Monday, 3 September 2012

A Writer’s Reasons For Falling In Love



If your story has two (or more) people who fall in love, it’s easy to explain away those feelings in vague terms. She was beautiful, he had amazing eyes, it felt like he’d known her all his life, her heart skipped a beat and she just knew he was the one etc. etc. etc.

Although those sorts of reasons are perfectly believable and exist in real life as well as in numerous works of fiction, there is still a sense that the writer doesn’t really have much of an idea of why these particular people hooked up, or even what love really is. Readers make allowances for it because they don’t really know either. But just for fun I thought I would try to make a list of non-vague reasons for people to fall in love.

You impress me — I think any time someone shows talent, ability or ingenuity that can be enough to win a person’s heart. It depends on two things though, the ability also has to be impressive to the reader, and the character has to consider it a worthwhile trait. One type of woman might think a guy who beats up three others in a bar fight is awesome, while another woman might think the he’s a violent dick.

You impress others — when someone is the centre of attention, whether the popular kid at school or a politician or a movie actor, that can raise their value in the eyes of others (btw, these are all reasons to fall in love, they aren’t necessarily healthy reasons).

Fearlessness — we’d all like to be the guy who does the thing no one else has the balls to do, but we’re scared. The guy who does do the thing is the guy everyone wants to be with, right?

Thank you for believing in me — when a person stands up for someone else or supports them in doing whatever they want to do, that’s a good reason for wanting to keep them around. In fiction, this works best when no one else is prepared to do it. If someone’s getting bullied or made fun of for having big dreams, the one person who’s willing to stand beside them will always seem like a loveable person.

I’m desperate and lonely — probably not a great reason for a romance but certainly a believable one. People often cling to whoever’s available. Nobody wants to grow old alone or be left on the shelf.

You like me, you really like me — lots of attention and adoration can make you feel special, and who doesn’t enjoy feeling special?

Money — while you probably won’t want to state it bluntly, a rich, successful person can be very attractive. Jane didn’t like Bill until she found out he was a millionaire... isn’t going to be all that well received, but Bill wooing Jane by taking her swanky places and for trips in his private jet can make her feel differently about him.

Charmed, I’m sure — a charming person can win you over. The only problem with this is putting it on the page. We all know what charming is when we see it, but it’s not all that easy to write. Just being well-mannered and attentive can be enough in real life, but in fiction it has to be more than that. This often works better in movies where actors can use their own charms to help augment the character. So steal from movies.

Save me! — everyone loves a hero, especially if their heroic thing is saving you. Obviously it depends on exactly what they do and how risky it is for them, but gratitude can easily turn into romance.

Shared Trauma — people who go through extreme situations, whether it’s being stuck on a desert island or being chased by a serial killer, form a bond. Having to rely on each other, share what little resources they have and face their doom hand in hand can all make for long term relationships (assuming both survive).

Good old fashioned sexy — good sex can be addictive like drugs (also like drugs it can be very expensive). Getting that on the page can be a little tricky, although these days a little S&M can do wonders for your book sales.

Pestering them until they say yes — surprising how effective this can be, especially if you catch someone when they’re feeling low and insecure. 

A couple of additions: Humour suggested by Melissa Bradley and Intelligence suggested by Elise Fallon. 

And a couple more: Rose Munevar recommends integrity, a noble attribute worth hanging onto (if you can find someone who has some). Siv Maria suggests the person you can't have. Nothing as deliciously tempting as the unattainable.

One thing to remember is that once person A falls for person B, then person B still has to also fall in love with person A. If both people just magically fall for each other it won’t make for much of a story.

If Mandy goes to see rock band Mizzeree and lead singer Johnny Z is so amazing on stage that she falls for him completely and sneaks backstage and gets in his dressing room you can believe a teenage girl doing all that, but why on earth would Johnny Z fall for her? He might sleep with her, but the qualities that impressed Mandy will also impress myriad others, so how can you convincingly show reciprocal love? Love has to work both ways.

In those cases you have to give both people reasons for falling in love. Maybe Mandy’s got a talent of her own, maybe she speaks the truth (something popular people don’t often hear), maybe she drugs and kidnaps him. Of course, you might think the mysterious qualities of falling in love don’t require explanation, and plenty of books have gone that route, if you do show the moment when love arrives in a tangible way, you’re going to provide a much more satisfying experience for the reader.

Although, a  one-sided love affair can also be an interesting tale.
Any other reasons for falling in love? Let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list.

If you found this post interesting please give it a retweet. Cheers.

35 comments:

Melissa Bradley said...

I wrote about a couple falling in love because they made each other laugh and provided balance for each other's personalities. Interesting post with lots to think about.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent list of reasons. Yes, physical can pull us in (especially us guys) but there has to be something more. A lot more for that matter.
I think the first couple ones combined were the reason for the attraction in my second book.

Elise Fallson said...

This is a great list. I agree with Melissa that laughter can be the spark of a great love affair. Intelligence can also be very attractive.

mooderino said...

@Melissa-humour! How could I have missed that one?

@Alex-wasn't easy coming up with this list as I'm very shallow.

@Elise-intelligence, also good one. Will add to the list.

Donna Hole said...

Being impressed by someone's actions/attitude is usually how I write my character's love. Some physical attraction does have to be there, but mostly I thing people fall in love when another person because of something they do or an attitude that is appealing.

........dhole

Cecilia Robert said...

so glad I dropped by and read this post. :) Humour, character's action and qualities - like kindness.Others are attracted to their complete opposites. assertive-non assertive...

mooderino said...

@Donna-the problem I find is when attraction is instant or unspecified, which is very common in most WIPs I read.

@Cecilia-I think all those qualities you mention are reasonable, but it's how you realise that attraction on the page. Too often the writer knows why the characters like each other, but the details are left vague.

Karen Walker said...

This is a fabulous list. I also think it depends on age and where we are in our lives. I was in my late 40s when I met current hubby and one of the most important reasons I fell in love is that he was the first man who totally loved and accepted me for who I am (and I was very overweight at the time).
Karen

Rose Munevar said...

What an awesome post! Gave me a lot to think about as romance is a component of my WIP. I'd add integrity to the list because that was how I turned the corner on friendship to love with my now husband!

Jay Noel said...

This was so timely. I'm currently writing my very first "romantic" story line. Bookmarked this and I will have to make sure I'm writing a believable and legit love story.

Siv Maria said...

Great post! Here is another one for your list. Falling for someone we can not have. I call it the romeo and Juliet factor :)

mooderino said...

@Karen-I'm not sure he'll apreciate being called 'current hubby'. More on the way?

@Rose-Integrity, defintiely. If only I could find someone who had some...

@Jay-either that or lots of whips and handcuffs.

@Siv-ah yes, the unattainable. Will add it asap.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I think that men when they fall in love, do so for shallow reasons (in general). When women fall in love, they do so for complex emotional reasons. So I guess that you could approach this topic from a variety of ways, and none would be the same depending on the point-of-view you employed.

Grace Robinson said...

Great list, and another great post, as always. I don't write romance stories, but I often like to have a little romantic sub-plot to add to the drama. In my current WIP, "shared trauma" would be the main reason my characters initially fall in love, although the intelligence factor is present as well. And yes, they both survive the trauma so that they can pursue their newly-developed relationship. ;-)

mooderino said...

@Michael-I'm not sure that's true. Man with a Ferrari will do just as well as woman with nice legs.

@Grace-of course these days dead people have very healthy love lives, in books anyway.

Margo Berendsen said...

Instant chemistry? I guess this falls under the good old-fashioned sexy category! I'm bookmarking this though because this is a great list to mull over with my characters.

Ryan Hunter - Writer said...

Very fun post! I think it's stronger when many reasons are combined, especially when they may contradict each other. My newest novel, inDIVISIBLE, has two people fall for one another based on lots of reasons: being a hero, somewhat instant chemistry, traumatic events, etc.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0093HDV20

Arlee Bird said...

I think your examples illustrate the old adage "There's someone for everybody". The reasons why people fall in love are myriad and why they stay in love and how love grows can be even more complex and mysterious. Love is many things.


Lee
Tossing It Out

mooderino said...

@Margo-I've always felt the world would be a better place if people spent more time mulling.

@Ryan-it's not so much what makes them fall in love as it is allowing the reader to see it for themselves. Falling in love off-stage isn't much fun to read.

@Lee-I feel like you're about to burst into song. Cue music...

Charmaine Clancy said...

I think pestering was at the basis of all my relationships.

cleemckenzie said...

Love the "pestering" until you say yes. However, my vote for best reason goes to "laughter." If someone made me laugh and feel good I'd have to love them, then work at getting them to feel that way about me, too!

Excellent post. Made me think of all kinds of characters and how they could fall in love. Thanks!

Ella said...

I love this post ;D
Laughter and an unique view on life. Death seems to amp love, in the movies...not so sure about real life?!

Akoss said...

I think this would fit Peeta from The Hunger Games. He wasn't particularly charming or handsome like Gale but because he was always looking out for Katniss, I fell in love with him. I'm guessing that's what finally got Katniss to really fall in love at last?
Thanks for your comment on my guest post. :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

You came up with a great list of reasons! I agree that laughter is key! Spending the day with Gene Wilder would be a lot of fun, though he would have to leave the sheep at home! Julie

Denise Covey said...

What a great idea to make this list. Yes, laughter is important. There's just so many reasons...

mooderino said...

@Charmaine-it's a mighty effective strategy.

@c.lee-my pleasure.

@ella-maybe I should try meeting people at funerals...

@Akoss-who could resist a nice loaf of bread?

@ENI-although you have to admit, that's one good-looking sheep.

@Denise-cheers.


The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting list of examples! There's certainly a wide spectrum of reasons someone might fall in love.

Cally Jackson said...

Great post. It had me nodding the whole way through, thinking of literary examples that have applied the various techniques.

Lydia Kang said...

I agree--there have to be reasons to fall in love. Also, insta-love always kinds of drives me crazy.

mshatch said...

I definitely agree with intelligence and humor; it's what made me fall in love with my ex. he made me laugh and he wasn't afraid to be silly to do it.

And thanks for this post; you've given me something to think about in regards to my current work :)

mooderino said...

Golden-I'm sure there are many more, just can't think of them right now.

@Cally-of course there are also many literary instances of eyes meeting and boom. Always feels a bit flat to me though.

@Lydia-I think you can get away with insta-love but it doesn't really add anything to the story.

@ms-I always wonder about the humour thing. Someone who's funny can make anyone laugh, so it isn't a unique thing between two people. So really you want someone who makes you laugh, but no one else.

Joyce Lansky said...

How about the historical set up with strangers who grow old in a marriage and learn to love each other?



http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great list. I believe in slow love where the two people gradually fall in love. Insta love for me is another name for lust/attraction.

mooderino said...

@Joyce-that's a fine premise but I think you would still have to show what things they learn to love about each other.

@Rachna-insta love is also by far the easiest thing to write when writing about love. I think that's the main reason for its popularity.

Curtis Albert said...

We all know what charming is when we see it, but it’s not all that easy to write. Just being well-mannered and attentive can be enough in real life, but in fiction it has to be more than that. Proofread my Essay

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