Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love story plots, or 18 ways to mess with your characters

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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 18 ways to mess with your character's hearts:

Note: this a re-post from last year's Valentine's Day post - with a couple suggested additions and a few notes on YA (young adult) love plots - since Valentine's falls on Teen Tuesday.

1. Forbidden love: Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Paris and Helen, Anna Karenina, Casablanca, the Thornbirds. 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 in Twilight and Katniss/Peeta/Gale in the Hunger Games, 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. A special case of this type is also the nerd falling in love with someone out of his/her league.

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), Shrek

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.  A younger version of this is the Crush (see below).

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.

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,  Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfieffer in the Story of Us, and the story Married with Zombies.  

13. Platonic love: Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings; 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)

14. Never has a chance to turn into love: I can't believe I missed this one last year, but it was suggested by Robyn Bradley with Remains of the Day as an example.  

15. Twisted love/murderous love: another one I missed last year, suggested by Old Kitty. The movie Fatal Attraction is a scary example.

16. Friendship turns into love. This was a suggestion from Laura Marcella and I thought of Ron and Hermione right away. I know there are some more great examples out there, help me out here folks! 

Now when I got to thinking specifically about young adult stories, I thought of two more potential categories:  Young love and it's wishful counterpart, the Crush.  YA love stories are all subject to the same love story messes listed above, too.

17. Young love: sometimes awkward and self-conscious, sometimes all-consuming while it lasts.  The Harry Potter books do a great job with this (Harry and Cho and later Ginny) . Though I haven't read it yet, Anna and the French Kiss also sounds like it fits in this category.

18. The Crush:  where a girl or boy is obsessed with a crush but eventually notices the awesome person (often a friend) that's been right beside them the whole time. Stardust by Neil Gaiman is a great example, where Tristran is obsessed with Victoria but eventually sees Yvaine for the star she truly is! (grin)

What's your favorite type of love story? I'd love to hear some more examples of books and movies!

Late addition: thinking I might have another love plot, just enough different from #6, thanks to Laura Pauling: Love Interests Pitted Against Each Other. The Music Man is an example, and also Legend, by Marie Lu, where June is trying to hunt down her brother's murderer the biggest suspect is the boy she falls in love with. 


  1. 17. Young love: sometimes awkward and self-conscious, sometimes all-consuming while it lasts. The Harry Potter books do a great job with this (Harry and Cho and later Ginny) . Though I haven't read it yet, Anna and the French Kiss also sounds like it fits in this category.

    I like it

  2. 18 ways, whether you can do as many of them ^ ^


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