on love, in storytelling

Considering how much we all love love, love stories, love poems, love holidays, and anything else having to do with two people being made for each other, we don’t do a very good job at portraying the process of getting to that point. I suppose it’s not easy–it’s not easy to fall in love, at least at the same time as that exact same person is falling in love with you, and to have the exactly perfect schedule and life to let it all play out, so it follows that it would also be difficult to show that in a novel or screenplay. Still, plenty of novels and movies try to show that, and often I find that it looks totally unrealistic or just silly to show one meeting that leads to people just knowing. I’ve also never been in love, so I suppose in viewing this all I’m just a petulant child at heart. I don’t imagine that love usually manifests itself in that “The Notebook” kind of way, and it’s probably more just a realization at some point that “Wow, I can’t imagine anything better in life than being with this person.” Since I’m never in a relationship myself, I’m rather good at other people’s relationships, and I always know who likes who long before the likee knows, and I’m never surprised when I find out that someone asked so and so out. It’s so easy to see, really, but so hard to make up and put on paper or on screen.

Still. I’m also a writer, and the three projects that I claim to be working on deal with relationships that could be construed as love, and because relationships of all kinds fascinate me in their nuance and nothingness, I try very hard to really draw out the process, and show how it’s generally a whole bunch of nothing that just somehow becomes a really great friendship or romance. But then I read other things, like the Marlowe play I just finished (The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage), and realize that sometimes it’s easier just not to show it, and instead show what love makes people do. Or just show whatever else is going on in your plot. If you look at plays by Marlowe and Shakespeare, or tons of other works, they’re based on well known stories that everyone knows, so the writers get to focus on the expression of the plot, the wordplay, the humor, the minor characters, and everything else. There is no scene in Dido that really indicates that real people are making real connections and falling in love. It’s the gaps in which we are made to assume, based on our knowledge of the classic text, that the characters have fallen in love. We have no reason to doubt this assumption, and in fact the play would not work without the audience’s mutual agreement to assume that love has happened. Though it’s been awhile since I read Durrell’s Justine, I don’t recall ever seeing the narrator interact with Justine in such a way that it could be construed as a scene in which he begins to love her. We just figure it out. So that’s a kind of nuance in and of itself. And maybe that’s easier, and better, to do than what I’m doing.

It’s worth looking into. And this is something I’d like to keep in mind when reading other texts. Could be an interesting thing to map.


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