Welcome to the fourth instalment in my series on the four main characters and why they are literary devices. This week, I’m going to write about the love interest’s role in our stories.
“It gives me strength to have somebody to fight for; I can never fight for myself, but, for others, I can kill.” ~Emilie Autumn
As A Literary Device: The love interest is the device an author uses to show the vulnerabilities and strengths of the protagonist. This device allows writers to complicate the main character’s life, and to put stumbling blocks in the way of attaining the story goal. It is the most common sub-plot.
Story Goal: This character’s goal is always to win, or keep, the hero’s love. It is, by nature, a selfish goal.
Five Important Things To Remember About Love Interests
- Only you. The love interest has in intimate relationship with your main character. This person shows us an aspect of the protagonist that we are unlikely to find in his or her interactions with the other characters. This character is the object of your protagonist’s romantic and/or sexual interest. He or she is somebody who makes the hero act irrationally and unreliably.
- The object of my affection. This character does not have to be a lover. He or she is best defined as the object of your protagonist’s affection. ‘It should be a person or an animal that your protagonist loves. It could be a friend, a pet, or a family member. Writers use love interests to support protagonists and to thwart them by threatening their well-being.’ (Source: 6 Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story)
- Holding out for a hero. A love interest can make fools or heroes of all of us. Please note that this character can be called a romantic interest for a good reason. (Look at the definition of romantic according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) Nothing worth having comes easily. Our heroes should move from idealistic to realistic relationships through struggle and conflict. True love is something a protagonist earns.
- We all need a muse. Use the difficulties of romantic relationships to create tension and increase conflicts. This character motivates, provokes, challenges, inspires, and pushes the protagonist. A love interest can add to the texture and complexity of your protagonist’s personality.
- Challenge and change. The love interest shows readers the protagonist as a flawed and vulnerable human being. He or she is there to challenge the protagonist to rise above their weaknesses and to change. A love interest can be an existing relationship or introduced as a new character in the story. This relationship will change your protagonist’s everyday life and his or her story goal.
How Do You Find Your Protagonist’s Love Interest?
List three possible characters who would realistically complicate your protagonist’s life.
Now fill this in:
- The one with the greatest potential for an intimate relationship with the protagonist is:
- The one I find most interesting is:
- The one I would most enjoy writing about is:
- The one who would complicate the protagonist’s life most is:
One of your characters will dominate these answers. This is the character you should consider using as your love interest. If the second character differs from the character you chose in the lists, you may be giving this role to the wrong character.
If you want to read the series from the beginning, start here: The 4 Main Characters As Literary Devices
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