Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Five Kinds of Fictional Love Plot

(Warning: The following post contains romance spoilers for Harry Potter, the Half Bad trilogy, Friends, and up to season one, episode six of Riverdale.)

Love. It's everywhere in fiction.

(I know. It makes me sick.)

Whilst there are as many ways to write a love story as there are love stories in the world, most fall into the following five categories. 

The Background Couple

They're the parents. The teachers who just so happen to be dating. The couple who, if they kiss at all, do it in the background whilst the main characters are doing their job in the foreground. Often, one of the characters is important somehow. For example, in Gone Girl, Tanner Bolt is Nick's lawyer. His wife, Betsy, on the other hand, exists to round him out. Humanise him. Give him a life. Another example would be any of the relationships that Ginny gets into before she starts dating Harry. Even though the main characters are affected by the relationships, we don't see a lot of Ginny and Dean, and we see even less of Ginny and Michael. The relationships are relegated to the background.

The Power Couple

No, not a couple with high-powered jobs. This is the one major couple in the story. Usually, this will be the hero and the heroine together. Sometimes, it'll be one of them with a supporting character. In a power couple story, all other couples (if there even are any other couples) will be background couples. Think Nathan and Gabriel from the Half Bad trilogy.  

Primary and Secondary

A story with two major couples that act as foils to one another. The primary gets the most focus, and tends to be the more explosive of the two. This is the couple that fights. The one that splits up and gets back together again. The one where, sometimes, you're not even sure why they're together. By contrast, the secondary couple is far more stable. They might have the odd disagreement, but are unlikely to ever break up because they actually communicate. If the secondary couple does fight, expect everyone to sit up and take notice. If the primary couple fights, it's Tuesday. The sitcom Friends is a good example of this, with Ross and Rachel as the primary, and Monica and Chandler as the secondary.

The Love Triangle

If YA fiction is correct, 99.9% of romances will involve either vying with another girl for the guy's attention, or being fawned over by two guys. 

(As we all know, Young Adult fiction is always 100% accurate to real life.)

I have encountered many werewolves in real life. 

(I'm sure you have.)

The love triangle is a zombie. You can find it in Austen (Anne/Frederick/Louisa in Persuasion), Shakespeare (Mariana/Angelo/Isabella in Measure For Measure could qualify), and even in mythology (think of all the women who had to hide from Hera's wrath because Zeus didn't know the definition of monogamy).

The Love...My God, How Many Sides Does That Thing Have?

There's probably a love triangle in it somewhere. Or two. Or three. Some of them will even intersect. This is a romance plot where the web is so tangled that pretty much anyone could get with anyone, and you would be able to find foreshadowing somewhere. The example I'm going to use is Riverdale, because we're only on episode six and it's already hard to keep track of who's kissed who. Archie had an illegal affair with Ms Grundy, now appears to be with Valerie, and, during a game early on, kissed Veronica, who has also kissed Betty, who was rejected by Archie and now seems to be with Jughead.

And that's just the core four.

What's the most confusing love plot you've ever come across?