Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow author KT Hall to my blog. She’s talking about what we, as writers, don’t show our readers. Great stuff!
What the Romance Writers Don’t Show You
Whether or not you care to admit it, every one of us has probably been exposed to a “love story” at some point in our lives. Even if you’ve never actively sought out a Romantic Comedy or a Nicholas Sparks novel, you’ve probably at least seen or watched something with a love story on the side
For example, for the past few weeks, I’ve been engrossed in watching the show “Eureka”, a series about a town full of geniuses and their experiments that go awry. I, and many others, would classify the series as “Science Fiction”; however, the latest Season has focused greatly on many of the main characters’ romantic relationships. I admit to having cheered a little bit when the protagonist, Jack, and his love interest, Allison, finally got together after three seasons of back-and-forth sexual tension.
But what aren’t the writers of Eureka showing you about Jack and Allison’s relationship?
Simple: they’re not showing you everything else.
Now, as much as I would love to talk about the romantic happenings of Jack Carter and Allison Blake, I think it would be more appropriate to focus on a love story that most romance enthusiasts are bound to know (or at least, know of). For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus more exclusively on the story of Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun; in other words, the story that takes place in “The Notebook”.
For the few of your out there who don’t know the premise behind “The Notebook”: the story begins with two teenagers from differing socioeconomic backgrounds falling in head-over-heels in love during the summer of 1940. Allie was raised by a very wealthy family and is expected to go off to college and marry an equally wealthy man, while Noah grows up with a more modest upbringing.
Naturally, Allie’s parents are unhappy with the relationship, and when Allie and her family move away so that Allie can go off to college, they (namely her mother) hide Noah’s letters (365 over the span of a year), causing Allie to believe that the relationship between them in over.
Seven years later, Allie tracks him down shortly before her marriage to a, you guessed it, wealthy fiancé, and the two end up reconciling their relationship. Throughout all of this, the story is narrated by an elderly Noah, reading the story of their love to his wife, who had been stricken with Alzheimer’s.
So, back to the original point: what did the writer fail to mention in this happily-ever-after love story?
Let’s think about the movie here (sorry, but I’ve seen the movie more recently than I’ve read the novel). Allie and Noah fall in love almost immediately. Assuming the movie is about two hours long, the initial summer love story probably lasts maybe 20-30 minutes. 20-30 minutes to show a series of events that lasted about three months.
Do you see where I’m going here?
What’s going on behind the scenes?
Following a montage of fun dates and endless kissing, we’re told, “They didn’t really agree on much of anything, except they knew they were crazy about each other.” Cue a brief fight scene that ends in more kissing.
Can you imagine how awful this movie would had been if all those lovely fights were shown? By the end of the movie, we would all be wondering how it was possible for those two not to have murdered each other at the end of the movie. No, this is a feel-good love story, where you leave the theatre ready to go out searching for “the one”.
Now, let’s fast forward to their seven years of separation. In this time span, Noah goes off to war, Allie becomes engaged, and Noah fixed up the house he had always dreamed of owning.
First of all, let’s think about this: seven years is a long time. It may not seem like a long time, but think about it this way: if a person lives to be seventy years old, seven years is ten percent of their lifetime.
In this movie, however, seven years probably lasted about half an hour.
What do we see in these lightning-speed seven years? We see Allie in college before becoming a volunteer nurse in the war. We see Noah working in the city before going off to war. We meet Allie’s new love interest and Noah’s father’s passing.
We see the bits relevant to the love story.
What we don’t see: Allie slowly forgetting Noah, most of Noah’s experiences in the war, most of Allie’s time in college, the dynamic between Allie and her new fiancé, the passion in Noah’s fling with the war widow, Allie’s relationship with her parents during those years, Noah buying supplies with which to build the house, Noah’s father dying (was it sudden, or was it a slow decaying?), and much more.
A lot happens in seven years, and those two were not a significant part of each other’s lives for most of it.
All we see is what is directly relevant to the “love story” of these two individuals.
The next portion of the movie details Allie and Noah’s sudden reconciliation. Allie finds Noah and the newly rebuilt house advertised in a newspaper, and she goes to visit him not long before she is set to marry her fiancé. Spoiler alert: they end up making passionate love, where it is immediately clear to the audience that these two crazy kids are still madly in love with one another. The whole thing blows up when Allie’s mother comes to tell her that her fiancé now knows the whole story, and that he’s “on his way” to get her. Allie confesses to her infidelity, her fiancé is upset, and she’s left with the choice of choosing between him, the wealthy southerner, and Noah, her first love. Guess who she chooses?
The fact is, we have little to no idea what kind of relationship existed between Allie and her fiancé, though from what the movie shows, the two were at least moderately happy with one another. He was wealthy, her parents adored him, and she was obviously committed enough to enter an engagement. Plus, from what I understood, the two were together for a longer period of time than she and Noah were together. Actually, between him and Noah, it seems more logical to stay and marry him, rather than going back to somebody she had dated for a few months seven years ago (and someone who, by all accounts, she fought with constantly). And yet, almost nobody walked out of that theatre shaking their heads, thinking, “What an illogical, crazy woman.” She and Noah may have stayed married for life; however, we don’t know how strong her commitment to any relationship is – they very same thing may have happened with her and her fiancé.
We don’t know.
We’re not conditioned to know the rest of the story.
But, don’t you kind of want to know the other side of the story now, too?