How to Write an Un-love Story

Figuring out what exactly it is I’m doing for Essay 2 has been kind of an adventure.  I’ve had about a billion different ideas about how to go about re-purposing an old piece, a poetic elegy inspired by my break-up with my ex-boyfriend.  I initially wanted to write a screenplay, but found that everything I wrote in that format came out sounding forced and cliché.  I then thought about trying my hand at making an animated short, but then I remembered that I don’t know the first thing about making animated shorts.  Whoops.

Eventually, I decided to compose an audio essay a-la The Snap Judgment Podcast.  The final product will (I hope) be in the form of fictional story, spoken by me, and inspired by the relationship mourned in my elegy.  Also, like Snap Judgment, I’ll include music and sound effects to give the story added depth and texture.

Because this the story of a break-up, my research has been focused mainly on finding other creative work (e.g. movies, T.V. shows, written stories) that tell similar stories.  For example, my annotated bibliography currently includes the movie Annie Hall, which begins with its star (played by Woody Allen) announcing, “Annie and I broke up,” and then proceeds to tell the story of their relationship.  I also cite 500 Days of Summer, which begins similarly to Annie Hall by asserting that it is “A story of boy meets girl, but not a love story,” and Sleepwalk With Me, which follows the un-doing of its protagonist’s relationship with his girlfriend alongside his struggle with a rare sleep disorder.

These stories, I think, belong to their own, sub-genre of love stories: the non-love story.  I’ll admit that this title needs some work, but it’s the best I could come up with for now.  Labels aside, the non-love story shares all the trappings of the regular love story, but with one key difference: in the moment where a relationship is “put to the test,” it fails.  Furthermore, in regular love stories, this challenge usually takes the form of a problem that would absolutely never happen in real life, like discovering that one’s significant other is a vampire, learning that the person you fell in love with is only dating you because of a bet they lost or hope to win one, or, while wearing a disguise, falling for someone who doesn’t know your true identity.  But in non-love stories, these challenges are usually more realistic, like trying to make a long-distance relationship work, infidelity, or conflicting values or goals in romantic partners.

The reason for this, I think, is that people want love stories that comfort them.  We want Cinderella to run off with the Prince because it reassures us that the perfect partner is out there, and that they’ll find us no matter what.  We also want to watch Tom spiraling after Summer ends it with him, because we want to know that we aren’t the only people who’ve fallen apart post-break-up.  On the surface, these two stories couldn’t be more different, but they both deliver the same message, “It will al be okay.”  For the heart-broken, they promise that things will get better and assure them that they’re not alone, and for those in stable relationships, they remind them how good they have it.

I wonder now if my non-love story will provide the same sort of comfort at those that have inspired it.  I wonder also if, by writing it, I’m trying to find some way to comfort myself.  Maybe that’s what really drives these love stories; it’s not about what the audience gets from it, but what the author feels writing it.

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