1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Trauma of Saying "I Love You"

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Catrin Lewis, Feb 7, 2014.

    I'm trying to round out my characters in a novel I'm revising post-first-draft, and I could use the community's input with my main/POV character.

    What in a young woman's past (and especially, in her past romantic relationships), might cause her to find it more momentous (and scary) to tell the hero she loves him than actually to sleep with him?

    It's important to know that she is, at the time of the encounter with the hero, sexually experienced to a point but physically and psychologically still a virgin. As the scene stands written, I have her openly confessing love for a man (the hero) for the first time in her life. She manages this only with difficulty, but once she does, emotional catharsis follows and their relationship grows.

    This hangup of hers (and how she overcomes it) is a major plot device, but I think there should be some justification for it in her backstory. Thanks in advance for any comments and ideas.
     
  2. easyhell
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    easyhell Member

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    Well there are a slew of different things that could make a woman afraid of the big 'L' word. She could have been burnt before, having said that she loves a man just to have him turn around and abuse that trust and understanding. Perhaps she has had childhood issues, a deep rooted distrust for men or the concept of love. There could be undertones of sexual and/or mental abuse to the point where she wasn't capable of loving herself let alone someone else.
    Oh so many possibilities!
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Expanding on the above post, parents who never got along and/or divorced, let her down, is a common one. Dad that ran out on her, leaving her to not trust men, another trope one sees a fair bit of.
     
  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm, yes. A fair bit of, in fiction and in reality.

    So far, though, I'm thinking a reverse twist on that. I see her having had a good relationship with her dad, but having spent most of her college years betraying the principles he raised her in-- only to have him die when she's 20 and in the middle of it all. Maybe she feels she let him down, and she's not worthy to give her love to a good man?
     
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  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anyone who is at all insecure or has had trauma, (including, possibly losing a loved one -- i.e. Dad, and not wanting to love and potentially lose, therefore get hurt?), or has been deeply hurt by someone, *could* be very reluctant to admit love or to allow her/himself to fully experience love.
     
  6. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ooh! Ooh! I already have her referring to her dad as having died "in December"; the one thing she keeps straight on is her dedication to her studies: maybe he fell ill when she was in the middle of finals and didn't come home because she wanted to finish them and didn't think his condition was that serious? And he died before she could see him one last time? I see a lot of guilt there!
     
  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've already made her very inclined to hero-worship, and she spends her freshman year idolizing a good-looking, talented senior, around whom she weaves detailed fantasies about the passionate and productive life they'll have together-- once he gets around to noticing her. Unfortunately, he notices her in all the wrong ways and tries to rape her. She fights him off with a knife, and tells no one about the attack, for all sorts of reasons. Yeah, that'd make for some trauma in the past . . .
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  8. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would it make sense that after that she would take up with an alcoholic bum of whom she has no expectations whatsoever, much to the grief and frustration of her parents? But had no pretense of actually loving him?
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If it's not to late you can delete the message in an edit and just change it to 'duplicate post'. The post stays but the double message doesn't.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oops, didn't think of that. Replaced the duplicate text with a couple of follow-on comments instead. o_O
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I use that trick quite often. :)
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    You have to make it make sense. We can't answer that. It's all about your character's inner conflicts and inner goals. These plot points are merely avenues to address your character's conflicts and growth, or lack of it.
     
  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    True. One thing I'm struggling with is how aware I want her to be about the effects of all this, and if so, when.
     
  14. SuperVenom
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    Could it be she just doesnt know what love is. The feelings alone when you know what it is can be fearful never mind if you never felt it before.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Well, if you know Disney's production of the film Hercules, you might get some inspiration. The heroine, Megara, has her own song called "I Won't Say I Love You". One of the lines goes as follows: "Unless you're dying to cry your heart out." Her backstory is simple enough, since it's Disney - take a look.

    As for in real life - either a woman whose view of sex is purely physical enjoyment, or a woman with some trauma in her past that involves sex, either sexual abuse/rape, or even simply being used by her boyfriend who always walked out on her the moment the deed is done. Combine this with perhaps either the words "I love you" always meant something to her, or perhaps that no one's ever actually used those words for her yet.
     
  16. David K. Thomasson
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    Here are seven possibilities.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the link.
     
  18. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    There might be something in that. I've painted this character as very idealistic, even if she frequently doesn't live up to it.
     
  19. jannert
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    Is she pretty sure the guy loves her back? Or is she taking a risk that by saying "I love you" to him, he will turn around and say "Errr ...well, I love you too, but just as a friend, can we cool this down?" Has he said "I love you" to HER yet?

    There are two possible risk factors here.

    One (which lots of people have alluded to, involving her past experiences)—she is committing herself to a relationship which may turn out to be disappointing, abusive or unworkable.

    Two—she's making her innermost feelings known to somebody who might not return them.

    I know which of these two scares ME the most...
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
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  20. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    To me it seems like the situation the OP describes has almost become the norm in modern society: sex is no big deal, but telling someone you love them is near impossible for some. However, I do believe it occurs more in men than in women, probably due to traditional views on masculinity and emotions. I also personally believe it makes a lot of sense: sleeping with someone is technically something you can dismiss as a one-night stand or something similar to yourself, the person you slept with and friends and family, but if you reveal to them that you truly love them, especially if they love you back, that has a lot of implications for the direction your life is heading.

    You can't just tell someone you love them and immediately purposefully leave them forever as if nothing happened. It's a commitment, and as such it's understandable that even people who really do love eachother may find it hard to say, because it's such an important thing, in the same way that the things we want the most in the whole world are often the hardest to do, such as approaching the person you have a crush on, for fear of rejection or making a bad impression. Also consider the massive blow it would be if the other person then confessed to you that they don't love you in return.

    Humans hate change, rejection, loneliness and not having an escape plan. It's a huge step to tell someone "I love you. You'll always be the most important person to me in the entire world. I want to marry you. Let's move in together. My family will be your family, my friends your friends, and maybe we'll have kids, and we'll never kiss, have sex with or want anyone than eachother else until we die, no matter how poor, ugly, ill or annoying you may end up becoming.". You may or may not like the concept of "fuck buddies", but you can't deny it's a less complex system.

    So my advice is to write it as the natural thing it is. Inspiration may be found in real life and movies and such. If you've had bad experiences with something, like your female character seems to have had with men before, this may cause her to fear ultimate rejection, abuse or being left alone or not taken care of, sparking her "hatred" of those three wondrous words we all know and ... like. :p
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
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