Storybook Love 101

Fault in our Stars


A few years ago, on the request of my daughter, I was reading the book, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.  I was only a few chapters in when I sent a text to my daughter telling her that I knew how it was going to end.  I explained what I thought was going to happen to each character, and then, after a brief moment, I received a responding text from her saying, “I hate you.”  She and I love going to movies together but I think she may sometimes consider gagging me because I always figure out how it is going to end long before it’s over.  The reason is very simple, Storybook Love can have only two possible endings.  Either the death of the relationship (sometimes the literal death of one or both characters) or “Happily Ever After” . . . unless there’s a sequel.  But to complicate matters, if the book is any good, there has to be some deception involved, some veiling of the truth by the author in order for there to be any suspense.

Storybook romance has a formula.   I call it the L-O-V-E formula.  L=Limitations, O=Obstacles, V=Vulnerability, and E=Elusiveness.

In order to have a love story the characters must be faced with limitations through their society, their circumstances, their location, etc.  In order for the characters to be together they must overcome obstacles in their relationship.  At least one of the characters must be vulnerable so that the other can be protective. These roles can be switched back and forth during the development of the plot so that each character shows their own vulnerability.  Before Stephanie Meyer wrote the final book of the “Twilight” series, I told my daughter that if Bella became a vampire and was no longer vulnerable, the story was over.  That is, unless, Bella had a child and the child was vulnerable.  If she and Edward had a child who was vulnerable, that would make them vulnerable through their love for her.  She informed me that she was in contact with the author through the author’s website and that the author had assured her that vampires could not have children, so Edward could not produce a child, so I had to be wrong.  Guess what??????  Read the last book.  The final element to a storybook romance is Elusiveness.  Just when you think they are going to get together, something else happens to pull the lovers apart.  This allows the story to continue.  Once all limitations have been eliminated, obstacles have been overcome, vulnerabilities have been turned into strengths, and elusiveness has ended, the story is over.

So does “Happily Ever After” really exist?  If it does, it is very boring and no one wants to read about it.    Author of The Tin Box Trilogy

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