Love stories — three reasons we adore them: 1) love is essential to wellbeing, 2) stories are essential maneuvering through life, and 3) every love is unique. Are our brains hardwired for stories? Story Genius author and master story coach Lisa Cron thinks humans evolved by learning how to solve problems through hearing stories. Cron cites scientific evidence that human brains are inclined to be interested in stories because we want to solve problems — not merely to survive, but to thrive and live well in our human relationships. My twist — we’re wired for love stories. The best way to live is to love each other, finding the love in our hearts, as does my novel’s main character, May Gold.
I’m hardwired to seek stories of love, every kind of love. Whether it’s love in human relationships, or love of animals, or doing things like writing and taking walks in nature, love is what rings my bell. Problems in love are the stories that fascinate me — how do you find and sustain love, and what do you do when you lose someone you love?
My biggest writing tip: ask yourself what your main character would do if put into the situation of being denied love in whatever form he or she most cares about. Whether the story becomes an adventure, fantasy, mystery, or suspense, love powers most of us. We seek, solve, and venture for love. And that pursuit causes a character to gain, lose, grow, and achieve. Write your character’s driving desire for love, and the story arc will find its way. I’ve loved every genre of story except horror. My reading embraces ghost stories, adventures, mysteries, thrillers, and fantasies — as long as love of something or someone is in there, is thwarted, is hopeful, I’ll read on.
My Favorite Stories of Love
Friendship love. What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren’t bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world of women’s friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.
Love Slave is one of my favorite contemporary romances for its wit and emotional richness. A literary novel set in 1995 New York, Love Slave follows Sybil Weatherfield, her generation’s Dorothy Parker, and her strange friends as they defy chick-lit expectations (though they’re unaware that they’re doing so). Sybil is an office temp by day and a columnist by night for New York Shock, a chatty rag (her column is called “Abscess”, which is a wound that never heals). Her friends include a paper-pusher for a human rights organization, and the lead singer of a local rock band called Glass Half Empty.
Eleanor Brown’sThe Weird Sisters. Three sisters have returned to their childhood home, reuniting the eccentric Andreas family. Here, books are a passion (there is no problem a library card can’t solve) and TV is something other people watch. Their father-a professor of Shakespeare who speaks almost exclusively in verse-named them after the Bard’s heroines. It’s a lot to live up to.
I love stories of siblings, which I’m binge-reading right now, as I finish work on my own stories of two feuding half-sisters who inherit a cottage in Italy, with its resident ghost of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The love between siblings can be one of the strongest bonds in life. I know, because I lost my brother a year and a half ago. I miss and cherish his presence every day. No one else has lived with me through — well, everything.
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My Novel’s Love Stories
In May’s story in my time travel romance novel The Renaissance Club, I posed this question: if you could go back in time, where would you land and who would you want to meet, and why? For me, the answer had to be an artist, one of the Renaissance geniuses whose sculptures and paintings stunned me when I visited Italy. So I wanted my heroine to meet someone like Michelangelo or Bernini or Raphael. I wanted her to fall in love with one of these difficult geniuses, men who reminded me of some of the most difficult love stories in my life.
I considered them all. Right away, Michelangelo was off the table. The love of his life, besides art, was a spiritual mentor he met when he was an old man. Their love was a spiritual one, which wasn’t among the love stories I wanted to write about at that time. But it was a beautiful love story. Renaissance poet Vittoria Colonna inspired the elderly sculptor to take up the pen and write about the Divinity he had portrayed in marble. This Roman noblewoman had a close, non-romantic friendship with the artist that inspired him. Here’s the opening of his poem “Celestial Love”. It’s tempting to think he’s writing about his spiritual adoration of Vittoria:
by: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
No mortal thing enthralled these longing eyes
When perfect peace in thy fair face I found;
But far within, where all is holy ground,
My soul felt Love, her comrade of the skies:
For she was born with God in Paradise;
Nor all the shows of beauty shed around
This fair false world her wings to earth have bound:
My heroine May Gold was young — just twenty-six — and she needed a more earthy partner in her love story. She was yearning for one of the most passionate of Renaissance artists, a man clearly passionate about the human body, and who captured its sensuous beauty as no other artist ever has. Gianlorenzo Bernini not only sculpted his passions, but in the early part of his life, he lived them. You could certainly say Bernini was hardwired for love stories, he just didn’t know how to write a good ending, until someone wrote it for him. The marriage, by the way, was happy and lengthy. In my book, his love life ends a different way.
What does May learn from her adventure in love and time? Grab your ebook or paperback copy of The Renaissance Club today and find out!