What is the role of the love interest in your story?
Love changes people. It can make good people bad and bad people good. It can make an awkward person slightly less awkward or more awkward when they learn to accept their awkwardness, because someone who is equally awkward shows them that they are just the right kind of awkward.
The Role Of The Love Interest In Fiction
Love makes people do interesting things. That is why the love interest is such an interesting character. People kill for love. People steal for love.
Think of our favourite love stories: Gone with the Wind, The Notebook, Up Close and Personal, Romeo and Juliet. We fall in love with the characters. We want to be in love with them.
- The love interest’s role varies a lot. In most romance stories, the love interest is the protagonist’s goal or the prize they end up with.
- In a crime novel, for example, the love interest’s role is not necessarily central to the story, but helps to show the character of the protagonist. It can complicate his or her life.
If the friend’s goal is to help the protagonist, the lover’s goal is to lure the protagonist away from his or her goal. For example, if the husband wants to be the CEO and he works late, starts studying for an MBA, and taking on more and more work. His wife wants him home in time for dinner with her and the kids.
There are, of course, many definitions of love.
Love interests can be lovers in the romantic sense, but they do not have to be. As Amanda Patterson writes, ‘It should be a person or an animal that your protagonist loves. It could be a friend, a pet, or a family member. Writers use love interests to support protagonists and to thwart them by threatening their well-being.’ (6 Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story)
They are also often catalyst characters. The catalyst is a character who knowingly or unknowingly puts events into action. They cause things to happen, which is a broad description and can apply to most characters, but think of the big things they do to add to the conflict in your protagonist’s life. Does he or she have an affair? Do they set ultimatums? Does she fall pregnant?
The love interest helps us to show the internal and external changes in our characters. It is a good way to demonstrate the character arc. A solitary character may open up and allow someone in, for example.
Raising The Stakes
Killing the love interest is a great way to up the odds for your character. Grief rips a hole into their life, for example if the serial killer strikes close to home by killing the detective’s girlfriend. It makes him even more determined to catch the killer. In Braveheart, the death of his wife forces him into battle.
Love triangles are also very popular. Think about Peeta, Gale and Katniss or Jacob, Bella and Edward. They add lots of conflict.
Don’t Neglect Them
Be careful of neglecting the character development of your love interest. Often we think they aren’t important, but if we are to take the protagonist’s emotions seriously, we need to fall in love with them as well.
Your subplots should end before your main storyline. If you are using the love interest as a subplot, this is the one storyline you can tie up last. Your protagonist can walk off into the sunset with the love interest. Readers like that.
Hope you fall in love and happy writing.
Read more about The Awesome Foursome Fictional Characters
[Use our Character Creation Kit to create great characters for your stories.]
by Mia Botha
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