writing about love

I’m a sucker for a good love story, whether that be romantic or platonic love. I don’t consider myself a romance writer, but I do write a heck of a lot of stories about love, whatever form it might manifest itself in. (And I have a theory, that on a very basic level, all stories come back to love in some form.) They’re hard to write though, without dissolving into a syrupy mess.

It seems in the past weeks the world has been thinking and reflecting on the topic of love in writing, and I’ve been collecting a few of the links I’ve found.

First, an interview @ Maud Newton w/ Marlon James: about his novel, the Book of Night Women (which sounds fascinating, by the way!), and writing about love.

I remember calling friends shouting, “I just wrote a love scene! All they do is kiss!” to which they would respond, “. . . and are they then dismembered?” and I’d go, “No, after that they dance!” It was hard. I resisted it for as long as I could because I didn’t believe in it at first, and even when I did, I couldn’t figure out how to write it. Not until Irish novelist Colum McCann gave me permission by giving me the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten from a writer: Risk Sentimentality.

There’s a belief that sex is the hardest thing for a literary novelist but I disagree: love is. We’re so scared of descending into mush that I think we end up with a just-as-bad opposite, love stories devoid of any emotional quality. But love can work in so many ways without having to resort to that word. Someone once scared me by saying that love isn’t saying “I love you” but calling to say “did you eat?” (And then proceeded to ask me this for the next 6 months). My point being that, in this novel at least, relationships come not through words, but gestures like the overseer wanting to cuddle. Or rubbing his belly and hollering about her cooking, or teaching her how to dance or ride a horse — things reserved for white women…

…I think, as a writer, the important thing was to layer the relationship with complexity and contradiction. There were situations where I could have left certain storylines one-dimensional and gotten away with it. I think the relationship is gripping not because they love each other, or think they do (or not) but because even with such a horribly skewed dynamic, hearts do what they want. And people don’t always fit in the roles that have been assigned to them. But of course the relationship is doomed; any slavery love writes its end in its very beginning.

On a similar tangent, I certainly don’t consider myself an erotica writer either, but I can’t seem to write a story that doesn’t involve or at least elude to sex in some form.

Here, an article on how writing about sex in fiction is almost never really about the sex.

More on writing sex here, from Storytellers Unplugged.

And finally, a must-see movie – film, I guess, we call them films when they’re artsy and thoughtful 🙂 Good Dick: I suck at writing reviews, and there are plenty of good ones on IMDB, but really, it’s a hilarious, twisted love-story, but at the same time surprisingly sweet. Emotionally taxing, but so worth it! Movie trailer here. (Oh, rated R and not for the kiddies though!) Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “writing about love

  1. Thank you very much for this entry. I have to admit that you’ve definitely got me thinking about sex, lol. But I think it is important. While I may not have to write about it in a story, sometimes for some couples or some characters, I need to know how they view sex with their partners or with people who aren’t their partners.

    I don’t think of you as a romance writer at all, and you’ve always used any sex scenes masterfully to move the story forward or further some character development.

    Another secret of mine is that when I have a bit of writer’s block, but I know there’s possibly something there, I will go ahead and write a naughty scene between two characters just to throw caution to the wind and loosen things up.

  2. Wow…both of the articles were extremely helpful, especially the second one. I wonder why it is so difficult to remember that even when you’re writing about sex between characters it really is just another action scene? It’s supposed to tell us something about the characters and their relationship as well as anything else you can pack into it, just like every other thing that is written. It’s so funny how difficult it is to remember that (at least for me).

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