How To Write The Tragic Love Story – A 10-Step Formula

How To Write The Tragic Love Story – A 10-Step Formula


If you’re a writer with no date this Valentine’s Day or you have an idea for a dark love story brooding in your imagination, carry on reading.

When it doesn’t have a happy ever after 

The anecdote

My young friend – let’s call him Wade – doesn’t seem to have much luck in love.

He is always telling me about his colourful love life. For the last year, it seems to involve daily Tinder dates, cougars with psychotic ex-husbands, minor heartbreaks, and mini adventures in the jungles of dating.

“Any big date lined up for Valentine’s Day?” I asked him.  
“No,” he said. “I’m done with love.”
“Don’t you know, Wade, all love stories are essentially tragedies,”  I joked.
“And the gifts are expensive,” he added glumly.

Wade may be off the shelf for a while, but no doubt he’ll be back in the dating again.

The lesson

We all probably long for the happily ever after. But I’m reminded that there is some truth in my cynical joke.

The greatest love stories – whether Romeo and Juliet or Anna Karenina, Titanic or Brokeback Mountain – don’t end well.

They often end in death, at the very least. Heartbreak, definitely.

So, as I said, if you’re a writer with an idea for a dark love story, here are some heart-wrenching ingredients you must throw into the plot.

Follow the 10-step fatalistic formula – how to write the tragic love story

 The lovers are immediately attracted to each other. Sparks fly. Time stands still.  Stars are crossed.

But, there is something radical or forbidden in the very possibility of them getting together. (He’s a vampire and she’s from a long line of human vampire hunters.)

They bravely fight their feelings, fight them again, and then fight them some more – avoiding temptation all the way. (Long smouldering looks from opposite sides of the train tracks, a tango at masked ball, and secret letters that demand to be burned.)

But they can only fight their feelings for so long. In a moment of weakness, they give into the passion. More sparks fly. Stars explode.

It is an unforgettable experience for both. But their brief, sated golden-limned moment of happiness is short lived. Very short lived.

Because there are always forces keeping them apart. (The vampire is married to an ancient and sacred vampire queen, the girl is hauled in front of the Hunters Council and threatened with imprisonment).

So, the two heartbroken lovers are kept apart by distance, misunderstanding, or other forces. And yet, they long and yearn and ache for each other – recognising that the other is their true soulmate.

And, after a long period, they just can’t stand to be away from each other – and get back together.

Then there is the moment of truth for the lovers. They either declare they love each other. They may also realise that their love is well and truly doomed. (A full-scale war erupts between vampires and their human hunters.)

Either way, it doesn’t end well for these two. Too many odds are stacked against them. One dies or both lovers die. (The vampire dies trying save her.)

In some stories, nobody dies – but that’s not tragic, it’s better if someone dies.

Of course, those who are left behind realise too late that they misjudged the lovers, and that their love was pure and never-ending. They are now soulmates in death. (The vampires and their human hunters call a 100-year truce; the ancient vampire queen holds a festival in the lovers honour.)

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Anthony Ehlers by Anthony Ehlers

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Michael Neal Morris

    Enjoyed this, as I do most all your articles. However, I did notice a couple typos.

  2. Writers Write

    Thank you for telling us. We have fixed them!

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