you on that one. :D

  36. Hey Margo! So glad I hopped over to your site, this list is fantastic. I hear so many good things about Across the Universe - its downloaded but now I have to get my butt in gear and read it LOL! happy belated v day!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. Great post, Margo!

    For Elder & Amy in Across the Universe, I'd have to say theirs is circumstantial love. Which could also lead to reluctant love. If you've got no other choice but to be alone, which would you choose?

    I think my faves are secret love and you're-the-last-person-I'd-ever love.

  38. These are really very great Love Stories. I really appreciated your site and the variety and style of love stories.

  39. The opposite of 12.
    Ashed Love: when people truly love each other. And life tears them apart. They passionately continue to love each other at a distance. Time goes. Finally they break all the walls and reunite. To find ashes of old love.
    Example: movie Like Crazy.

  40. Love on a pedestal is quite a big one too; like Tess and Angel, or Othello and Desdemona. One (or both) loves their partner so intensely that they believe they can do no wrong and when they do wrong, even the slightest form of wrong, their love is torn apart. All they can do is topple from their pedestal. A couple must be equal in love to thrive.


    Isq do prakar ke hote hai ,
    Ek wo jo dil se kiya jata hai ,
    Or ek wo jo jidd ke liye kiya jata.
    Dil se kiya kya gaya pyar kabhi bura nahi hota, Or jidd ke liye kiya gaya pyar hamesha insan ko bura bana deta hai........
    in english
    love have two types....
    first which do from heart,
    second which do for only sex,
    love which happen from heart that never being bad way,
    love which happen only for sex that always being bad way......

  42. I know I found this post MUCH later, but I stumbled on it while Google searching for love plots, and it's by far the clearest, most helpful post I've seen. So, THANK YOU!!! Me and my WIP are very grateful :)



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