Tag Archives: Love

On Love

A guest post by R J Terrell.

Love is an interesting subject, and could arguably be the core element in every story. When we take a step back and think about love, what it is, and what it means to us, every person may come up with a different definition, but I believe the core of it is the same.

The dictionary defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection, yet when we define the term ‘affection’, the dictionary states that it is a gentle feeling of fondness or liking.

These are technical explanations of something that is in itself, very difficult to explain, and when you look at the definition of one term (affection) within the definition of the word ‘love’ itself, you see conflict in regards to the level weight of what it means.

This very thing is what makes love a fascinating thing to explore in stories. It never gets old, because it is something most, if not all humans experience yet struggle to define in regards to how we as individuals experience it. It is also a multilayered term. I as an individual love playing video games and love reading books. Yet my love for my parents, my brother, my family and friends is a different kind of love altogether. And to take it even further, my love of spending time with my wife is quite different than my love for my wife. Would I throw myself in front of a car to save my Playstation? No.(though my wife might argue) Would I throw myself in front of a car to save my wife? Without a thought. Same word, different meaning.

In stories, we see characters love their parents, family, friends, spouses, etc. We also see them love forging weapons, creating magical spells, cleaning and polishing guns, washing their cars, practicing the sword, etc. When we delve into these characters, we see the things and people they love, but we also get to see ‘why’ they love them. Jason loves skipping rocks across the pond because it reminds him of how he and his father did it every day after school. It was one of the only happy times in a socially trying time in his school life. Linda loves her mother, the person who gave her life and protected her as she grew older in a harsh and hard world. Yet her love for Jason is a different type, a romantic type. She loves his voice, the way he looks at her, the way he smiles when he talks about how he skipped rocks across the pond with his father.

Characters experience love in the same ways that we do, and it is one of many things that make them relatable to us, and makes us sympathize with them, root for/against them.

There are many elements that make a story great. There are many elements that make a story alive, full, multilayered, and colorful. One of those elements has so many layers, so many aspects and so much depth, that whole novels are written about characters who struggle to define it, struggle to find it, struggle to hold on to it. Some even struggle not to attain it. Not many things can cause intense joy and pain. Some characters live in love with the specter of hate just on the other side of the coin.

Love is multilayered, multifaceted, and one of the most complex and powerful aspects of life that a human can experience. It is strengthening and debilitating. It is invigorating and crushing. It can make the soul sing a celebration of life, or a dirge of loss.

Love is life.

About R J Terrell:
R. J. Terrell was instantly a lover of fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. When not writing, he enjoys reading, video games, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

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A Life of Passion

Life of PassionWho do you love?

What do you love?

Everyone needs a little passion.

The interesting people in story, and in life, are those who embrace what they love with passion. It might be a spouse, family, work, or hobbies. We love people who are excited about what they do or who they are. We respond to passion. Easy example is when people tell us about a recent book or movie that we haven’t read or seen yet.

If they say, “It was all right.” No matter what our previous anticipation level might have been, it now falls a notch.

What if they say, “It was awesome! I’m going to camp out at the movie theater right now and wait until it opens tomorrow so I can see it again”? We can’t help but absorb a little of that passion. It’s contagious and exhilarating.

People do need to find balance in their life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still feel passion for each component that makes up who they are and what they do. They just can’t let that passion lead to excess and stupid decisions.

One of the most tragic things we see in literature and in life are people who won’t follow their passion. They won’t ask the girl on a date, won’t apply for their dream job, won’t take a chance and LIVE their lives. Thankfully, this character flaw is seen most often only at the beginning of a story to highlight a hero’s dramatic character arc.

A great example is Walter Mitty in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Here’s a guy who has buried his passionsWalter Mitty so deep, he has to escape life in lengthy ‘zoned out’ moments where he dreams of doing great things. He has shackled himself to a boring job and refused to live, even though he dreams of it. The story is beautifully told, includes breathtaking scenery, and excellent music as Walter begins to break out of the repressed life he’s lived for so long and embarks on an amazing adventure that changes everything. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

In real life, it can be hard sometimes to chase our dreams, to live passionately. Are we Walter Middy before or after the moment where he decides to live?

How many times do we hear someone say, “I’d love to do that!” Only to then banish the thought and turn away. If it’s not illegal or immoral or likely to prove fatal, maybe they should reconsider.

Are you holding back, suppressing your passion?

Fear of failure is often the cause. Sure, we might fail, but at least fail while trying. Failure is a way to learn so much, but society has made failure taboo. The problem is, life is full of failures. Why not fail while doing something we’re passionate about instead of failing at life because we lack the courage to try? Here’s what a few famous people had to say about failure:

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” (Michael Jordan)

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” (Bill Gates)

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (Thomas Edison)

We don’t like stories of cowards, of those too repressed or afraid or timid to live. Usually in stories, cowards are either killed or, if they’re a main character, their initial cowardice is overcome as they rise to become a hero. There’s a good reason for that. Readers don’t buy stories that lack progression.

Not surprisingly, it was hard to find great examples of characters terminally afraid to live their lives, afraid to embrace their passions.

One example that came to mind for me is Pierre Gringoire, the struggling playwright in The Hunchback of Notre Dame who is saved by Esmeralda, but lacks the courage to do anything productive. He is about as completely useless a character as any I’ve ever read. I’ve hated him since I was first forced to read this dark, depressing book as a kid. Pierre refuses to fight for the beautiful woman who saved his life, refuses to fight for anything useful, and eventually slips away from all conflict, taking along Esmeralda’s pet goat, Djali, the only creature who seems capable of dealing with his pitiful life.

So be Walter, not Pierre, and embrace your passions.

What are you waiting for?

First Comes Like

A guest post by Lisa Mangum.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix or shows that I’ve recorded on my DVR, which means that I’m not watching a lot of commercials (hooray!), but I caught one the other day for a dating site with the tagline: “First Comes Like.” As tags go, I thought it was pretty clever. Because before love comes along, there is like—in real life, and in fiction.

The idea of like was one of the sparks that I fanned into the story that became After Hello. I wanted to write a story that took place in one day and really focused on the 24-hours immediately after my two characters said “Hello.” How did they become friends? Why? At what point could that friendship turn into something more? Could I keep them together for a whole day without it being boring or weird? Those were intriguing questions to me, and then I thought about how much I loved the movie Before Sunrise, and I jumped right in.

And it was strange and awkward at first. But that was okay, because most first meetings between people are strange and awkward. Plus, I was getting to know Sam and Sara at the same time they were getting to know each other.

I realized pretty quickly that in order to pull off the story I had in mind, I needed to keep an eye on two things: what they SAID, and what they DID. Dialogue and action, those where going to be my two best tools to build the plot.

And really, isn’t that how most friendships start? We’re focused on learning more about the other person so we ask a lot of questions. We offer a lot of information. We make jokes; we tell stories. We talk for hours.

So that’s what I had Sam and Sara do. Spending the whole day together meant they were going to talk to each other—a lot. I worked on keeping the conversation natural but still interesting. Not only did they need to talk about PLOT stuff, but they needed to feel comfortable enough with each other so that they could talk about CHARACTER stuff.

I started their conversation with a blend of mystery and humor. Questions were asked, but answers were given in a roundabout way. Often Sam deflected. Sara sometimes made a joke, sometimes not. They had conversations with other people. I tried to parcel out the information in bits and pieces, not all at once. After all, even in real life, the best conversations feel organic, not an info-dump on page 1.

Real-life friendships also develop because of what the other person does. How do they behave in stressful situations? Are they nice to strangers? Do they lose their temper? I wanted to show Sam and Sara in a variety of situations so they could see each other in action.

When it comes to writing romance, remember one thing: first comes like. Your characters need to be likable so that we like them. That way when the characters fall in love, so will we.

Watch the After Hello book trailer:

About Lisa Mangum:
Author Photo Lisa Mangum FINALLisa Mangum attended the University of Utah, graduating with honors with a degree in English. A lifetime lover of books, she has worked in the publishing industry since 1997, editing works by several New York Times bestselling authors as well as debut novelists. She is currently the Managing Editor of Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Besides books, Lisa loves movies, sunsets, spending time with her family, and trips to Disneyland. She lives in Utah with her husband, Tracy. She is the author of four award-winning YA novels (The Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello), a short story (“Sold Out”), and novella (“&”). She also edited One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology. 

You can find her on Twitter @LisaMangum or Facebook.com/lisamangum.

For the Love of the Screenplay

A guest post by Tracy Mangum.

I have a confession to make: I don’t like many “romantic” movies. It’s not that I’m unromantic-it’s actually the opposite. The problem is that many “chick flicks” are full of cliches, stock characters, and predictable plots that kill any sense of romance. Most of these films suggest that a woman’s life is meaningless without a man, and that a woman happy being single is simply lying to herself. They teach us that love is only for skinny, beautiful people with straight teeth and perfect hair. The tell us that men are sex-crazed, commitment-phobic animals that have to be manipulated into a romantic relationship. He will ultimately reject the constraints of the relationship and hurt the innocent woman who only wants to care for him. After a period of time, she will begin to move on just as he realizes his mistake, and will demonstrate his newly discovered feelings with grand gestures that straddle the line between affection and stalking.

Romantic comedies too often follow the same plain and boring recipe.

  1. Boy meets girl (He is handsome, she is adorkable – equal parts awkward and adorable)
  2. Girl is obviously perfect for boy, but he doesn’t notice since she is awkward and doesn’t wear makeup
  3. Boy has a girlfriend, but she is a false romantic lead
  4. Girl will consult with the best friend (possible bad gay male stereotype) for advice
  5. Girl will get a makeover that includes a new wardrobe and is now stunning
  6. Boy will now notice girl and unresolved sexual tension begins
  7. Boy will say something stupid and hurt the girl’s feelings
  8. Girl cries and runs away
  9. Boy rejects false romantic lead and chases down girl
  10. Boy makes a large declaration of love – probably in a large urban area where witnesses ooh and ahh.

This formula is as stale as 11:00am movie theater popcorn that’s been reheated from the previous night’s shows. It’s easy to make these films, they cost less to make as they feature little to no explosions and special effects, and audiences will often just eat them up on date night.

So how do you write a successful love story that doesn’t fall into these tropes? You develop complex and interesting characters and dig deep into the wells of emotion buried deep in their hearts.

  1. Give me characters that I can fall in love with, so that when they fall in love with each other, I am already emotionally invested.
  2. Give me a credible reason to keep them apart. It can be anything, class differences, a sinking boat– but if the audience doesn’t buy in, you are dead in the water.
  3. Don’t write long scenes where your characters talk at a restaurant table – make your script as visually exciting to watch as your dialogue is to hear. “Jewel of the Nile” had the actors sliding down mountains and avoiding alligators and “Annie Hall” had the great lobster scene.
  4. Tweak the formula. Be clever and ingenious. “Defending Your Life” has the leads meet in the afterlife. “Sleepless in Seattle” has the couple meet in the last five minutes of the film. “Groundhog Day” has the boy relive the day over and over and over until he gets it right.
  5. Romance means sexy, and comedy means funny. Intimacy – either physical or emotional, leaves people vulnerable, exposed, and can be used for painfully honest comedy that reveal truths about your characters.
  6. Make it actually ABOUT something. Why are you writing about this couple? What about their story reflects some insight into the relations between men and women, or the human condition? What questions are you asking that the the screenplay’s story answers? Is it gender issues like “Tootsie”, or is it the awkwardness of adolescence like “American Pie”- what are you trying to tell us?

Let’s examine one of my favorite romantic films: “Up” by Pixar.

But it’s an animated film, it’s not a romance right? WRONG.

UpThe story begins in the childhood of Carl Fredricksen, whose love of adventure leads him to meet a spunky young girl named Ellie. In the first 20 minutes – a sequence that could easily be removed from the film and win and Oscar by itself – we watch Carl and Ellie meet, fall in love, plan for children and adventures that never come to pass, and eventually grow old together, until Ellie passes away, leaving Carl’s body and soul deflated like a balloon. Grown men are crying in the audience, and not one word has been spoken.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.05.32 AM

The house has come to symbolize Ellie to Carl, and he flies her to South America with hot air balloons to fulfill a promise they made to each other to visit there. Along the way, Carl “adopts” a boy scout, a talking dog, a large and awkward bird, and must deal with love, loss, regret, hope, and closure. Ultimately he has to leave Ellie and the house behind and go live his life, and have new adventures on his own. He doesn’t forget Ellie, but he doesn’t have to literally have her attached to him at all times.

The magicians at Pixar had us all thinking this was an innocent kids movie and while we were looking one way, they wallop us with emotions from our blind side. It’s unique, refreshing, and beautiful.

Write from the heart and from the gut. Make it real, make it honest, and make it count.

Tracy MangumAbout Tracy Mangum:

I’m a local Salt Lake City filmmaker and blogger.

My short film “Father Knows Flesh” won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the SL Comic Con FanX Film Festival last year. I cover the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of Shield, Gotham, and Disney for Lord of the Laser Sword.

I taught film in SLC for 10 years at LDS Business College.