Valentine’s Day is around the corner and love is in the air! It’s been a while since we talked about story and February seems the perfect time to discuss love stories. How important is romance in a story? Very! Even if you’re not writing The Notebook, having a romantic subplot strengthens stories in all genres. A touch of romance can be the glue that holds together the other elements of your story, be it action, drama, or comedy.
Why Audiences Love Love
Love stories are the easiest way to get the audience invested in your characters. The tension of will they or won’t they get together keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. This tension works particularly well in long form television because it can be sustained over several seasons or similarly, in a book series. A compelling love story, even if it’s a subplot, is full of obstacles that will keep your audience guessing at the outcome. Is it a happy ending or does our couple go their separate ways at the end of the story? With a heartwarming, well told love story, the audience is bound to be drawn in and root for the couple.
Another reason audiences invest in love stories is they are relatable and universal. Everyone has experienced the pangs of falling in love or wants to. People see themselves in the characters. And when a viewer or reader identifies with your main characters you have story gold.
Love Develops Your Characters
As we follow characters through the obstacles of their love story we get a unique lens to see into who they are. We get to experience their feelings, their wounds, and learn more about what drives them. Romantic subplots are a wonderful way to deepen the audience’s understanding of your characters. And through their romantic relationship, you can make the audience care about the couple even more.
All Genres Can Use a Little Love
Even genres that don’t seem romantic can benefit from a little love. Take the James Bond franchise for example. In every Bond movie, we have two women – one that gets murdered because of her involvement with Bond and the other who ends up being his romantic partner for the length of the film. These relationships not only add depth to the Bond character but also provide a much-needed emotional component to the high-stakes action scenes.
Romance can strengthen horror too. For example, the romantic subplot in Halloween Kills (2021) involves Karen Strode (Judy Greer), Laurie’s daughter, and her partner Ray (Anthony Michael Hall). They have a strong relationship and work together to protect their families and survive Michael Myers’ latest killing spree. The subplot adds emotional depth to the film and provides a contrast to the horror and suspense of the main plot.
Happy Ending or Tear Jerker
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all love stories have to be happy endings. In fact, sometimes the most memorable love stories are the ones where the couple doesn’t end up together. Some stories are more impactful when the couple is split apart by choice (Casablanca) or by death (Titanic.)
When done right, a good romantic subplot can bring depth, tension, and emotional investment to your story. No matter what genre you are writing in, don’t be afraid to incorporate a touch of romance into your story. Your audience will thank you for it.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, look at your projects with fresh eyes and see if they could use a little love.
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