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What makes a good contemporary (non-romance) love-themed story?

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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 2, 2012 2:55:41 PM PDT
Some romance novels or tearjerkers become bestsellers (for example Love Story by Erich Segal). Sharply written (500) Days of Summer became a sleeper hit in movie theaters. The classic melancholic heartbreaker The Sorrows of Young Werther drove dozens of men to kill themselves. What kind of love-themed stories attract you? And why?

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 12:22:11 PM PDT
Richard G. says:
For the most part, literary love story needs a substantial time element in which the lovers are in actual contact to make it work. I personally have no patience with the "greatest love is a love that ends tragically" ending, although some may feel that the memory of a dead love is preferable to the cruel reality of living with a live one with all of his/her imperfections. If Segal really meant that "love is never having to say you're sorry," that only works with dead lovers. Plots involving love-at-first sight, long absence, surprise reunion are as clichéd as the Segal doomed lover. Plots covering only a few days or weeks are hard to build substance around, and the success of (500) Days of Summer really revolves around the realization that not all infatuations turn to enduring love, no matter how intense in the beginning. A good, original story, but perhaps not a "love story." My own novel, The Duke Don't Dance, while not primarily a love-themed story, traverses decades of relationships among its protagonists. To the extent that literary fiction is intended to reveal something more about the human experience, that is likely to require some time, rather than be revealed to the reader in the form of an in-the-moment love affair. Time is on your side

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 7:47:46 AM PDT
I personally don't mind if there's no happy ending, especially if the story is well written and has substance. And I'm not saying it has to end in a tragic way. For example, I think the whole story can be lifted into a totally new level, if the ones involved will not get each other. This works well, if the story has a somehow slight quiet haunting sadness in the tone and if the protagonist finds some kind of peace in the end.
Very often depicting real feelings in a way that the reader can assimilate to them ("wow, that's just how I felt") and find the story realistic. Surely if the connection to realism is what the reader is looking for, not escapism.
Surely it's magic what story manages to find the reader and stay in his/her mind.

Posted on Jun 29, 2012 4:53:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 29, 2012 4:55:10 AM PDT
Limelite says:
Complexity in the relationship; not superficial obstacles to it. "Lonesome Dove" may be the Great American Novel at least in part because of its examination of many complex love stories, especially the devotion between Call and Gus. Richard Russo could be the best American writer who discusses the love between brothers and of fathers for their children. John Irving wrote a powerful story of man's love for women (rather than a man's love for a particular woman) in "Cider House Rules." Anne Tyler's "The Accidental Tourist" is a beautiful love story between two crippled personalities. "The Secrets of Jin-Shei" by Alma Alexander is a deeply moving yet fantastical exploration of sorority love. In "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy we're given a story of narcissistic love. For a satire on romantic love (written in the early part of the last century, but still apropos), try "Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story," by Max Beerbohm. The love of two people for each other because of their love of learning is well illustrated in a unique novel: "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks. Obsessive and doomed love is well done in "The Lost Daughter of Happiness" by Geling Yan. Finally, love taboos, or inappropriate desire is delicately treated in a suitably complex novel, "The House on Fortune Street" by Margot Livesey.

Obviously, good love stories are as complex as their subject. The bad ones are the straight romances that don't even pay attention to the complexities of true love.
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Discussion in:  Literary Fiction forum
Participants:  3
Total posts:  4
Initial post:  Jun 2, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 29, 2012

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