Love in Fiction

It's Valentine's Day so let's talk about love.

Not just love in general but love in story.

The history of Valentine's Day is anything but loving and romantic. In ancient times, February was considered a month of purging, cleansing, and... Breeding. The name of the month is based on the Pagan word-Februa-which means "to purge."

Yes, I know most of the world celebrates Valentine's Day with cards and gifts and remembrance of St.  Valentine. But, who was Saint Valentine? He was a member of the fledgling Catholic religion during the time of Roman rule. The Roman Emperor, Claudius forbid his young soldiers to get married while in service but Valentine (there may have been more than one in the span of a few years) performed these marriages in secret. Claudius discovered the defiance of Valentine and had him beheaded. We don't know for sure if he was martyred on February 14th but that is when the Roman Catholic church later decided to give sainthood to the name.

Coincidence? I think not. Why did the sainthood of Valentine land itself on February 14th? For the same reason most of our other christian holidays--the Roman-Catholic church was conquering through attrition. That's right. Most of our current christian holidays ended up being celebrated where they are as replacements to Pagan holidays. Think Easter, Christmas, even Halloween to a certain extent.

The Pagan holiday of Lupercalia during Roman rule, was celebrated on February 15th. Actually the celebration would last several days and reach it's height between the 13th and 15th where the official sacrifice would be made in hopes of propagating fertility and ease of childbirth. Funny how this celebration resembles Mardi-Gras.

Okay, enough history for one post. I hope I haven't lost you yet but the background serves to bring context to the rest of my rant, er, I mean... My blog post.

Many have an idealistic view of love and relationships. In real life, one wants a relationship to grow and flourish without incident or strife. Love is all hugs, kisses, passion, chocolate and sex. The truth is that it is not all the stuff I just mentioned that brings about lasting love. These things just help us get through the hardship and strife that is part of life. Hardship and strife-and conflict-is what makes the love strong and worthwhile.

In story, all of this is made greater. the story writer must sensationalize the hardship, strife, and especially, conflict, to create tension and allow release. This is what readers like.

By way of quick example, one of my own current works in progress includes a romantic thread between the main character and a supporting character. Kat McKendry is my main character and she comes into the story with her own baggage. She just split up with her husband and is forced to tuck tail and go back home to move into her parent's house until she can get back on her feet.

She's not been home long when she becomes involved in the investigation of the death of the husband of her best friend from high school... And this is where it gets complicated.

She gets called to the police station for an interview and who walks in? That's right, her unrequited heartthrob from her high school days. You can imagine that things aren't going to start well for them. First off, she's still technically married and now she's conflicted because the guy of her dreams is on the other side of what is becoming a murder investigation--and she's probably a suspect.

I know it seems impossible that anything will ever happen between them but I was sure to place just the slightest glimmer of hope into the story as I'm heaping on the conflict and tension between them. See, that's it. Story should never make it easy for two people to be romantically involved. In fact the story should be about the characters overcoming all the crap thrown at them but still somehow come together... Or not.

I recently read a story by Marie Savage that provides a good example of romantic tension between characters. The story is titled: Guarding Our Hearts and uses the tried and true romance vehicle: The love triangle. In this case a young woman is conflicted between the love of two men. One of them is the brooding troublesome type and the other her fantasy from her high school years. She must choose only one and is halted by one calamity after another. I won't give away the rest of the story but suffice it to say there is plenty of conflict and tension, which makes her decision heartwarming but bittersweet, and conflicting.

So, all you writers out there. Happy Valentine's Day. Remember to keep your romantic threads full of strife, hardship, conflict and, therefore, tension because the real valentine's day is not about love and sunshine; it's about desire, lust, and purging.

Photo Credit: Listverse