Monday, October 29, 2012

What it takes to make a believable love interest

While I've been coming up with new plot points for my story, one of my tasks is to make the love interest between the MC and her 'hero' more believable. So, I'm making a list of reasons why people fall in love. These may seem obvious, maybe they are, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I had to actually use my brain.

So, what does make someone fall for another?

I asked my eight year old, just out of curiosity--I'm doing a fairytale sequel--and the first thing she said was that the Prince was handsome, that's why they fell in love. LOL. Yes, while being attracted to the opposite sex is important on one level, it doesn't creative true love. No matter how you look at it. No matter how hard you try to believe that within blue, candy-coated eyes lays destiny. There has to be something more.

When I asked her what else, she responded that she thought he must be brilliant or something then. Ha. Gotta love kids. Although being brilliant can also create attraction in others (and is also important--I don't want to be married to a dunce), it seems akin to the old reason women got married way back in Jane Austen novels--for wealth. Wealth does not equal love any more than brilliance. I've known many an intellectually gifted person who just plain got on my nerves.

I made a list of all the love stories that came to my mind that I loved.  And here are some things I wrote down that made people fall in love:
  • Similar situation in life
  • Same goals
  • A show of compassion or other desirable, virtuous quality important to the other 
  • Similar clashing personalities: they had to deal with each other and then rely on each other under dire circumstances.
  • A sense of humor (although this can be like good looks and intelligence, but combined make a triple threat I'd say =)
I guess all in all you could say it's a mixture of a lot of things. Ultimately culminating in an understanding between two people. You mix this understanding with attraction/intelligence and you've got a dynamite match up.

Look at the movie FIRST KNIGHT with Richard Gere. Julia Armond's character of Guinevere marries to unite kingdoms. She tells Arthur (Sean Connery) that she loves him with her whole heart. He has been compassionate to her and was her Father's best friend which understandably means a lot to her. But then you throw Lancelot into the picture and that love breaks up. Why?

Sure Lancelot is good looking. Who wouldn't swoon just a little if Richard Gere said he would do anything to win you over. (Okay, maybe that would make some straight men sick...but boy...). Some of the lines he feeds her are terribly tempting. But the thing that really makes him ultimately desirable to Guinevere is his understanding of her.

IMDB photo
There is such an age gap between Guinevere and the King that it's hard for the audience to believe that they really have a strong enough emotional connection. Lancelot indeed has it all. He's attractive, brave, strong, funny, and he understands her. The whole enchilada, kitten-caboodle, package, etc, etc. etc. Heck, he even looks hot with gray hair! (Although Sean Connery's no dog, either... for an older guy).

This is why Twilight is doomed to failure (insert rapturous, maniacal laughter here). Okay, so a bunch of saps who thought good looks and a mysterious demeanor were enough for love to succeed, and rallied forth to bring tumultuous profits to Sister Writer Meyer. But don't count on it when writing your own love story. (Yes, remember to insert someone who wants to die when teaming them up with someone who is already dead. Quite right, that could have been the main attraction there. Duh! Why didn't I think of that!) No, don't listen to that tripe.

Let's look at another great example: WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING.

So, I'm in a Christmas mood. Go figure, it's not even Halloween.

In the story of WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, we have the classic example of what women think they want. Lucy is head-over-tootsies for Peter. She saves his life, yadayadayada and ends up accidentally convincing his family that they are engaged (awesome sequence of events btw). Then she meets. Jack. Jack is more laid back. He's funny, cute, and isn't flashy or worried so much about looks or money like his brother is. He's the family type(swoon) =). What to do??

Meanwhile, Jack wonders why he likes Lucy so much. She isn't right for his brother and she gets on his nerves. Or so he says. This must be because their personalities are so similar. It happens. It may even be that he's jealous of what his brother has. Another element of attraction, wanting something you can't have (darn, another Twilight Triangle segway.)

BUT, each has a pleasant demeanor, understands the other, is sympathetic. And it helps that Sandra Bullock is a size two and has perfect teeth. Am I right? I'm right.

Honestly, the examples are endless. You could us STAR WARS as an example of two people (Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo) who get on each others nerves, but then see redeemable qualities in each other and also must rely on each other for their salvation in the Darth threat.

Or then there's THE BOURNE IDENTITY, for the guys out there who weren't satisfied with the Star Wars example =). This is a great example of what dedication to another can mean.

Jason Bourne has lost his memory and the only person he knows (meets and then knows) is Marie, who helps him escape police. She puts her life on the line initially because he's going to pay her and make some of her financial problems go away. But when she doesn't need to be there she decides she is worried enough about Jason on a basic human level not to continue helping him.

They feed off each other through the entire show, one showing compassion for the other. In the next movie you see how crushed (spoiler here) Jason is when his enemies take out Marie. He's shattered. He loved her. Because she was always there for him, she was familiar, like home in a way. That support can carry a lot of weight with the heart. So can muscles. Just sayin'. It's a combo thing.

What are some examples you've seen? What makes the characters in your favorite stories get together in the end? I think studying these romances and seeing what really makes it realistic can help us in our own writing.

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