Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love Stories: Reluctant Love

Really enjoyed the discussion yesterday! Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Ah, love. Shall we move on to the next one? It's one of my personal favorites to read.

Reluctant Love
The Formula: Girl and Boy meet—they hate each other. (Or Girl hates Boy and he hides his love...or vice versa.) Series of events force them into awful situations where they have to deal with each other. Their hate either grows or wanes until the moment. At said moment, it comes out that one or both of them actually likes the other. Affection ensues...or doesn't.

Personally, I love the romantic tension in these novels. There's often much witty banter, and I'm left smiling the whole way through because I'm thinking, "Teehee, they're sooo going to eat their words by the end...neener neener." There's something about how they resist each other that makes me want them together. It's like if they can make it past all THAT, then they must really love each other. The natural attraction. The frustration. The awkward situations. So been there. The line between love and hate is precariously thin.

Okay, so a couple examples—there are so many out there. (I'll be doing a movie/play and book for each one, just to follow my previous format.) One of the first movies that comes to mind for me is You've Got Mail. I know, I'm cheesy. But Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks rock the reluctant love. Here they are enemies, so focused on their "book war" they don't realize/admit they're attracted to each other. (And you know they really are with their anon. emails. omg.) You so know they'll end up together, and you're sucked in because you want to see how it happens.

And I can't even think of writing this post without mentioning the quintessential story of reluctant love—Pride & Prejudice. Yes, Miss Austen has like every kind of love story in there, but it's Elizabeth and Darcy's reluctant adventure into matrimony that leaves us all giddy inside. For me, it just doesn't get old. The pride. The prejudice. The undeniable attraction. Teehee.

As much as I love this "formula," I can't seem to carry it through a whole novel. This has always been an "element" in my books. My characters initially resist, but I can't seem to get them to hold out longer than half the novel (or sometimes like a couple chapters, heh). But I think that's okay—that's one way to change this format up because the story usually takes knew twists once they're together (or want to be together). There are so many ways to spin this format: the love triangle, the separation with unexpected pining, the misunderstanding, the revelation, the stubborness, the possible hybrid of a "forbidden love" element, etc. I'm sure you can all think of excellent examples.

Dang reluctant love! I hate you! Wait...maybe I don't. You didn't say I was ugly? You were talking about someone else? Swoon. Okay, I love you.


  1. Great post!

    I love that kind of tension too. Sometimes it goes beyond a single book if there is a series.

  2. I love the reluctant love too, but find my impatience ruins it if the relationship takes too long to come through. I'd rather the characters get past their issues and spend half the book together being all lovey-dovey and perfect than have them be stubborn and spend all but the last few pages in a contest of will. Which, by the way, is part of the reason I liked Ninjas so much -- Tosh and Amy didn't fight it. They just let it happen. And it was awesome.

  3. I love books like this, but I'm with sraasch. If they don't eventually get over themselves long enough to connect in some meaningful way, I start to get ticked off at them.

    I've got one of these in my first book, and it was so tough to walk the line between getting them together too fast or too slow. So anyone who can do it well has my intense admiration.

  4. But you don't want to make the mistake of letting your couple off the hook too early!

    If romantic tension is one of the driving forms of conflict in your story, you *have* to maintain that conflict, just as if a form of conflict in the story is whether a hero will a race, you can't have him win the race half-way through unless you have a bigger problem replace it.

    In my fantasy epic, I have to keep the romantic tension between my hero and my heroine over the course of several books. I use up all the usual silly misunderstandings and miscommunications early on. "He doesn't really love me," "She doesn't really love me" and all that.

    Eventually they get married and even conceive a child together -- but I STILL have to maintain some tension.

    I've tried to do so by giving them something they genuinely disagree about. When all the misunderstandings are cleared up, they are still on opposite sides.... one is a Democrat and one is a Republican, so to speak. And each believes the other side will destroy the world. "I love you and I know you love me, but you are SO WRONG I have to stop you."

  5. Hehe, I'm glad to see some people enjoying when they get together sooner. Whew. I'm not pathetic!

    Tara, tension is key. And you're right. If they get together, there must be a new kind of tension to replace it. People trying to break them apart. A new, larger problem. Sounds like you sure put your chars through the wringer, excellent:)

    I do this in my ms Void. Once they get together, the drama is replaced with her friends hating her for it...and other magical issues, heh.

  6. Yes, yes, the reluctant love. IMO, one of the most used versions of romance in all fiction. In fact, sometimes I get tired of it, to tell you the truth.

    It really only bothers me when the characters seem to have no real reason to bicker/hate each other. It's like the author just wanted to hold "the moment" back until plot point #7 happens. I mean, if done well (Pride and Prejudice) it's pretty awesome. But, if I feel like it's just thrown in there for the sake of throwing it in, I roll my eyes.

  7. Yes this category is fantastic and I don't think it ever gets old. The only place where it has limited appeal is in TV. You drag it out too long and the audience gets frustrated, you give them what they crave and they lose interest.

    That said, if Bones and Booth don't kiss soon, I will be throwing a big hissy fit. Then there's House and Cuddy - where's that going?

    I like the idea of soulmates recognising each other but having to overcome obstacles (possibly of their own making) to realise what the reader always knew - that they were meant for each other.

    I think I'm mixing up all the "love" categories.

  8. I love reluctant love. It's a big part of my WIP, but only through the first half. I think it can get a little old if it goes on the whole book. After a while there has to be other reasons keeping them apart, or they have to be working out how they can be together. Great post!

  9. LOL! I just read the other comments. They all say the same thing I just said. So I guess I'm just adding my voice to the masses. :)

  10. I have some elements of this in both my novels and I have to admit that it's fun!

    You've Got Mail is one of my favorite movies of all time. Yep, cheesy. :)

  11. I think P&P works so well because the reader knows and understands WHY their love is reluctant. Some writers don't fully develop the recipe for their reluctant love, and you are so mad wondering, "What is their problem? Are they really that dumb? Why can't they just get over themselves and get together?" You as the reader don't want to be asking these questions. You want to understand why the reluctance exists, and then you can discover how wonderful Mr. Darcy is right along with Elizabeth.

  12. Jessie, you just did a much better job than I did of phrasing my feelings on the subject.

    So, scratch my first comment. I'll say:

    Ditto to what Jessie said.

  13. I love reluctant love one of my favourites to see unfolding in a book or on screen and one of my favourites to write too. I do like putting obstacles in my characters way, one step forward, two steps back kind of thing.

  14. Yes, JaneyV's example of Bones and Booth is SO GOOD. That show has fantastic writing, and that's a relationship that is SO well done, because it's not even a glimmer in their eyes for like 3 seasons, even though it's totally in OUR eyes from day 1.