Why Characters Who Love Each Other Won’t Ruin Your Novel

It’s possible you were taken aback at the title of this article. Maybe you once read a novel about happy people doing happy things in a happy world that caused you to cry in agony and run as fast as you could in search of a caged fight. Love means nothing ever happens, right? If people get along perfectly, where’s the conflict? And who wants to read a book about people who adore each other?Why_Characters_Who_Love_Each_Other_Won_t_Ruin_Your_Novel

As if romance isn’t a popular genre.

But I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about love in general. Your characters should love each other, and despite the legitimate objections against this, your story will benefit. Here I will explain how.

Love Vitalizes a Novel

If you believe love is poison to a good plot, you’re probably confusing characters loving each other with characters getting along. Getting along is passive, while loving is active. Getting along is merely a void—no conflict, but no relationship building either. Love, however, is goal based. Love seeks to continually deepen relationships, help others improve, and remove conflict or overcome it.

Love yearns to inspire and be reciprocated. This is the difference between two characters in the middle of a war placidly agreeing with each other about politics, and a father trying to bring home a wayward son. This is the difference between a couple who strive for a frictionless relationship, and a couple who wish to be honest with each other.

If you’re still skeptical, look at Lord of the Rings. What were some of the best parts of the story? The affection between Frodo and Sam. The love between Faramir and Eowyn. The camaraderie between Gimli and Legolas.

Love Adds Complexity to Characters

I hope now you understand that characters loving each other isn’t as subversive as it sounds. But aren’t characters supposed to hate each other to generate conflict? And what about the villain? Surely he can’t love people!

Although hate usually equals conflict, it doesn’t always equal good conflict. The typical formula for conflict is: goal + obstacle = conflict. If you make your characters despise each other without a reason, the equation will lack a goal, and conflict can’t exist without it. You need to consider how a personal conflict would obstruct a character’s goal. A prime example is the Avengers. Their initial inability to get along hampered their mission of saving the world.

However, I thought the discord among the Avengers was too forced, especially between Cap and Iron Man. The producers forgot that the characters didn’t just hate each other, they also cared about each other. That’s one of the keys to writing realistic characters. They are duplicitous and capable of experiencing contradicting emotions (both love and hate).

But is it okay to have characters who only feel love? Absolutely! Sometimes this type of character is my favorite. People love love, so you’ve got no problem there. However, the moral simplicity of such a character means he probably wouldn’t be suitable as a protagonist.

As for antagonists, many classic villains are entirely devoid of love, which generally works fine. But, if at all possible, depict characters who both hate and love. I’d like to present Kylo Ren (my all-time-favorite villain) as a case in point. I realize there are different interpretations of his actions and who he is on the inside, but none of that is relevant here. From the way I see it, Kylo Ren loved Han … a lot. I’m convinced he loved Rey too. It doesn’t matter whether my convictions are correct, because if Kylo truly did love Han and Rey, then he is an extremely dynamic character who should be pitied, adored, feared, and cheered for.

Creating characters who love each other won’t tarnish your reputation as a writer. In fact, you’ll probably seem even crazier than before.

Love Increases Conflict

Let’s veer away from the galaxy and revisit Lord of the Rings to analyze the relationship between Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. Sam and Frodo both have affection for each other. But Sam resents Gollum because Gollum loves Frodo, who both loves and detests Gollum. Gollum loathes Sam, whereas he loves Frodo until he decides he treasures the ring more and then he hates Frodo. Aren’t you reeling from that incredible relational complexity? This is how you create a thrilling and compelling novel.

The two great commandments are to love God and your neighbor, thus relationships must be more important than almost anything else in the universe. Since relationships are so valuable, putting them at stake raises the tension. Compare these two scenarios:

  1. A super awesome couple who love each other deeply. The husband goes off to war. Nooooo!
  1. A couple who absolutely can’t stand each other. The husband goes off to war. Boy, we sure hope the battle teaches him a lesson!

You’ve got it! Love love, and it will love you.

Love Makes Your Story Matter

It’s all about the shire!

That’s the conclusion I once heard regarding the heart of Lord of the Rings. And it’s completely true. Yes, the goal of the story was to destroy the ring, but what was the reason behind it?

Why did the hobbits risk the jaws of death to destroy a tiny metal object? Because they cherished their world of gardens, beer, smokes with old wizard friends, maps, and birthday parties. They were willing to fight to protect the shire, because it was a place of love.

Love It or Leave It

As writers, we tend to foster our inner villain. We relish conflict and squabbles and dilemmas. This is as it should be, but often we forget the equally important aspect of love. Love strengthens and enhances a story.

It’s good to hammer in lessons when you learn them, so I have some homework for you. Examine the characters your protagonist interacts with in your story and see if he loves them. If so, is it clear? If not, can you change it? Finally, ask yourself what the “shire” is in your story. What is your character fighting for, and is it evident? Following these steps will help make your story shine.

What are some literary examples of two characters whose love for each other heightened the conflict and tension in a story? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!

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Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.
He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.
If you would like to sample his work, you can get a free copy of his novella, Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin at the link below.
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  1. *can’t stop grinning* I remember this… Good job. You said it well.
    And I applaud your bravery with the Kylo Ren example. *high five*
    Let’s see; examples from literature?
    Orual and Psyche from C.S. Lewis’s ‘Till We Have Faces’. (Awesome book. Go read it). The whole theme of the story is the difference between selfish love and divine love. It’s a retelling of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche (which frankly I hated that myth) but Lewis took it and made it a conflict between Psyche and her love for Eros against the love Orual, Psyche’s older sister, has for Psyche herself. Orual wants Psyche back because she loves her, but Psyche loves her husband more. It’s… it’s really great. It deepened both of them a lot and made Orual, who otherwise could have been a very sour character, a lot more sympathetic.

    • Well, good. Grinning is good for you. I rather thought it was funny myself, reading back through it. It sounds so cliche. 😛 Awesome cliches. Where would we be without you?

      You’ve mentioned that story before. Methinks I shall have to read it.

    • I love Till We Have Faces! It is one of my favorite books (and may just be my favorite one). I just love all the symbolism and characters and everything… Lewis was a genius. And to add to the already complicated loves in the book, there’s Orual and Bardia. Often she notes that she loves him but in reality she works him to death…
      This book is so full of amazing symbolism and themes to think about… it’s worth reading over and over again.

  2. YESSS. Awesome. Five stars. I was wanting an article on this topic so bad, and here it is!!
    Ben loves Rey…..I knew I couldn’t be the only one who suspected that he did! But, in what way do you think? Romantic? Or brother/sister…? I can’t seem to decide.

    • Both, I think. Or, at least the romance is coming. It better. I know, it’s not normal for me to be a shipper, but wouldn’t that just be awesome? At the very least for the plot, having the hero and the villain be in love. #conflict. But from a character development standpoint too, it just makes sense. And I love them both so much.

      I’m getting excited just typing this out. Let it come!

      • The more I think about it the more likely it seems… I have mixed feelings. *dons kevlar* My problem is I’m afraid they’re going to have her pull him out, and I don’t want that. I want him to be strong enough to make the right decision because it’s right, not because he loves someone.
        *hugs self**bites lip* I guess we’ll see… 😛

        • Thanks, Kate. I was having trouble concentrating for a moment, but now my brain’s working again. Cold water’s always good. Yes, that could be problematic, but thankfully Disney’s done such a good job so far that I think they might actually be able to pull this off the right way. Then again, Hollywood is Hollywood, but I still believe there are good storytellers out there. And even if they flunk it, I’ll know how it should have been and I can live in that dream.

          Oh, boy. I need to go calm down again.

          • ‘And even if they flunk it, I’ll know how it should have been and I can live in that dream.’
            Ha! I’ve been mentally prepared for that ever since I fell in love with Ren. I might just join you. XD
            I’m a horrible cynic sometimes. I’m sorry. I’m sure it will be okay…
            *bites lip harder*

      • *doubles over laughing*
        Yeah, I think it could go either way. One thing’s for sure, SOMETHING is going to happen and I’m dying to see how it all plays out!

        • By the way, you know how I want episode IX to end? Ren settling down with Rey to become a farmer and Fin and Chewy flying off into the universe to do cool things together. That would be the ultimate ending.

          • That would be awesome. Seriously.

            Where do you want Luke to end up? With Xs for eyes, maybe? I think they have to do that. But I think we can all agree that the whole thing shouldn’t be drawn out very long, yes? I hope the it doesn’t run for more than one or two more episodes.

          • That would be PERFECT. 😀

          • @graciegirl I’m a little unsure there. It depends on if Rey’s his daughter. If he is, Kylo Ren should kill him for extra guilt points, but otherwise I’m not sure where he fits in.

          • *chokes* And thus the mentor is sacrificed for the first time in history for the sake of the villain’s development, not the heroine’s. XD Love it.

          • *Stares* Yeeeessss…I need to do this myself. *devious smile*

  3. @Daeus Guilt points….XD I am so going to use that from now on.
    But, yes, if he’s Rey’s dad he’s got to go. *pushes cartoon representation over cliff* Plus, he’s really fixin up to be the Mentor, like you said @Kate-Flournoy, and we all know what happens to them……

  4. Anne of Lothlorien says:

    I am so excited for Episode VIII!!!!!
    I have mixed feelings on Ben and Rey. I totally ship them, but like Kate, I don’t think she and her love should be the thing that pulls him out. My precious little cinnamon roll should pull out himself. @Daeus, your ending is PERFECT! Ben as a farmer is so perfect.

  5. I have a villain that’s the heroine’s father. (She doesn’t know he’s the villain till half through the book, by which point it’s too late, of course.) At first I was going to have him be totally standoffish and embittered, but I’ve been thinking lately that it would be a lot more effective if he actually loved her. Then the final betrayal would be way more poignant.

  6. I would say that Loki hating and loving Thor is an example of this. We’ll see where that goes when the third Thor movie comes out in November.
    And the characters of Jane and Mark in That Hideous Strength originally loved each other, but then kind of stopped, and their loss of love and then re-discovering it helps carry the story.
    Does it bother anyone else that you can’t italicize book names in comments?

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