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.

Revising

I have a strong love/ hate relationship with revisions. There’s nothing I hate more than having to re-do something I’ve already done. I’m more of the get-er-done type instead of the take your jolly ol’ time and mull it over type. But generally, this means that revisions are really necessary because I didn’t take the time to get it right the first time. I guess if I tried slowing down for a minute to outline or storyboard instead of just diving in, I might be able to avoid massive revision parties.

Regardless, I find myself constantly zooming through assignments and then having to go back and heavily revise them. Therefore I have a lot of experience with fixing and workshopping my own pieces because they often really need that extra attention after they’re done. I think this is a reflects a lot on how I live my life as well. I like to just get it all out there and then go back and fix after the fact. That really just doesn’t always work the best, though. I think in the end, that way is going to get you to a result you might be happy with, but it has to be a little bit about the process as well.

One thing I would personally like to work on as far as revising goes, is having more time to do smaller revisions. This would likely mean doing things earlier and taking more time on them. It would also probably mean outlining before I just start writing, which I generally find a waste of time. However, I can completely see where in a lot of situations it would help out greatly to the overall process.

I guess in a way, my love for revisions comes from that end product being really what I want, but the hate is the way I go about revising. With a new strategy, who knows? Maybe I’ll end up loving revisions all around.