In honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to take a moment to discuss the Love Interest. To many of you, the Love Interest may be nothing more than a dreaded cliche that is to be avoided at all cost. To you the Love Interest is a cheap and lazy way to garner emotion from your audience when you can’t think of a more interesting or more compelling way to do it. Well, I think that the Love Interest is a vital way to add depth to your screenplay and to your main character.
There are two ways that this happens that are integral to writing a good script. Now, just because you have a Love Interest doesn’t mean you’re writing a Love Story. Plenty of great action films and dramatic films have had Love Interests that are secondary to the overfall story, but help add depth to the script and to the Hero. Here are the two ways this is accomplished.
First, the Love Interest gives the Hero more to lose.
This is important if you’re trying to write a dynamic and dramatic screenplay. You want the audience to care about your character (we’ll get to that in a moment) and you want the audience to fret when she’s going to lose the things that could make her happy. The first time we see Avner (Eric Bana) in Munich, he’s making love to his pregnant wife. He will later be assigned the task of assassinating the people who planned the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. This is a task he has to perform with ruthless efficiency, but we are reminded throughout the entire journey that not only is Avner’s life in danger if something goes wrong, but so are the lives of his wife and child, whom he loves very much and for whom he would do anything. That adds tension and drama to the story and makes it about a lot more than the planned assassinations. Lethal Weapon 2 is one of the great action films, and they had to come up with a way to give Detective Martin Riggs more depth, since his suicide angle had been resolved in the first film. So they gave him Rika, the secretary at the South African embassy. We know that he lost his wife before the first film in the series, and now he’s experiencing love for the first time since, and he’s achieving a level of happiness that we’re not used to seeing with him, and we want that happiness to last. When she’s put in danger, there is real tension in the story. And speaking of action films, who can forget Die Hard, and John McLain’s wife falling into the clutches of Hans Gruber? No matter what McLain goes through in that picture, it won’t mean a thing if he can’t save his wife at the end.
Drama comes from tension and there is an endless list of films that aren’t necessarily romances or romantic comedies that use the device of the Love Interest to give their hero more to lose, this raising the tension, thus raising the drama. It isn’t a lazy way out. It’s an essential story telling component.
Second, The Love Interest Humanizes Your Hero.
Speaking of Lethal Weapon, the first time we meet Martin Riggs in the first installment of the franchise, he’s struggling to resist the urge to shoot himself. We find out later that he’s been on suicide watch since the death of his wife. We never even meet the Love Interest in Lethal Weapon, but she is a major component to humanizing a character that we will come to discover is an efficient killing machine. We need to have that humanization of Riggs, otherwise the story will not resonate with us at all, and the component for doing that is the universally relatable component of a Love Interest.
I was thinking about all of this as I was watching Rocky a couple of weeks ago.On the surface, the character of Rocky is not terribly likable. He’s a dimwitted knuckle-breaker for a local loan shark and he’s a second rate boxer who isn’t even taken seriously by the guys at his own gym. But one thing that screenwriter Sylvester Stallone did was he gave Rocky Adrian. Rocky is like a bull in a china shop. He’s loud, he’s rude and he’s in your face. Adrian is like a mouse. She’s demure, shy and introspective. They are polar opposites who are perfect compliments to each other, and the fact that Adrian is able to fall in love with Rocky allows the audience to look at him like he’s a human being. The Love Interest allows the audience to empathize with the main character on a level that they otherwise might not have been able to do.
This is important because the audience has to empathize with your Hero. It doesn’t matter what kind of story you’re telling, if the audience doesn’t empathize with your Hero, you might as well not even bother. Is adding a Love Interest the easy way out? Perhaps, but it’s also incredibly effective. Does every film need a Love Interest? Of course not. A Love Interest is not always appropriate, but when they are, they are an incredible way to add empathy, tension and drama to your script. That makes the Love Interest an incredibly powerful screenwriting component.
Do you have a Hero that needs to be humanized or needs to be given more to lose? Monument Script Services can help you find that missing component and advise on the best manner in which to get it into your script. Click the link below to see which service is best for you.