There is something about love and tragedy that go so well together. Romeo and Juliet. Buffy and Angel. Sam and Grace (Wolves of Mercy Falls ). Scarlett and Rhett (Gone With The Wind). Forbidden love makes for some of the most emotion writing. Unrequited love is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all the love stories ever written, because the heart wants what the heart wants and there is no telling it otherwise.
A while ago, I was at a party where a 17 year old boy was in a total mess. Why? He was in love. Not just any old kind of love. He was in unrequited love. You see, also at this party was a girl he had a crush on. He told us he had tried everything to get this girl to notice him and everything he tried had failed. He was a nice boy, and perhaps this was his problem. Here sat a nice boy, a look of dejected misery on his face, and he was talking to us and not the object of his desire.
Sometimes the person we love can walk a million miles around us and not notice us at all. Ow, that hurts.
Perhaps wanting the unattainable wasn’t entirely this boy's fault. Many of the heroes in novels and movies are tough, edgy, dark, brooding and totally off limits. ice guys finish last” is a bit of catchcry of many an unrequited love story. And there is a safety feature in wanting the unattainable that you don't get in conventional love - the're's less risk of any real damage.
In “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, Peeta has had a crush on Katniss since forever, and Katniss plays on this to save her life, but when the games are over she wants nothing romantically to do with Peeta. Besides, Katniss has another admirer in Gale.
“Wicked Lovely” by Melissa Marr is another example if unrequited love, but it is also an example of what happens when one party has the power to force this love onto the other party. Keenan the Faery King becomes infatuated with Aislinn and tricks her into becoming his Queen, but Aislinn already has a boyfriend whom she loves and refuses to be with Keenan. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t always make someone love you.
So how do you even know when you are in love? Well, you cry every time a soppy love song comes on the radio. You burst into tears during any scene in any movie when the male and female love interests finally kiss. You can’t walk past another couple without sighing. You can’t stop thinking about the person you are in love with. When you eat an apple you wonder if he/she is eating an apple. You dress to impress. You infuriate your friends by talking nonstop about this person.
And how do you know when you are in unrequited love? Well, you still do all of the above, but you also stalk the object of your desire from close by, from afar, even from cyberspace. You mope around for all to see. When somebody suggests you ask somebody else out, you sigh and cry, “You don’t understand”. You buy gifts that are tucked away into a secret drawer and you take them out during full moons. You read books on magic spells. You feel as if every minute you are near this person is pure torture. You think he/she will love you back if they’d only give you the chance. You think that nobody understands what you are going through.
All very sad yet and all so very sweet, after all, the heart rules when it comes to love. No wonder there are countless books, movies, songs and websites devoted to unrequited love. Tragedy and love is what makes the world spin, so it makes sense that when you put the two together you have a far better story than simply “boy meets girl and they fall in love”.
In my novel “The Bird With The Broken Wing” my two female characters, Rachael and Jet, are in love with the male character, Ben, but for different reasons. Rachael is an angel and Ben’s protector. Jet has a crush on Ben, and Ben likes Jet, but Ben’s head isn’t in the right place so they never end up connecting. Perhaps that is what unrequited love is really about. In fiction, authors have characters whose timing is off, or the situation is wrong, or there are other factors and missions that a character must accomplish before he/she can settle down to love.
If only getting over unrequited love was as simple as writing The End. Or as easy as forcing our characters to “get over it” or “find somebody else”.