One of the challenges I faced during my NaNoWriMo project was the realization and execution of having the main character without a love interest or romantic entanglement. While I know it could be done, it is not something I had attempted previously and had rarely seen in mainstream fiction.
Most of the time everyone has someone to love, fall in love with, fall out of love with or love and lose. No matter what combination you tried, one of them always seemed to land in my own individual writing or the majority of the books I have read. I found myself wrestling with the very thought of removing a potentially crucial element of my story. I was incredibly unsure.
As November was right around the corner I found my preparations coming to a halt with this lingering concern of ruining my story with the lack of a romantic twist. To ease my worry and perhaps get some feedback I reached out to the NaNoWriMo community forum to see what others thought about the concept. My expectations as I posted the thread were along the lines of either a majority against my concept or a fifty-fifty split. Instead, I was stunned to find that nearly all of the answers were in favor of the lack of a love interest. They called it a refreshing way to handle things and applauded the idea. I was stunned, a little confused but overall I began to feel better about my decision.
The forum discussion along with my journey of writing the book itself led to further thoughts on the subject. I began to wonder when we do or do not need a romantic entanglement and how to gain perspective enough to make that call. Below are the questions I asked myself and the exercises that I think will help you decide in the long run if you should include a love life in your character’s narrative.
As you are approaching the idea of a love interest or romantic subplot, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
1 – Does the love interest add to the story or character development? Really look at their purpose in the story. Do they add to the main story or to the character’s development and growth? If not, reconsider their position in the story or their existence at all.
2 – Is a love interest appropriate for your character at this time in their lives? This is an important thing to think about when you are building a character and their potential love life. Forcing a romantic relationship when the character might not be in that mindset or even of age enough to understand it ends up with a flat unnecessary weight in the story.
3 – What else would your character focus on, besides your romantic partner? This is what actually led to my discovery of a lack of love interest. Look at your character, their goals, and desires. If a romantic partnership is not that important to them, then adding it will seem forced and might actually detract from the character’s growth.
Those three questions will give you insight into if you do or do not want a love interest in your story. But I have also discovered these three mental or written exercises that have helped me sort out other connections in my story. Obviously, these are not meant to replace your current writing but doing them either in your head or writing them out will help give you a better grasp on the importance of your romance or lack thereof.
1 – Imagine or write the story without the romantic relationship. Does the removal (or addition if you don’t have one) make it better or worse? Do you feel like it helps or hinders? Depending on your answer or how the writing comes out will tell you how to proceed.
2 – Remove any sexual tension and see how the relationship holds up. If your intention for the romantic interest is just a roll in the hay this exercise won’t apply. But if you are attempting to make an actual relationship you should test out to see if they could make it without all of the tension that such a romantic journey entails.
3 – Redefine the relationship as non-romantic. Change them to something platonic or even change them into a sibling or family member. There can still be a kind of love between the characters but this way you can see them in a different light. Testing them outside of a love interest will give you insight into the necessity of the romantic part of the relationship and help you decide which suits the story better.
In the end, it is okay to have a love interest and it is also okay not to. Go with what you feel fits the narrative and don’t feel pressured to go one way or the other just because someone else has done it before. Your story told in your voice with your vision. That’s what writing stories are all about.
What are your thoughts about love interests? Comments, Questions, and Suggestions are welcome below!