Unrequited Love In Fiction

Posted: August 13, 2013 in Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

We’ve all felt it at some point. Unrequited love. That feeling of such deep attraction to someone who may only see us a friend or like a sibling, maybe a coworker, and sometimes they don’t even notice us at all. It’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching. We yearn for that person, even though we know that yearning will never be returned. And the feelings we feel hurt us, they slay us from the inside. We want to let go of these feelings, because the ache we feel for these unattainable objects of desire is just so much that some days we can barely stand it. And yet we find it so hard to let go, because as painful as those feelings can be, they can also enhance us and make us enjoy life and being with the people we love, even if they don’t love us back.

Perhaps that is why when a character in a book, TV show, or movie has unrequited feelings for another character, we feel it so keenly, rooting for them while knowing that in all likelihood, those feelings won’t be returned and we’ll have to watch them suffer throughout the story.

I’m actually using a character struck with a case of unrequited love in one of the novels I’m writing at the moment (I won’t say which one because I’m guarding the plots of both rather jealously), and I feel very sorry for this character, for many reasons but this one especially. He’s friends with one girl but he wishes to be more with her. She seems him only as a friend or a kind older brother, and she’s not even aware of his feelings, so it’s tough on him. Still, he goes to great lengths to help her, and that makes him feel good and that at least he can be friends with her.

As I write this, I’m wondering why authors write stories or characters involving unrequited love. Obviously there’s a market for stories where the character(s) is in love with someone they can never have. It’s something most people can identify with emotionally, and it’s definitely an obstacle for the character to overcome. And even when the story doesn’t focus exclusively on the character’s feelings for someone who has no romantic inclinations for this person, it can make for an interesting subplot.

In fact, I think every author should experiment with unrequited love in a story at least once. It’s a sad sort of story to write, but it’s still one that authors can empathize with in most situations, and by drawing on personal experience, you can write a story that feels real. Plus the fans (should you be lucky enough to have any) will really dig it.

What’s your take on stories about unrequited love? And no, you don’t have to tell us your own experiences unless you really want to.


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