#02 Authentic Love Hurts, Or Does It?
I had been nervous all morning. I wore my tiny grey shorts that kept riding up my but, my thick grey wool socks felt like a was walking on a cloud. I kept sliding around the house like Jerry Maguire, my favourite thing to do. The white linen shirt with the school emblem on my left breast kept irritating my skin. I couldn?t tell why but when it itched I scratched. I was eight and about to start at a new school far removed from the one in which I had grown up.
Later that morning I clutched on to my mother?s leg refusing to let her go when she told me it was time. She wasn?t like the mothers I often see on television who fling their offspring into the wild jungle of primary school. She sat with me for a time and graciously arranged with the teachers that she accompany me to my new classroom. She helped me introduce myself to other kids in the class. That?s when it happened. Anne (a pseudonym) walked in with long blond ponytails in a neat shirt like mine but wearing a thick grey skirt. She smiled at me and said, ?hello.? Then she went to sit down somewhere in the back of the class.
I was instantaneously infatuated. The lanky boy I was seated next to, had long thick black curls which made him look wolf-like, but he had a kind smile and talking with him was very interesting. I soon discovered that he shared all the same interests I did and this would mean we would become best friends by the end of that first day. As my friendship to Marco King grew so did my infatuation with Anne Williams. I was in love. And then the worst possible thing could have happened.
One day after lunch, she walked up to Marco and me. I had butterflies doing cartwheels in my stomach. I was so excited. I had not grown the balls to speak to her all semester and here she was coming to speak to me.
?Hi,? she said to me.
?Hi,? I coughed back.
?Marco, will you be my boyfriend.?
My life was over, all eight years of it ? what a disaster. I had no words for how shitty I felt. My heart was broken for the first time, and it would not be the last. I dare you to get a broken heart and not have the fuel to fan your writer?s fire!
So how does one create an authentic love interest in the stories they craft. I have a few tried and tested methods that have always worked well for me.
Step 1: List all your past/present love interest
Create a list of as many guys and gals you have and currently do love and then describe their features in a manner of fact way. Also list all their traits, mannerisms and quirks. Now that you have this list. Select specific physical traits, characteristics, mannerisms and quirks from each of the people you have listed down into a single canvas. You now have a shell of a person you can use.
Step 2: What?s in a name
That which we call a rose, By any other name, would smell as sweet. Shakespeare had it right. Play around with crafting a great name and surname for this love interest. I love using the poetry of words and trying them on when I put myself in the protagonist’s shoes. I ask myself how I would feel saying that name over and over again. Would it be music to the protagonist’s ears when he hears it for the first time? There are plenty of websites you can use to find a unique name that conveys the very essence of what you are trying to reveal. Check out this Vlog by Jenna Moreci for great tips to do this.
Step 3: Add colour
?Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains, can you paint with all the colours of the wind.? Pocahontas sang this one right! You have a shell and a name but your character is far from done. He/she/they need colour. How best do you give them the colour that brings them to life authentically? I do three things. I give the character a paradox, contrast and secrets.
A paradox is a seemingly contradictory proposition, for example, something being in two places at once. For character a great paradox is them being both two things that a conflicting, for example, a princess who is noble, regal, poised, articulate and well-groomed also being a warrior, a foul-mouthed, dirty, grimy, rootin? tootin? badass who can go blow for blow with the best of ?em. The warrior-princess paradox. Don?t use it. Its pretty clich? but you get the idea.
Contrast is the state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association. This is similar to a paradox but very different. Here?s an example. Imagine our warrior-princess is elegant, regal and articulate, but comes from humble beginnings. Let?s say she is the daughter of a pig farmer and has her whole life wrestled in the mud with pigs. The contrast is her present and her past. Put next to one another creates a start juxtaposition that makes her so much more interesting. She has lived the life of a peasant and therefore, this gives her unique insight into the needs of her people. Find a contrast for your love interest and bring them to the fore by showcasing the contrast organically in a scene.
I don?t need to explain what a secret is. You have a ton of them. Give your character a secret and hint at it coming out organically in a scene and watch the character squirm. Let’s take our warrior-princess and give her some secrets. The first secret would be her humble beginnings of course. Let’s say she scammed her way into the royal court, caught the affection of the prince and married him. No one knows her past because she lied about it.
Step 4: Add fuel to the fire
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, (We don’t need no water, let the mother#$!er burn), (Burn, mother#$!er, burn). Lets put our warrior-princess up against a rival who is a native of royalty, the lady who was meant to marry the prince, she has it out for your character and wants to discover her secret. What if in front of the royal court she challenges our princess and asks her to remind them all what her kingdom was called and what her father?s name was. She will squirm for sure. Up the ante by the rival stating, she did research and could find no kingdom by that name. Alternatively, what if that kingdom does exist and the prince from that kingdom comes to the royal court and plays along with the princesses lie and then uses that to blackmail her to fall in love with him. Isn’t she so interesting now? You have secrets, lies, blackmail and a love triangle because she does have some feelings for the rebellious bad boy prince from another land. He brings out our warrior-princess?s darker nature. Who doesn?t want to read more about her?
Step 5: Write some scenes
Remember, writers write. We have planned and plotted and crafted an authentic love interest, now we need to introduce her to the story, but the best way to flesh out how she comes across the page is to write some scenes. Take the ideas from step 4 and write various scenes. How does she speak? What nervous ticks does she have? How does she cope under the pressure of blackmail? Write a few things and discover your character come alive on the page. This gives you insight into the character you would not originally have. Once you have written some scenes with your love interest in them, you are ready to incorporate them into your story or write new ones having a better understanding of how to portray her on the page.
The Big Takeaway
And there you have it. You are well on your way to writing an authentic love interest. It’s not as hard as it sounds. You need to get stuck into the task at hand and the more you do it the more you will find yourself coming to grips with this method.
If you want to hear more about this topic, check out my podcast The Author?s Journey where I share more about how I write authentic love interests with some examples from my own life.
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