Writing about love can be difficult… There, I said it.
I spend a lot of time as a writer creating love stories, using language to dream up two people who will somehow find a way to each other’s hearts. But of course there are always a few bumps in the road… I try to ensure my plots look at real-life issues from homelessness to serious illness and crime, but at the centre of it all is usually at least one love story.
Now don’t get me wrong, I adore writing love stories. If I wasn’t keen on it then you could probably accuse me of being in the wrong job. However, I think the most important thing to think about when writing romantic fiction is the creation of multi-dimensional love stories… Love isn’t simple in real life, so why should it be in your novel?
One of the most important things I have learned is that there are so many different kinds of love, different phases of it and different stages. Love is not a fixed, simple thing. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s really painful.
I am a huge fan of Lena Dunham’s script writing in the HBO series ‘Girls’. This is mainly because of Hannah’s dysfunctional ‘relationship’ with Adam and how well Dunham has encapsulated this angsty, complicated pairing and its consistent power struggles. It’s interesting how Hannah has to work so hard to understand Adam, and how much she puts up with along the way, and yet somehow the power balance switches round.
I find that as I write, there are some go-to songs that have reminded me of all the different kinds of love that can and should be portrayed in fiction. It’s not always simple, it’s not always easy, and these songs conjure up the imagery and the feelings that help me to write. I thought it would be nice to share them with you. Some of them are older songs, others are much more recent and are helping me with book three…
1) Two Way Street – Kimbra
This song in my opinion is the soundtrack to the typical frustrating relationship. It’s pensive and negative, but yet it’s so hopeful too. The feel of the song swings from one side to the other. It reminds me of the confusion that comes with mixed messages, the hope that is always there, and the ultimate realisation that “I can’t make you fall for me, love is a two way street”. The lyrics are beautiful, there is so much imagery. This song is really inspiring book three.
2) Jealous – Faith Evans
I love how playful and full of life this track is, despite the subject matter. Jealousy… it’s a tricky subject. Some people never get jealous, for others it’s an emotion they really struggle with. Most people will have felt that flash of green envy at some point in a relationship. This song sums it up, with humour too.
3) Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
For me, this is the perfect dramatic, tear-jerking love song. I first heard this when I watched the film ‘Once’ (which I recommend if you haven’t seen it yet). I sometimes listen to this song when I want to create a devastatingly romantic scene. It’s the kind of music that goes with the crunch moment, the first kiss, the break-up, the pain of a long distance relationship. It works with so many concepts you encounter when writing.
4) Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding
This song reminds me of the process of falling in love. For me, it captures the excitement of it all. Those first few weeks or months where everything is utterly magical and you feel like you are wandering around on a unicorn, sprinkling a bag full of glitter all over the place and grinning like a fool. I’m not sure if this is what Ellie intended, but I listen to this song when I’m writing about new, dizzy exciting love.
5) Bad Religion – Frank Ocean
Now I am a little biased when it comes to Frank Ocean, because I am pretty obsessed with his lyrics as it is. I think his whole Channel Orange album is jam-packed with stunning visual imagery, but this song was the stand out track for me. Bad Religion for me portrays the most painful kind of love. Something you want so much, but something that for one reason or another doesn’t come back your way, and how painful that is. I couldn’t find a video for this, so there’s a live version of another song of his here. I call on his song Bad Religion when I want to describe how painful love can be…