In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d explore a popular but sometimes difficult to master story component: the love interest. I’m looking forward to learning a lot on this subject, as I am currently working on my own story’s love interest.
The basics of a story is a plotline which follows the exploits of the main characters as they attempt to resolve a conflict while making their way to their intended goal. So how exactly does a love interest play into this equation?
In order to want to face adversity and move the story forward, characters need a reason, a purpose. Though inspiration can come in many forms, feelings such as adoration, affection, happiness, or love can be powerful motivators which can drive characters. The love interest is a tool that serves to personify these elements, and can be anything from sidekicks, to mentors, to support systems, or the story's main source of conflict.
Love plays a big role in everyone lives, and the same applies to fiction. It doesn’t have to be central to the storyline, but a little romance can add to the character development or depth to the conflict. Here are a few roles a love interest can play in a story.
Source of Conflict : Conflict is an essential element of a storyline, responsible for motivating the Characters to take action. In terms of storytelling, a relationship with no conflict tends to be the end goal and not the main plot. Relationship conflicts must be relevant to the overall story, be they the center of the plot or not. Here are a few examples of how a love interest can be a source of conflict in a story:
- Abusive Partner: A person who is violent or domineering towards their partner. Occasionally portrayed as the antagonist, this role helps define what constitutes a negative relationship, which in turn serves as a contrast for what the protagonist should be looking for, a healthy relationship.
- Forbidden Love: Normally used to describe the relationship between characters who are in love, but for some reason are not allowed to be together. Reasons could be because they are in different factions that are at war (Romeo and Juliet), are from different social backgrounds (Pride and Prejudice), or have opposing major defining character traits (a Hero dating a Villain).
- Love Rivalry: Also referred to as a Love Triangle, this is a situation where two (or more) characters are competing for the affections of a single person. The love interest usually find themselves conflicted, having a hard time choosing between their admirers. A contemporary example is the Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle from the Twilight series.
Source of Catalyst: Love can be a powerful motivator. A love interest can occasionally act as a catalyst in the storyline. They can set events into motion, either by their own volition, by accident, or simply by being present. Here are a few examples of how a love interest can be a catalyst in a story:
- Broken Wing: A love Interests who is emotionally scarred and has a history of tragedy or heartbreak. Protagonists would feel inclined to help these types of love interests by solving whatever problem ails them.
- Damsel in Distress: The Damsel in Distress is a time honored plot tool where the love interest is repeatedly placed in some form of danger, forcing the protagonist into action. Though effective, this has been so overused that it can be considered a lazy excuse for a plot.
- Dead Love Interest: A love interest that dies, then becomes a catalyst for the protagonist. Depending on how they died, they can be a reason for the main character to question their lives, motivation to go on a quest or seek retaliation for their death.
Source of Development: How a protagonist deals with love and relationships can help better define them to the audience. Love interests can be a great source of character development, filling in gaps that the normal storyline would not cover. Here are a few examples of how a love interest can further character development in a story:
- Childhood Friend: A Love Interest that has been friends with the main character since they were kids. This gives the writer a source of knowledge dating back to the protagonist's childhood, making it easier to reveal this information to the audience.
- The Ex: Having a former partner make an appearance in a story forces a character to deal with certain situations, be they unpleasant or not. This is a great tool for revealing past information on a character that may not otherwise be related to the main story.
- Long Lost Lover: Love interests don't always have to physically appear in the storyline to have an impact on the protagonist. Exploring past relationships through memories or flashbacks can help reveal vital information on the main characters.
Source of Influence: Love can change us, mold us, make us grow. In a story, we see the journey of the main character as they undergo through some form of change along the way. The love interest character should influence the protagonist to grow with regards to who they will become by the end of the story. Here are a few examples of how a love interest can influence the story:
- The Clueless: Being guilty of this one myself, this is when a character is totally unaware of the feelings for them from another character. If the clueless character happens to be the protagonist, then the audience would get to see how the protagonists’ view of the love interest character changes from beginning to end.
- False Lead: Refers to a love interest that has potential, but is only present in the story to dupe the main character. The False Lead serves as an obstacle between the protagonist and the one true love interest, leading them astray from their goals.
- The Supporter: A Love Interest that encourages a character. These love interests have a nurturing, positive influence on the protagonist. They help other characters by offering advice, support or assistance when facing an obstacle.
Romance is not an easy genre to master, but I learned a lot today, and I look forward to applying this information to my own stories. Until next time, and have a happy St-Valentine's day!