The Problem With Writing Love Stories

Early this evening, as the sun set over the trees and the wild ponies headed back to their shelter, I discovered the first instalment of The Hobbit trilogy on television. Before you could say ‘Mummy loves Thorin’ in that amused, condescending tone my son perfected during those three Christmases I would adjourn to the cinema, I had settled in for the long haul.

Yes, when I read The Hobbit as a twelve-year-old romantic I had a crush on Thorin Oakenshield. Then they picked Richard Armitage to play him and I remembered why. Now all you have to do is mention The Hobbit trilogy (one of the rare instances where I will say that the film is better than the book) and a ridiculous, teenage girl in love smile spreads over my face faster than you can say … well … ‘Mummy loves Thorin.’ It even forced me to retract my ‘no man is attractive with a beard’ statement.Thorin Oakenshield

All my fictional crushes had two things in common: they were single in the stories so I could write myself into them without any added love triangle complications, and they died. Tragic, isn’t it. All great love stories are tragic and filled with struggle and heartbreak, it’s an indisputable lesson you learn in fiction.

Cathy and Heathcliff. Jane and Mr Rochester (Reader, I married him doesn’t happen till the very last page and always read to me like a ‘well, if you must.’). Romeo and Juliet. Aragorn and Arwen. Scarlett and Rhett. In modern terms, Carrie and Big. Ross and Rachel. And don’t say Ron and Hermione because that’s just a what-the-hell-were-you-thinking?!

It’s never easy. It’s always complicated. Why?

Because meeting and falling in love and being happy would make for an incredibly short book. To be honest, who would want to read three hundred pages about how happy the couple is doing the dishes together and having dinner with the in-laws?

But do you know what happens when an impressionable, romantic girl learns that lesson? She picks the wrong guys. Or she meets the right guy and creates so many tragic complications that it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Like when Goethe first published The Sorrows of Young Werther and suicide was suddenly hot.

Can we write love stories that are not tragic and complicated and filled with heartbreak? Or so many regional dialects that you can’t even read them without footnotes (yes, I’m looking at you, Wuthering Heights). But remember, you can’t class a novel as a romance unless it has a happy ending.

Just remember that real life doesn’t work that way. If you want the happy ending, go easy on the tragedy.

Then I might not be spending Saturday night watching The Hobbit my own.

I might not be watching it at all. Nah, that’s going too far.

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