1. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Romantic lead never says 'I love you'

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by alexandriadeloraine, Aug 17, 2013.

    Hey there folks;

    I don't usually discuss much about my characters outside the work they are written in, since the story / context can make or break many
    aspects of a character, but this is something I've been thinking over for a long while... I have been working on a trilogy of epic high-fantasy
    novels for some time now, and they've undergone a lot of evolution and development over the years. There is a fairly large cast of 'main'
    characters, with a substantial supporting cast as well, and multiple romantic relationships / marriages that are explored / revealed in tandem
    with the other events of the series.

    The romance between one of the chief heroines and her hero is an underlying thread that ties large parts of the work together, though, and this
    hero is seen to repeatedly make extraordinary sacrifices because of his love for the heroine. While it is shown, and implied many times over,
    that his love is profound, lasting and true, this hero is never shown in the books to say, 'I love you' to his heroine. (He is also shown to be a
    rather reserved character. He is something of an enigma to many of the other characters, though the reasons for this are explained as the story
    develops, and I expect that some readers may perceive him as cool and detached at times.)

    Do you think this is something that readers will notice in such a story? There are other relationships in the series, as I mentioned, and the
    other characters have plenty of 'I love you' moments, but their romances aren't as center-stage as the primary heroine's.

    So for fellow romance writers / aficionados out there, what do you think? Does a romantic hero need to say those 3 magic words?

    Thanks in advance for sharing. :)

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  2. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    I do think that his lack of such overt emotional talk is plausible, if he is the detached and enigmatic type. On the other hand, depending on the personality of the heroine, I don't know if it's reasonable for her to be ok with it all the time, even if she may perfectly understand why it may be difficult for him to talk about his feelings and not just show them. I can imagine her silently expecting for that special little extra, at least occasionally, and that could create an interesting dynamic between the two.
     
  3. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there 7thMidget;

    Thanks for your response. To give some more details of the situation, it isn't that the hero would necessarily have a problem saying that he loves her.
    Indeed, at one point she actually finds several journals he wrote many years beforehand, and it sheds a lot of light on his character in the process. On
    her part, the heroine is somewhat brassy, opinionated, and strong-willed, but also very dedicated to and protective of those she loves, esp. her family.

    So the main thing is not so much that he -won't- say 'I love you' to her, but rather that it isn't shown in the series. Instead, the fact that he loves her is
    shown primarily by his actions and some of the other things he tells her.

    What do you think? Amidst the action and other romances happening in the story, do you think readers would notice this omission?

    Thanks again;

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think in general, (not saying you can't write it better), the guy who can't say, "I love you", is cliché and unrealistic.

    But, if you don't hit the reader over the head with it, like with the love interest always annoyed or disappointed he never says it aloud, then I think you can have characters that have an immense love for each other that goes unspoken throughout a story. There should be some reason, though, why it goes unsaid. And I'm not sure what that would be.
     
  5. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there Ginger;

    Thanks for stopping by. I hesitate to go into too much detail, because it's probably going to be several more years before this series is finished
    or ready for publication, but it really isn't an issue of his inability or unwillingness to say that he loves her. It's more to do with the fact that I simply
    don't have any scenes where he explicitly states that he loves her. The lack of 'I love you' scenes is partly because he is very cool and reserved
    much of the time, he has his own distinct goals and motivations that he acts towards even while the rest of the characters are focused on quite
    different concerns. The other main reason for the lack of ILY scenes is because it seems almost unnecessary for him to be seen stating his love
    for her. The fact that he loves her is demonstrated, unquestionably, at several points in the series, and it feels more powerful to me (in a way) to
    leave it at that in the books.

    Does that make some sense? Like I said, I usually hate to discuss characters and concerns like this without using / sharing the actual material
    for context, but this is one point I've been thinking about for a while and I'm still a little indecisive.

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    While it makes sense, why do these two never have those moments of intimacy and are they both so content with the rest of their existence that they can live without that intimacy?

    Love involves so much more than just infatuation, attraction, devotion or whatever you envision these characters having. A person could sacrifice the intimacy for other rewards. Bogart's famous, "Here's looking at you kid," is just such an unrequited love (ignoring the fact Bergman has another love). But it's very unsatisfying to the reader unless there is a reason, often a tragic or self sacrificing reason.

    I'm not sure cool and reserved and busy with his own goals by itself meets that criteria. On the other hand, if there is a reason for this tragic unrequited love, or even if they both are fulfilled without the intimacy declaring their love for each other, then great stories are written this way.

    What you need is a reason deeper than, it just doesn't come up, and recognition or knowledge of what it means to have an immensely profound, but unspoken love. What are the ramifications of such an empty longing?
     
  7. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there Ginger;

    I think there's some misunderstanding. The love between these two is quite mutual (eventually, heh) and they have multiple, highly romantic and even
    sensual scenes together. It's simply that there is never any definitive scene where he says the words 'I love you', though it is implied that such things
    are no doubt said between the two of them in private. He does state, at various times and in various terms, her importance to him and the reasons
    why. Among other things, their romance involves the fact that he has (in the distant past) forsaken his kingdom and crown in order to pursue his love
    for her; later, he is faced with fighting to regain his kingdom and crown, basically on account of her once more.

    Does that make more sense?

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  8. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    I don't think saying I love you is necessary when showing established relationships, but if you have romance as part of the plot, it gets a bit trickier. If it's clear they love each other and aren't having any sort of relationship troubles, saying 'I love you,' probably isn't necessary. If they have any sort of love trouble (like a misunderstanding, or her not thinking he's romantic enough) it might cause the reader to want some sort of defining 'Yes, these two are definitely a couple and in love' moment.

    If you think the story can survive with the reader knowing they love each other and the reader knowing that THEY know they love each other, a declaration of love shouldn't be necessary. However, without a confession, the story could leave the reader feeling unsatisfied and thinking 'Did they get together or not!?' In the end, it depends on the way the story is written. So far, it doesn't sound like him loving her is any big revelation to either them or the readers, so I would say a love confession isn't needed.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Again, the story is what makes it OK or not OK. You are telling me things that may be evident in the story, "the love between these two is quite mutual". That leads me to ask, why even ask about love unstated? I don't get it. Why does it go unstated? Why do you feel the need to leave it unsaid? What point does it serve the story?

    It is indeed not necessary if there is a reason and if you understand (and relate to the reader) the implications/consequences of the unstated words.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes - if he loves her, and he doesn't have a problem with acknowledging that, and you're worried about the fact that he never says it...why not just have him say it?
     
  11. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there ChickenFreak;

    It's not something I'm particularly concerned about, I'm just curious how others think it may come over. My inclination is to maintain it the way I
    have designed it so far, without any scenes where he says outright that he loves her. I'm just curious how important others think this factor may
    be in a story with strong romantic elements and in which the romance plays a decisive role at certain points.

    NeonFraction;

    Thanks for stopping by. In this case, the relationship is established for the hero but it is new / is reestablished over the course of the series for
    the heroine. It's pretty evident from early in the story that there is a strong romantic connection between the two, but their relationship spans
    several lifetimes. They don't have much melodrama, especially since the whole story takes place amidst a massive war, but there are periods
    of tension and uncertainty, especially on the part of the heroine because for her much of the relationship is new despite their previous history.

    Ginger;

    I am aware that the story itself and the strength of the writing have a lot to do with what may or may not work, I'm mostly just curious what
    other writers / avid readers (particularly of the romance persuasion) think of such a scenario. The love between them is very powerful and
    integral to several parts of the series, so I'm mostly just curious how important folks think it is to hear him say it outright.

    Thanks again everyone;

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely don't have to worry about "I love you." The "hero" sounds incredibly lame, though.
     
  13. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Well thank you for your esteemed opinion, how constructive it was not. -sigh-

    Thanks for stopping by, though.

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's powerful love, I do find it a bit weird if he never confesses his love to the possible love of his life... but, you know, people are weird. Maybe he just never says it in those words, maybe he has some obsession with the words so he can't say them (like an actual mental condition? You know how some people have to wash their hands exactly 10 times etc.), he's afraid of jinxing it or something. Besides, they're just words. If he shows his love in actions rather than in words, that's perfectly fine and potentially interesting too. And if there's never a suitable moment in the story for him to say those words, then leave them out, no sense in cramming something in there that doesn't feel right to you. I doubt I'd stop and wonder "huh, wonder why he never confesses his love the way most people do?" unless you make an issue out of it.

    Good luck with your story!
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The "does he say it?" is just one factor, and it's hard to judge it in isolation, even with the other background that you've given. So I want it to be clear that the impression below isn't grounded with, well, much in the way of grounds. :)

    But I am getting a vibe of what I might call an "over competent" character, and an un-balanced relationship. There's a lot of focus on everything that he does for her and sacrifices for her, and on his goals. And on him being cool and reserved, and very very important. I'm getting a calm, cool, powerful character standing on a cliff's edge, his chin up and his cloak fluttering behind him. :)

    And that isn't working all that well for me, in terms of romance. I want some whimsey. I want some evidence that he has a sense of humor, and that the two of them can bond on trivial as well as cosmic world-shaking grounds. I want to be able to identify with him, not just stare at him worshipfully. I'd like to see him going out to the market to try to find those green-onion doughnuts that she loves so much, and being befuddled because his marketing has always been done by servants and he doesn't know how it works. Or something like that; I want to see a lack of perfect competence.

    And I want her to do important things for him, rather than her just being the object of his sacrifice. I want more balance.

    Maybe that's all in there, but if not, it may be something to think about.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you are going about this backwards. What your characters do or don't do should be based on your reasons, on what you want the reader to feel about the characters and the story.

    If you are aware you are leaving something out, a profound love that isn't openly acknowledged the way most profound loves are acknowledged, then you should have a reason for that. It shouldn't be a random thing that just doesn't have a scene and you are curious how the readers will view it.

    Here are some possibilities:
    A) The readers might not notice, it's so clear the two are in love the reader just assumes they weren't privy to the exchange of words.
    B) The readers might notice, and the missing words might weaken the emotion the readers experience between the characters.
    C) The readers might notice, but it has meaning about the characters, the absent words contribute to the emotional picture you are creating.

    Ask yourself, what is the importance of leaving the spoken words out? If you answer is, no reason, it just not there and I wondered what people would think, then you need to go back and get into the heads of your characters. Because you've left out something that one finds with every other profound love and that suggests to me, you better have a reason for it or you do risk the readers reacting negatively to it.
     
  17. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    No, the character does not have to say, "I love you" in order to show affection, although hearing said words is nice. There are plenty of ways to show affection towards someone: remembering things they say, doing something nice for them, telling them they look handsome/pretty, trusting them, complimenting them, being polite and honest, comforting them, sleeping with them (no sexual implications intended), etc.
     
  18. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there ChickenFreak;

    Ah man, your response really made me laugh, the mental picture you painted is riotous. Laughter aside, though, you do raise some
    valid points concerning the power dynamic in the relationship and such. There's a lot of background and other details that I'd love to
    share, since the characters and their interactions are worlds away from the humorous example you penned, but suffice to say that
    they're both relatable characters, with their own idiosyncrasies and imperfections. Indeed, though it's evident that he is very skilled
    and intelligent, his lineage isn't revealed until toward the end of the 2nd book, so he's no poncy prince. ^.~

    At any rate, thanks again for your comments, I appreciate the feedback. :)

    Hey there again Ginger;

    Thanks again for your response, I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

    Cheers everyone;

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really don't see this as any different from real-life relationships where the parties don't actually say the words "I love you" to one another. There are many people who don't regularly say this phrase, but they show their love in other ways -- a gentle touch, or making coffee for the other person exactly the way he/she likes it, making sacrifices, etc. It sounds like you have these other sorts of things in your story, and I'm not sure anyone would even notice the lack of this particular phrase if it's clear they love each other. In fact, if you force them to say it, it might come across as unnatural and might end up conveying the opposite of what you intend.
     
  20. Kramitdfrog
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    Kramitdfrog Member

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    well ill come from a science fiction classic that I can relate to. Han Solo yes I'm going with Han Solo... well you probably see where this is going and I've actually had this reversed on my quiet often...


    princess leia: "i love you"

    and what does Mr Solo say just before being frozen in carbonite.... "i know"

    Perfect you dont need to have him say I love you but you can actually have him acknowkledge the love in different ways... the fact that he continues to save her ...

    Ive actually said I love you to girl friends and generally speaking the women have been converted or are starwars girls or just plain scifi nerds... I know

    I know is perfect and I understand what she meant... I think what im trying to get at is princess Leia comes off as a tomboyish tough girl... and lets face it she got a soft side... but Han is male and has been a tough boy his whole life... lets face it.... you play around with the cutesy little girls ... the ones that conformed to societies crap, even pretend its love but you love the tough girls... cos they got balls... and you dont say i love you to a brother ... cos in the end you love her more than a brother but you treat her like a best friend... best friends become lovers.. and thats where true love should come from... a friendship before the love... and men most men dont like pussy footing about ... we dont do romance we do friendship and then romance then LOVE...

    women forget the friendship i believe... so

    I know
     
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  21. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Personally, I dun fell like you need him to say "I love you", especially if he shows it in so many other ways.
    Sometimes I wonder if people haven't become so overly connected to those three words that they think its the ONLY way of proving you love someone. Well no, its not, there's a lot of ways to show you love a person, and not everyone is going to say those three words. Hans Solo is a good example.
    Honestly, as a reader, I'd feel like the author made a sacrifice to make a character do something they usually wouldn't. If you have an emotionally detached character (like I do), they aren't going to go out of their way all the time just to say those three words and make the world happy, and we as readers don't NEED to see it in the story. Grant it, there are the few times where we're just screaming at the one character to make a move (aka Robin and Starfire), but that's totally different because they might not show their love for that person, or the other person on the receiving end is just a blockhead and dun get what the first person is trying to achieve.
    But yes, dun force you character to say those three words to suit the world. If he's the type of character that won't openly say it for whatever reasons, then please please PLEASE dun sacrifice part of his character just to make him say it where we can see it. Just having him acknowledge he loves her is enough. Even if he says "I know".
     
  22. hvb
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    hvb Member

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    Good luck with your story.
    For me, I keep thinking that you shouldn't ask your readers/forum members what they think about that, but your heroine: what does she think?
    Does it matter to her? if she is a strong woman, wouldn't she mention it? It is something she as to react to. What does she think about it, has she talked about it with someone else? Has someone else said something about that to her? It seems to be a bit of an issue to you, so it must be part of what is happening there, so could you write it in?
    Just my 2c worth.....
     
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  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Exactly, hvb. Welcome to the forum.
     
  24. alexandriadeloraine
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    Hey there hvb;

    Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate your feedback, but this isn't a case of the hero never telling the heroine that he
    loves her. The hero does tell the heroine he loves her, no doubt many times over; the readers simply don't see it.
    Anyway, I wasn't asking so much because I need advice about how to handle it in my story, but more because I
    was (am?) simply curious what other writers / readers think about saying or not saying 'I love you.'

    At any rate, welcome to the forum and thanks for joining in. :)

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But we are only telling you what we think. :) And neither hvb nor I are trying to tell you what to write or what your story is about or who your characters are. We are simply describing the road an author takes in order to put those people in your head onto a page where the reader can share them with you.
     

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