Every time I write a new novel, there is a new love. And shaping that love in a way that will be both provocative and familiar is the real challenge. Much of the love that surrounds us is like a favorite pair of jeans. Sometimes they feel amazing. Sometimes they make us feel sexy. Sometimes they feel too tight, or rough, or we’re just not in the mood for them. But we always know, if we take good care of them, that they will feel good again, maybe even tomorrow, and that there will be days when we pull them on and they feel brand new. And utterly amazing.
My characters are always wanting that kind of love, and my readers (hopefully) able to see that there is hope for this. No one wants to invest the heart in a love story that is doomed to crash and burn.
Still, when I begin to structure the love story in a novel, I think about the great ones. First and foremost – Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Proud, independent Lizzy finally meets her match in Mr. Darcy. But Darcy is a love cynic, and deeply afraid to give his heart. Whether they like it or not, it is love at first conversation. But they spend an entire novel mucking things up until, finally, neither one can stand being apart for one more second. Nothing is more gratifying than watching these two overcome the obstacles they place in their own path and find bliss.
One of my favorite modern love stories is Carrie and Big from Sex and the City. Year after year, we watched the chemistry between them, the bad timing, the posturing and miscommunication. Again, two strong, independent people who have met their match and it scares them so much they engage in horrific behavior to sabotage their chances at happiness. Of course, it all ends well.
Finally, I’ve been thinking about the love story between Liz and David in Eat Pray Love. For those of you who haven’t read the novel but plan to see the film, STOP READING now because I’m about to spoil it for you. Liz goes on her journey to find herself after she falls into a love inspired depression. Her soul mate, David, can’t meet her needs, which are substantial when it comes to David. He doles out affection sparingly, leaving Liz aching for more and empty inside. When she is in the “pray” stage of her journey, a wise Texan at the ashram tells her something very poignant – that while David may be her soul mate, they may not be able to live life together. I thought this was one of the best revelations in the book. And one of the most disheartening. Soul mates who can’t be together for no tangible reason? Ugh.
This is a suspense novel, so the love story is not the main course, but perhaps the table upon which everything will be served. The connection between Melanie (Mel) and George (can’t stop naming characters George – yes, many of you know why) has to be believable and engaging as they face my perilous plot. Mel is strong and courageous. She’s jaded but hopeful. Plagued by her dark past, but always peeking above into the light. She and George met years ago. George is brilliant and sensitive. Loyal and strong. He has no issues with his past but is drawn to Mel for the depth he sees in her eyes and the connection that exists between them from the first moment.
Of course, Mel is young then and when his love comes so fast and feels so real, she can’t do what she usually does with men – hide. Whatever walls she puts up between them, George just pulls them down. He understands her past and what it’s done to her. Not only is he willing to help her through it all, he refuses to let her ruin what’s between them. But in the end, Mel isn’t ready and she disappears to a place where he can’t follow.
It is years later and Mel and George are thrown together when a teenage girl is assaulted in a small Connecticut suburb. George is not as open anymore. He’s still angry and hurt and seeing Mel again is not easy. For Mel, George is kryptonite – the one person who sees through her, knows about her past, and could make her feel love again.
That’s the plan. Send me your favorite love stories and let me know what you think about Mel and George. This is a work in progress so join in!