Titanic, The Notebook, Princess Bride, Brokeback Mountain, An Affair to Remember, Anne of Green Gables, Carrie and Big (Sex and the City), Buffy and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Piper and Leo (Charmed), Katniss and Peeta (The Hunger Games) and even Sun and Jin (Lost). What do they all have in common? What makes their love stories epic? How do you write an epic love tale?
To me, epic love stories tell more than just the romance, they’re about life. Epic love transforms the characters which touches every aspect of their lives. Rose never forgot Jack and never stopped loving him. In some ways her entire life after the Titanic sunk was dedicated to living life on her terms and to the fullest. Much of that can be contributed to the transformation Rose underwent when she fell for Jack. And you, as the audience, saw that transformation blossom from when she stepped foot on that ship all the way until she died.
That transformation, though, takes time. Every example above took years to complete that transformation. In The Notebook, Noah and Allie fall in love rather quickly, but they’re not ready for each other until both of them mature and go through various life obstacles. By the end of the book, several years later, Noah and Allie have both transformed and are ready for each other.
These couples had to overcome crucial obstacles and conflicts. Westley and Buttercup had to beat the Dread Pirate Roberts, Prince Humperdinck, Vizzini, Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, the RoUSs, the six-fingered man, and death, even if he was only mostly dead. Katniss and Peeta had the Hunger Games, President Snow, and the rest of the Capitol.
And what good love story wouldn’t include attraction? In an epic tale, the couple feels an unbreakable attraction that nothing, no obstacle, distance, or time can shake.
The one unfortunate common thread in some of these examples is no happily-ever-after. Not every epic love story has to end that way. This is where your author’s prerogative comes into play. And this ties into the one element any love story MUST have, emotion. Heart wrenching emotion. Make the audience cry, cheer, laugh, and yell!
When writing an epic love story, the couple should transform as individuals, the time to go through that transformation, an emotional roller coaster, those seemingly endless obstacles or stakes, and that unbreakable attraction that can lead to their happily ever after, even if they never get it.
I’d like to hear from you. Are there other epic love stories I didn’t mention? Did I leave out any details you believe should be included in an epic tale?
Happy writing and reading! ~Jennifer Ray