Ahh…. So we meet again. This time we are discussing one of the most wonderful, delightful, painful, terrifying, and difficult to write emotions; love. Fortunately, we have a few tips to look at when deciding how to employ the aspect of love when writing. Some of which are the differences between telling and showing, the many emotions love brings out, and how to express things in a novel correctly.
Showing vs. Telling:
How many times have we read a love story or watched one on television? It is the common theme in nearly every story told. Even action movies are usually trying to keep the lady alive. The leading man wants to win the girl. Every princess wants a prince. Every loner wants a fellow hermit. None of these things are wrong so long as they are displayed properly and in the right time.
How cliché is it to have two lovers verbally pour their hearts out while the world is crashing down around them? We’ve seen it a million times. As women we often crave a good cry every now and then. While that’s alright it’s difficult to not write about love in that same manner. Cliché after cliché, goop after goop. Unless you’re writing a romance or a literary classic let’s try writing a different way.
When you tell about someone loving another it can get a bit droll. “My heart burns with the heat of a thousand suns for you”, “I cannot live without you or I’ll die”. These phrases are TELLING the audience exactly what’s going on. Here’s why that’s boring; when you read the words you don’t FEEL the emotion behind them. You are just told that these to characters love each other.
However, when we SHOW two people’s affection for one another we FEEL it as if we are there. I’m not saying write trashy novels by any means. What I am saying is that we need to write in all of the little things that make love exciting and special.
Let’s look at the novel Divergent by Veronica Wroth for a moment. In her novel she does an excellent job of putting on display the little things. Things where we aren’t really sure, though we may hope, if they mean something more.
After being the first to jump it reads:
“Four sets his hand on my back and says “Welcome to Dauntless””
When they begin learning to fight it reads:
“Four wanders through the crowd of initiates, watching us as we go through the movements again. When he stops in front of me, my insides twist like someone’s stirring them with a fork.” -Stop here. Examine. Why do her insides twist? Is she nervous because she’s a new initiate and completely inept? Let’s continue the same passage:
“He stares at me, his eyes following my body from my head to my feet, not lingering anywhere-a practical, scientific gaze.
“You don’t have much muscle,” he says, “which means you’re better off using your knees and elbows. You can put more power behind them.”
Suddenly he presses a hand to mu stomach. His fingers are so long that, though the heel of his hand touches one side of my ribcage, his fingertips still touch the other side. My heart pounds so hard my chest hurts, and I stare at him, wide-eyed.
“Never forget to keep tension here,” He says in a quiet voice.”
Stop here. Examine. Veronica is SHOWING the beginnings of something. Until now we don’t really know much about their eventual affection. These are the starting signs. Likewise her story hinges on this relationship. This is why it is so important to SHOW rather than TELL.
The Many Emotions of Love:
When you watch any romantic movie how many emotions do you see? Love comes in many different forms; be it love for a child, a family member, or a significant other. Life is about the relationships we cultivate with one another. With those relationships comes a variety of emotional experiences. Think about this, the birth of a child. It is exciting, horrifying, gross, and traumatic. Each of these emotions come out of, ideally, love. The parents are thrilled to announce it. Mom is frightened beyond all belief and why? Because she loves so much she doesn’t want the world, or even herself, to harm this tiny being.
Another. You’re in a relationship with someone then they break your priceless family heirloom. You are angry and hurt. Why? Because you loved the one who gave it and the one who broke it. It is possible to love and hurt at the same time.
In Romeo and Juliet Romeo kills Tybalt. This puts Juliet in a difficult spot. She is recently married and her now husband has murdered her cousin. There is pain, anger, confusion, and sorrow. Why? Because she is in love with someone her family despises, and he killed someone she cared about.
When people are in love they may torment one another. Whether it is like Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights who ultimately drive one another mad, or like Nanami and Tomoe in Kamisama Kiss who, though they confess their love, Tomoe still feeds her her least favorite food. Why? Because they are still uncomfortable and undecided on aspects of their blooming relationship. They go back and forth poking one another for the heck of it, just to watch the other squirm. Yet, they feel bad when they realize they’ve gone too far. When they realize they injured the other person emotionally.
Expressions of Affection:
When we feel things for someone we tend to find any excuse to be around them, touch them, get that person’s attention. We dress a certain way, we talk a certain way, we shower (ideally), all to obtain that person’s affection. Think about it, how do relationships start? Some people tease one another, others may be overly sweet to each other. It can even be nauseating. They throw themselves at one another. I remember in high school rounding the corner every day and finding the same couples making out in between classes. Gross!
Also, we find people buying things for the ones they love. Flowers, chocolate, video games, books, jewelry, cars, perfumes…etc. People love one another in many expressive ways. How many times have we seen the JumboTron air a proposal? How many times have we read about someone going up in a helicopter to show a love message written in the crops? Or what about…Well you get the idea.
Love is a complicated emotion. Love is a deep emotion. Everyone’s relationships are different, yet the ebb and flow of life keeps them changing and evolving. And that is exactly why love is so difficult to write, but if we aren’t afraid to jump in it can be rewarding!
Have a good one!