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This question-and-answer guide is meant to help you gain perspective about how your love story stacks up against the great, memorable love stories of all time.
Copy and paste it into a document (or personal blog post), and write down your answers. If you want, you can copy and paste the questions into our comments section and answer them there!
If you haven’t already, be sure to read our article The ONE Thing All Great Love Stories Have In Common. It may help you when you take this quiz!
1. What is the setting for your love story? (Hint: Ideally, the setting is interesting, unexpected, unusual, or fascinating. Are you using your setting to augment the action of your love story?)
2. Are your characters’ objectives/desires clear—to the reader, if not to the characters themselves? Why do these characters want to be together? (Hint: Attraction doesn’t always have to be reasonable, but it does have to have reasons.)
3. How will having a successful relationship benefit each character (practically, emotionally, financially, etc.)? (Hint: The more a character stands to gain, the more likely the reader will cheer for the relationship to work out—and the harder they’ll cry if it doesn’t.)
4. What issues complicate the relationship? What reasons do they have for NOT being together? (Hint: They’d better be good reasons…we’re talking really good. Concrete issues trump vague, hazy notions of “we can’t be together just because I kinda feel that way.” The stronger the reason for the characters to be apart, the more likely the reader will root for them! Take a look at how famous authors complicate their love stories.)
5. Is there a sense of destiny, serendipity, or some other sense of the inevitable working within your love story—whether your lovers are fated to succeed or fail? (Hint: You need not say flat out that there’s a cosmic current at work; having a strong subtext of destiny is sometimes a stronger choice.)
6. What do your characters stand to lose, or how will they suffer, if the relationship fails? (Hint: If the answer is “they will have broken hearts,” your story might not have enough punch. Why? Because broken hearts are as much a fact of life as cereal for breakfast. At some point, everybody suffers a broken heart—so that in and of itself may not be enough to twist readers’ heartstrings. If you want your love story to resound, your characters will need to suffer more than just a typical broken heart: they’ll need to risk having a life-crushing, soul-altering, “I will join a convent/jump off a bridge/never, ever love again” broken heart).
One final tip: Want to study the great romantic stories more deeply? Think of your favorite, then answer these questions about it. You’ll see how authors raise the stakes for a (potential) broken heart!
Please feel free to share the Writer’s Relief Love Story Self-Test with your writing groups, with other writers on your social networks (click the share buttons below), and with your blog readers.
QUESTION: What do you think? Tell us how these questions illuminated your current love story or romantic subplot.