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.
yeah, these questions definitely helped…looks like i need to go back to the drawing board for what they stand to lose. Right now my two characters have a couple things to lose by not being together, but nothing to gain other than being together. It’s not a life-or-death love story right now. thanks for the tips!
The story I’m writing now involves a love story between an astronaut and her boyfriend back on Earth.
I think I had the answers to all of these questions somewhere in my brain, but this will be so helpful writing it down and organizing the details. Although I think it’s pretty obvious what the biggest obstacle is here! LOL
This is really helpful as I start revisions on my book. Thanks!
Great essential questions/checklist! My characters have a passion for each other that is, as my heroine states, “on a molecular level,” and their destinies are, well…I can’t reveal that here. Setting is probably one of the weakest areas for most new authors, but if you have an exceptional plot and subplots, even the most placid of locations can be intriguing.
When I think of great love stories, especially after reading these questions, there are two that come to mind. Each meet the criteria for a great love story and each are equally heart wrenching yet in different ways. The first story is the book, and later the movie, titled ; The Bridges Of Madison County (can’t recall the author). As per usual, the book in my opinion was far better than the movie, but the love story was so poignant and unforgettable. It meets all of the suggested criteria & is a wonderful, powerful story. The second great love story is that in the movie Titanic. Although the media hype was overbearing, the love story within it was beautiful. It also meets the suggested criteria and in my opinion is one of the best love stories ever to be told. Both of these suggestions are great examples of what a true love story should be. They are excellent models showing all of the major criteria for writing your own great love story.If by chance you have not read or viewed either, I would highly recommend both!
My characters face an impossible situation and their love should never exist in the first place–a man (human) and female (alien from another solar system akin to ours), but circumstances (she and her twin are taken captive by a primitive tribe from another solar system, steals away on the airship when the “hunters” visit earth for supplies, is discovered and as she and her sister try to escape by fleeing into the earth’s wilderness her sister is killed and she is saved from death by a human–but it does.