Guest Post by Cat Rambo: What Makes a Good Love Story?

PeacockHairedCatCat Rambo lives and writes beside an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, appears in April from Wordfire Press. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. 

What makes a good love story? That’s the question that’s been obsessing me lately. Because while I’m preparing to launch Beasts of Tabat, my first novel, I’m also hard at work at the sequel, Hearts of Tabat.

Hearts doesn’t follow the same characters that Beasts does: a boy named Teo and a Gladiator named Bella Kanto. Instead, it focuses on Bella’s best friend and former lover, Adelina Nittlescent, and the two men wooing her: Sebastiano Silverpurse, a Merchant Mage and a river pilot named Eloquence Seaborn. It starts midway through the first book, and shows some of its events from other angles before it moves on to cover some of the events taking place after Beasts of Tabat. (The third book, Exiles of Tabat, will return to Bella and Teo.)

And so here I am, writing a love story. I am generally cynical about such narratives; when I reviewed for Publishers Weekly, that was the only kind of genre off the table, because I found them too predictable.

That’s because you do know one thing at the end of a love story: two people will get together. It’s the dance of how you get to that point that really matters, how skillfully the writer spins out that particular funhouse ride, from Point Single to Point Attached.

I’ve picked one of the classic ways to inject a little unpredictability: a love triangle. And I’ve tried to make it an interesting triangle, with a few class and religious differences, as well as some differing attitudes, thrown into the mix and not tipped my hand as to who Adelina will end up picking, because it’s always been clear in my head.

What makes a good love story? Not the formula, which is pretty simple. But the ways you embellish it and make it your own.

Going back to some of my favorite love stories has been helpful. Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, E. H. Young’s Miss Mole, Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series – looking at those has helped me think about the idea of the romance, the delayed gratification of getting down to the moment of vulnerability and completion where hearts are revealed, that is (I think) at the core of romance and its pleasure.

So I want my reader to waver between Sebastiano, who is a clever Mage, and Eloquence, who is simpler but a poet at heart. To wonder whether Adelina will factor in her mother’s wishes for her when deciding – and even whether or not she’ll decide. She does have a thriving publishing house to run, after all, and little time for anything else. And Bella Kanto sets a high bar for other lovers to match (as Bella would be quick to tell you.)

I’ve been living with these characters for seven or eight years now, as well as their world, in which I’ve placed at least a dozen stories. I’m hoping that readers will love them as much as I do, that they’ll gnaw their lip a little wondering what Adelina decides and that when it becomes apparent, they’ll feel the rightness of the decision down to their bones, because that’s another thing that makes a good love story, even when the heroine is opting for the guy you don’t want her to pick.

So I’m writing away on my love story, trying to make it wonderful and compelling and come to one of those revelatory moments that haunt you, that you go back to in your head, with lines of dialogue that echo deep down to the smallest chamber of your heart in the most satisfying of ways.

That’s what makes a good love story. We’ll see whether or not I can pull it off.

 

Cat Rambo lives and writes beside an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, appears in April from Wordfire Press. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

 

558Cover (1)

 

For links to Cat’s short stories and more information about her work, visit her website at http://www.kittywumpus.net

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s