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.

Joe Bunting
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).