Friday, 24 August 2012
DO create ordinary characters that do extraordinary things: I try to create characters who are familiar enough to be relatable-but who are moved by the power of love to do extraordinary things.
DON’T make it easy on your characters. What makes a love story a story, and not just a romantic episode, are the hurdles the characters encounter on their paths. There wouldn’t be much of a story to tell if Logan found Beth and they instantly found happiness together.
DO explore the full range of human emotions: Love stories aren’t just love stories-they’re also stories about anger, disappointment, disillusionment, betrayal, healing, happiness, and, ultimately, hope. Love isn’t a simple emotion-it embodies a full range of emotions, and it’s important to capture them all.
DON’T make love a small affair. Love is an emotion of enormous power – and when in love, people rarely think in small terms. If the obstacles confronting the lovers define the love story, then what makes agreatlove story is their willingness to go to almost any lengths to overcome them – whatever the cost.
DO create bittersweet endings. A great story won’t leave you with the feeling of unadulterated satisfaction; instead, it might be at once life-affirming and heartbreaking. Life, because it is fleeting, is inherently sad, and yet I try to portray the emotions and relationships that define it as eternal and worthy of celebration.
DON’T write one-dimensional women. A woman who is just waiting around to be swept off her feet by a man, and serves that end only, is dull. Write strong female protagonists who are independent and self-directed-they’re more interesting and also more deserving of respect from both the love interest and the reader.
DO create internal conflict to parallel external conflict. As interesting as external forces-embittered ex or controlling parents-are the internal questions that haunt each character privately: Do I love him? Does he love me? Is this the right decision? Can I survive this? These inner conflicts and dilemmas end up informing the story as powerfully as any plot device.
DON’T use excessive profanity. I avoid profanity when possible, but regardless I don’t think excessive swearing dovetails with a love story-it alters and cheapens the mood, and instead of feeling authentic, it often has the opposite effect. Besides, it’s a lazy form of writing – a kind of shorthand to communicate rage, frustration or in some cases, an evil character.
DO give fate a role to play. In The Lucky One, Logan might well have discovered the picture of Beth that saved his life and merely kept it as a keepsake or charm; instead, he decides to search for the woman in the photo across the country. I always try to create characters who act upon the seemingly random opportunities that life presents – agents of change who are also able to seize upon the chances and clues offered them.
DON’T write simple villains. Villains are for comic books. A one-dimensional, purely evil character who presents an obstacle to a pair of star-crossed lovers doesn’t function well in the context of a complex, believable love story. What’s far more interesting and effective is when that antagonist is humanized, and his relationship to the protagonists complicated. In The Lucky One, Keith Clayton isn’t just Beth’s jealous ex-he’s also her son’s father and an insecure son himself and in the end, he is redeemed by a last act of selfless courage that calls into question assumptions the reader may have made about him.
Nicholas’ works also include The Notebook, Message In A Bottle, Dear John and The Last Song
The Lucky One is out on Blu ray and DVD on the 27th of August