writers resources

How to Write About Love

valentine-297033_640I’m reposting this from last year because, well, Valentine’s Day is upon us:

If you’re a writer, you must write about love. It doesn’t have to be sex but it has to take readers right to the edge of the cliff. Yes, you can leave the lurid details out, but let readers peek over the edge. How do you do that?

Start with a few decisions:

  • Is it platonic?
  • Is it unrequited?
  • Is there conflict?
  • Is it lust disguised as love?
  • Is it serial love? Or one-of-a-kind?
  • Is it kinky or traditional?
  • Does love bring joy or sadness–or misery?
  • Is the manifestation of love baby-ish or mature–goo-goo eyes and saccharin words or Paris vacations?
  • Is love verbal or silent?
  • Is this love constructive or destructive? Flowery or brutal?
  • what part does the spiritual play in the emotion–or is it uninvolved?
  • Is it a subplot or a cameo?
  • Is it an inciting incident or a throw-away?
  • Is it violent or passive?
  • How did it start? Online or physical world?
  • Are children involved?
  • What are the personal flaws that attracted each to the other?

You may not know any of these answers, but by the end of the book, these questions will drive the actions of the characters.

valentine dayAnother important questions is: What’s your genre? If you’re writing romance, you’ll have to delve into this subject much more than if you write mystery/thrillers. Romance readers buy books as much for the lusty love lost as the plot. But not thriller readers. There, if the love interest is secondary to the plot, they’re fine. If it’s only alluded to, you will likely still satisfy them. What about literary fiction? Emotion is good. Introspective questioning is better. Romance is secondary.

Love is about emotion. That’s where you write it. How do the character’s feel? Are they distracted at the scent worn by her/his love interest, even when worn by another? Or does s/he barely notice? Are they Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory) or Lolita?

When you’ve thought through the emotion, write the backstory. Answer the questions listed above. You may never use this detail in your novel, but it will fill out your understanding of the characters and their motivations.

Still unsure? Read books in your genre. How do your favorite authors write about love (there’s rarely a novel that doesn’t at least touch on it)? Take note of what seems effective for you. Borrow the technique, not the words. Ask friends about love. Most people are eager to talk about new hook-ups. Pick their brains.

One final point: A bit of humor is fine. Perfect People and Riveting Romances are boring–and unrealistic. Who among us hasn’t been stupid in love? Understanding that it is part of the human condition, that we shouldn’t take ourselves as seriously as Romeo and Juliet did, got us through it.

On the other hand, if the plot requires a psychological meltdown because of the love interest, forget the humor. It won’t work.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


34 thoughts on “How to Write About Love

  1. Great list of things to consider before writing about such a sensitive topic. Some books get these love scenes so wrong they are comic for the wrong reasons! I do like it when the normal ineptness of life is shown, as opposed to the perfect Hollywood romance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Jacqui. As there’s always a thread of romance in my stories, I write a lot about love. I enjoy to write about love in all its guises, and the simple fact is, even in the grimmest tale there is love. God, I feel like bursting into song right now 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a thriller writer, I don’t include much romance in my novels, and I don’t really like reading about it in other thrillers either, but you’re right–there is still love in those books. After all, threatening a protagonist’s loved ones is the surest way to create stakes. So thank you for some food for thought. Romance and love are not always synonymous, are they?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jacqui, this is a terrific article. You’ve given us lots to think about, different aspects of love for writers to consider. One more detail is to make sure any love relationships are not trite. This is where less could be a good deal more – and a better story.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I thought about just reblogging your post and adding the note that I did not feel like writing about love because of my daughter Leslie’s death September 1, 2016. I think I will write how this is playing out because Les loved life and living in her 51 years and would expect me to write about “Loving Les”

    Liked by 2 people

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