Love is my favorite part of any book - gaining it, losing it, feeling it. But still, I sometimes find myself asking what love is. To be a writer, you need to be able to answer that question, at least for your characters. So, today I'm asking myself: what is love all about?
In my experience, love starts in one of two ways: instant attraction that blossoms into something more or friendship that gradually transforms into something more. And, these two processes are complete opposites of one another. The first is lust before love and the second is love before lust. To help figure out the difference, I'm zooming in on each.
Instant Attraction To Love
First, I want to say this is not love at first sight. I personally don't believe there is such a thing, but I do think this is what people often mistake for love at first sight, but there is a big difference. This is lust at first sight. You walk into a room, make eye contact and suddenly butterflies are floating around your stomach. You're interested and you're attracted. You know nothing about each other, but there is something instinctual that draws the two of you together.
Now, let's be honest, the lust part of any relationship is awesome: the butterflies, the touches that make your heart skip a beat, the exhilarating nerves. But, it is not enough to sustain a relationship. Once you get to know each other, love can grow or you'll find out that you aren't compatible. But, there will always be some unspoken thing that draws you together in some way.
I studied psychology in college, and I never read any convincing report as to why this instant attraction can happen. Sometimes, things can't be explain, but I don't think that means they aren't real.
If you're writing about this sort of love, the attraction is the easiest sell. I've never met a single person who hasn't gotten a crush on someone they've never spoken to or been attracted to a stranger. The hardest sell in this sort of love is the next part - the getting to know each other. Lust is not enough to sustain a healthy relationship, so if you're writing two characters who are supposed to be truly in love there must be something else. They realize they have similar personalities, they are both outsiders and connect on common ground, or maybe they're opposites that match perfectly. No matter what, the instant attraction needs to become something deeper, or the writer needs to show how it all fell apart.
Friendship To Love
The second way I believe love begins is through friendship. You're best friends, you get along like no two other people, but you never thought that way about each other. Sometimes, friendship stays that way. But, other times, you wake up one day and see each other differently, the attraction forms. Maybe one friend confesses his or her love to other, or maybe it happens organically, but something changes.
In real life, I've found that this is how the strongest relationships amongst my friends formed, because you love each other before you lust after one another. Friendship in many ways is love without lust, so when you add the attraction, something really powerful can happen. But, as a reader, this is not as common to find. And, I think that is because it in some ways is not as exciting to write. Most often, I see this used at the end of books. The main character found instant attraction with a guy who was completely incompatible with her, but then in the last thirty pages of the book she realizes her guy best friend is actually the love of her life. We've all read that, right?
As a writer, you need to build a very strong friendship before introducing the lust. But, that can take a lot of pages and might not be as exciting to read. So, other tools like a misplaced affection or other obstacle, pushes the story along until the main character can come to this realization.
So, there you have it, the two ways I believe love begins. Obviously, from there love can go in any direction. It can be true and lasting, it can be lost in tragedy, it can fall apart, it can all be misunderstood...whatever the writer wants!
In my first book, Ignite, I focused on instant attraction that potentially began to become love and on a deep friendship (the love part is still nonexistent there). If you've read it, I'd love to know if you found my relationships convincing. I'll still be building on them in the books to come, changing the relationships, making them deeper or making them fall apart.
I'm thinking about another post on the idea of opposites attracting - what do you think on the subject? Have you read books that have done this convincingly?
Any other love questions you think I should consider? How do you think love starts and how do you think it grows? What is your favorite type of love story?