“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
—Louis L’Amour

Pride and Prejudice and the Three Movements in Every Love Story

There are already so many entries into our Show Off Writing Contest: The Love Story Edition. Congratulations to all you who have entered. If you haven’t, you still have a few days to finish your story. Maybe today’s topic will help!

Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. DarcyOkay here’s the story, boy meets girl. They have a nice, semi-awkward chat. Then, boy does something to offend girl, and girl begins to hate boy. Boy falls in love with girl, not knowing she hates him. Girl tells boy she hates him. Boy hates girl. Finally, both boy and girl are so overcome by each other they get over their stubbornness and fall in love.

Pop Quiz: What story am I referring to?

You probably thought I was talking about Pride and Prejudice, since I mentioned it in the title. However, no, I was actually talking about the plot from the movie Hitch. Or was it The Proposal. Nope, it was The Scarlett Pimpernel. Could it have been Gone with the Wind? Or Jane Eyre? Or A Knight’s Tale? Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

The Three Movements in (Nearly) Every Love Story

The truth is, the story above fits all of these stories because most love stories lie are part of a kind of “story archetype” that can be summarized in three movements:

  1. Boy and Girl like each other.
  2. Boy and Girl hate each other.
  3. Boy and Girl love each other.

The amazing thing is that this mirrors every “Buddy Story” ever written. Are Rain Man or Dumb and Dumber or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so different? They’re all about friends who have a falling out, only to realize they can’t live without each other. According to Blake Snyder, author of the brilliant screenwriting book Save the Cat, the buddy story and the love story are the same basic story.

Here’s what Blake Snyder, says about the Buddy / Love Story:

At first the “buddies” hate each other. (Where would they have to go if they didn’t?) But their adventure together brings out the fact that they need each other; they are, in essence, incomplete halves of a whole. And realizing this leads to even more conflict. Who can tolerate needing anybody?

The Key to Getting the Love Story Right

The most important part of this type of story is that at some point the lovers must separate and try to live without each other.

Think through some of the movies or novels you’ve read that fall into this story archetype. This period of separation happened in Romeo and Juliet, in Tristan and Isolde, and of course, in Pride and Prejudice. They must separate so they can realize that as difficult as it is to live together, it’s impossible to live apart.

As Elizabeth Bennett says in the BBC film, “I know I shall probably never see him again, but I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world and thinking ill of me.”

PRACTICE

Write about a scene during this period of separation. The protagonist has already left the love of his or her life, and is slowly coming to the realization that living apart from them is impossible.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments.

And if you post, make sure to comment on a few others.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • What about Romeo & Juliet? (I know…you said “almost”.)

    • Right. Romeo and Juliet certainly had that moment of separation and tension after Romeo killed Juliet’s cousin and had to flee. But Romeo and Juliet (and Tristan and Isolt and Pyramus and Thisbee and all those guys) is less about HOW the lovers fell in love and more about what happened AFTER they fell in love. Does that distinction make sense? This kind of love story cares more about the how, whereas R&J cares more about the after.

  • Anonymous

    It had been hard to live right after Heather left, although Heath was glad she was gone. He hated seeing her things in places that were now empty, like her red plastic alarm clock on the bedside table, and her bevy of hats and scarfs on the hatstand, and her books on the coffee table. Books almost hidden by coffee cups, napkins, and plates full of crusts and crumbs. He’d hated looking at his clean house, and that bothered him. Clean was good. Heather was bad.

    Now it would be different though. He’d met a girl on the web, on dating.com. She would be the one for him, not messy, not lazy, not constantly tardy. He wasn’t a stickler, but he liked some kind of order for goodness sake. He dressed for his first date with Isabelle thinking of her picture, round blue-eyes, a white blouse, and pearls. But Heather butted in at the last moment, like usual, with her dark straight brows and even darker angry eyes.

    The restaurant was on the beach with a view of the ocean that wasn’t cluttered with swimmers, walkers, dogs or other signs of life. They were the only couple dining early so it was easy to spot Isabelle when she came in. She waited by the host’s podium which was unoccupied.

    “Heather wouldn’t have waited for the host,” thought Heath. She would have just walked over to the table and sat down, and maybe even have grabbed a menu from the podium while passing.

    Out of time.

    • Anonymous

      Oh no you all. I thought I was making up the name to a dating site, like EHarmony or something and it created a link to a not good spot, a like escort service. I’m so sorry if anyone hit on the link. I should have known better than to think I could use such a simple name and it wouldn’t be taken. I don’t understand why it didn’t show as a link when I first looked at it. Again sorry if anyone clicked. I hope nobody did.

    • Marianne, I was sad you ran out of time. I hope you can expand on this for the contest! I really enjoy the clean was good, Heather was bad part. I also enjoyed the comparison of the new girl to Heather with her “even darker angry eyes”.

      I might recommend cleaning up the books on the coffee table/books hidden by coffee cups sentences as the two kind of get jumbled on top of each other IMO.
      Maybe if you write more there had to of been some good aspects of Heather right? (I hope..haha)

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for your comments. I appreciate especially the one about the run on sentence. I might work on this for the contest, since what I’m doing is not shaping up at all. I think Heather may not be as messy as she sounds and Heath is a little bit overly particular. I may write more and see what turns up on this. Thanks again so much.

    • Yes! I love it. I love Heather and I love Heath’s frustration with her. I agree with Jim on the line, “even darker angry eyes.” It’s perfect. Heath loves and hates Heather’s darkness. He can’t stand it but can’t live without it. That’s a perfect scene for a love story, and these are great characters, Marianne.

    • I like how you create the sense of Heather even in her absence. I like your descriptions, especially the red plastic alarm clock. That is such a unique thing, it says a lot about Heather’s personality without going into detail. And then, for me at least, the ending graf gives a bit more heft to Heather’s personality than I had allowed with the red plastic alarm clock. She is a fully dimensional complex human being, and Heath had better get used to this fact and grow up if he wants to spend more time with her.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you Chris. I hardly ever use a male narrator, so he is a challenge.

    • alba 17

      I like the contrast between Heather and his new date, particularly this line: “But Heather butted in at the last moment, like usual, with her dark straight brows and even darker angry eyes. “

  • Lamia Slumbers

    (Decided to try this even though I never write romance.)

    He replicated her over and over again until she stood there in the hundreds. She flickered in and out of existence; atoms forming, recombining then failing as the machine struggled and lagged trying to handle the load of so many command strings. Julia waved, shrugged, giggled and smirked at him from every corner of the lab.
    Her hundred voices spoke in a broken, cascading chorus: “Wow, this is awesome Peter!”
    Damn her. If he’d never met her, his research would be finished by now. Instead he had followed her to Venice, tried living her Bohemian lifestyle, and put his research on hold. It had been eight months of erratic behavior, temper tantrums, impetuous journeys without preparation and constant disorder.
    The replicator blue-screened and he aborted the program. One by one the Julia iterations shut down, vanishing in flashes of thin blue light. The lab felt too quiet, too empty; sterile in its flat blue-white walls and precisely arranged rows of instruments and desktops. The smell of ozone from the replicator mixed with…
    “What is that?” he sniffed the air, standing to move closer to the replicator pad. “Chanel #5. I bought that for you,” he said aloud half-expecting a reply and suddenly missing—no horribly longing for—the way she’d enthusiastically embrace him in her happy moments, wrapping her slender arms around his shoulders and kissing him hard on the lips.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t figure out if she’s real or if the just made her up on the computer. It’s reminds me of a movie with holograms and screens going on and off. I feel sad for him at the end.

      • Lamia Slumbers

        Oh dear, guess Julia isn’t as clearly defined as she should be. Thanks for your comment.

    • I like this, Lamia. We all handle failed love in our own way, and this made me think how a scientist might handle it. I love that he smells the perfume. Leaves the door open for some intriguing writing ahead.

    • alba 17

      I like this. You really get a sense of their relationship and how much he misses her in just a few words.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks I think I will work with them a little more.

  • My own true life romance had those components, it was classic! I was actually rather surprised that the friendship I’m writing about in my novel also followed that layout. I wanted good conflict and resolution between the friends, which actually mirrored real life events, but it was relatively unintentional or at least subconsciously done.

    • Exactly. The best stories in real life also follow these rules. Isn’t it weird when art and life collide? Thanks Beck 🙂

  • This is the first snowfall since Gwen and I separated. And if my stupidity were laser beams, the ground would be scorched.

    But as it is, cold, hard snow packs the hard earth, insulating it from the rays of sunshine that can seemingly cure all ills.

    As I turned from the bay window to wander through my catacomb-like apartment, I stumbled over a pile of New Yorker magazines. No pages have been dog-eared. I couldn’t read with pleasure anymore. Theater reviews dripped with existential angst: who cares about everyone else’s failed love? Not me. Politics didn’t excite me. President who? I don’t know. I was stuck in my own solipsistic beltway, strapped by the claustrophobic selfish policies I had enacted in my own misguided run for dictator of the relationship.

    Gwen’s smile seemed to be in every painting hanging on my walls, even Munch’s The Scream. In the morning, before the bedroom would come into full resolution, Gwen’s smile was caressing my ears, the nape of my neck, my chest, my being. Now… I hated to think where her smile was.

    I turned back to my walls, filled with copies of masterpieces. What was the sense? Picasso’s blue period? Fuck Picasso! My blue period. Where is the art that fosters redemption? I thumb through the virgin copies of the New Yorker. I laugh at one, then two, then three cartoons. It feels good to laugh. A man with semaphore flags is in his bedroom. His wife says, “Flag dirty to me.” I don’t get it for a few minutes, but then burst out laughing.

    I open the curtains. Turn on the lights. Turn up Mozart. I think about Gwen. It’s never too late to admit one’s mistake. In fact, failure is the essence of success. Think this through. Am I lonely or am I in love? The catacomb-like feeling lifts. My brain breathes. I sigh. What is it I really want?

    • Anonymous

      This is an interesting take, an existentialist in love. I like the way his suffering builds to an almost impossibly complicated heart wrenching point, and then he sees a cartoon, and the story is over, he’s back to business as usual, what is it I really want?

    • Lamia Slumbers

      I like this. You make a nice transition from this character’s self-absorption to the realization he might actually be missing Gwen.

  • alba 17

    Every day he went to the library. He pulled books off the shelf, one by one, their spines heavy in his palm, the slick texture of plastic or the nubby surface of cloth comforting and familiar. The numbers on the binding told him where they went and how to categorize them and his world narrowed to that small bit of information. Black and white; simple; everything in its place.

    He tried to ignore the gaping hole that threatened to swallow him whenever his mind wandered away from its immediate task. She hovered there in his consciousness, beyond the periphery, like a bird flitting just outside of view.

    She’d shut him down good, hadn’t she, and for the last time. He’d wrenched his eyes from hers and turned away, every limb weighed down like it was encased in concrete. He wasn’t going to try any more. It wasn’t worth the pain.

    That’s what he’d thought, anyway. Until the day he ran into her sister at the farmers market.

    “Oh hello,” she said, juggling two butternut squashes. He’d seen her at the next stall over, while he was looking over the lettuce, and had immediately looked away, heart pounding. She looked so much like Elena.

    “Hi,” he said, wondering why the farmer was taking so damn long making change.

    “Making ratatouille?” she said, glancing over his eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.

    “Yep.” He tapped his foot.

    Somehow she managed to catch his eye despite his entire being willing her to go away. She frowned, then shifted her gaze.

    “You should call Elena, you know.” Her brown eyes, so like Elena’s, met his again.

    He sighed. “Why?”

    “I think she misses you.” Something in her face told him she was trying to say more than that. A cog fell into place; everything was suddenly in sharper focus.

    She missed him. He felt like his chest was melting.

    “You still have her number, don’t you?”

    “Of course.” Not that he needed it. He’d never forget it.

    He was finally at the head of line and the farmer told him what he owed. He scrambled for the money and stashed the vegetables in his bag before saying goodbye to Elena’s sister, his mind whirling.

    It was only later, as he was chopping the vegetables, that he remembered ratatouille was Elena’s favorite.

    He picked up the phone to invite her over.

    • Anonymous

      That’s so sweet! I like the farmer’s market setting.

    • Lamia Slumbers

      Nice work! Lots of good imagery and a satisfying conclusion.

    • Eric

      Nice one! Everything fits into place and you’re eager to follow his train of thought.

  • Eric

    Tyler turned left into the steeply descending side street and walked on towards his house, suddenly painfully aware of how his descent into this road mirrored that sinking feeling his emotions were heaving with after the break-up he had just initiated with his girlfriend. It was as if he had just woken up from the numb daze that had clouded the last hour of his walk home. The busy sounds, sights and smells of the otherwise colourful route he had taken had passed by him, never registering in his senses. His last memory: that of watching Claire standing up from where they had been sitting at their favourite terrace, the strain of holding back her tears clearly showing in her reddening eyes and the tension spreading around her mouth. She had picked up her handbag and turned around with the same ease with which she had arrived not a quarter of an hour earlier. He had watched her walk off into the bustling market until the crowd had swallowed her completely, as if confiscating her slender fragile beauty from the man to whom she had given her heart so unconditionally seven weeks earlier.
    As he tormented himself by replaying this memory over and over again, he started to question why he had decided to destroy their union in the first place. Yesterday, it had all seemed so logical in his cold and efficient reasoning. He wasn’t yet ready to settle down (cliché number one). He felt that he still wanted to meet other women (cliché number two). The thought of children entering his otherwise simple life filled him with dread (and there was number three).
    He reached his house and walked up the small steps to his front door, stung by the sudden awareness of being alone, truly alone. Not the physical loneliness of not having her at his side, but that aching overwhelming loneliness that now imprisoned his heart. He turned the key in its slot and wondered, for the first time in a whole week, whether this was really what he wanted. He had made his choice, but it now seemed so petty and immature. He had bitten the bullet to get what he wanted and now he no longer wanted it. He shut the door behind him and leaned back against it. He closed his eyes and all he could see were her eyes, how they drowned in his gaze. And her lips, when she would sing. How they danced and mesmerized him every time he had looked at her.
    The pain of this vision threw him off-center and his legs buckled. He fell to the floor. Then he realised his mistake. It was never his mind to which he should have listened. It should have been his heart. He should have let it sing.
    Fighting back a wave of tears, he took out his phone and speed-dialed her number.

  • Hannah just returned from her two-week vacation after her divorce case was finally finished. She had the beautiful penthouse apartment all to herself now and she didn’t have to worry about seeing beer cans scattred all over the living room table. Nor did she have to clean up after all the mess Rick and his friends left after watching games all night long.

    She smiled as she walked towards the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and opened the curtains to reveal the beautiful sun setting. She’s always loved sunsets. It was always beautiful to her because almost everything good that happened to her had always been during a sunset.

    The day she got her first kiss was during her spring break at the beach. The sun was setting when Rick had pulled her away from their friends to a more secret spot. Her wedding was also held just as the sun was setting, like she had wanted. It was the most wonderful day of her life – standing in front of all her friends and facing the man she thought she would be spending the rest of her life with.

    As the sky changed from a deep orange to night blue, Hannah turned her back on the sky and started to unpack.

    That was when she saw a small bottle, filled with sand. Hannah started to cry and somewhere between her sobs, she whispered the name of the person she knew she would miss the most.

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