The Lover Archetype

Believe it or not, the Love Interest is vital to any Hero’s Journey and is an essential Archetypal character. While we’re all used to lovers appearing in stories for the sole sake of having a romance element, the Lover does help the hero grow as part of his/her transformation (the most important part of any journey).

So here’s the deal: the Lover helps the hero better understand other people/humanity. By falling in love, the hero is made whole and his/her experience and knowledge base is made more complete. Of course, having a Lover will also give the hero something or someone to fight for (which is why the Lover is often taken hostage or at least the stakes of the quest are connected to the Lover’s future).

In a good story, the Lover does not exist simply to satisfy those members of the audience/readers who like romance. The Lover exists to show the hero new perspectives, open his/her eyes, add to his/her understanding of the world, give him/her someone worth fighting for, and give him/her the promise of a life worth living AFTER the journey is over.

The Lover may only appear in a few scenes. He/she doesn’t have to be a main character.

Before examining the Lovers in my normal movie list, lets consider a hero who does NOT get a lover and what happens as a result: Rambo. In the 1980s, David Morrell created John Rambo in a novel called First Blood  (the character was famously portrayed by Sly Stallone in several films). Rambo is a Vietnam War Veteran who is trained to kill and then released back into the population where he is shunned and lost. Nobody loves him. As a result, he remains a broken killing machine. He never achieves peace or happiness—even when he defeats the bad guys. Now, if Rambo fell in love and someone truly accepted him, helping him get back in touch with his own humanity . . . he might have turned out very differently and would not be nearly as tragic a figure.

  • Major League: Lynn Wells becomes Taylor’s love interest and helps him mature (which is important for him to do). While she gives him motivation to succeed, she also helps him transform into a more mature guy who will be able to find happiness after his baseball career ends.
  • Stand By Me: None of the young boys has a lover. Maybe next year, kids.
  • Harry Potter: Harry’s growing affection for Ginny Weasley serves a few functions. She helps Harry stay focused on what is important (saving the world). She is put in danger giving added motive for Harry to defeat the bad guys. In the end (spoiler alert!), we see that she and Harry marry, have children, and lead happy lives together. While Harry and Ginny spend significant time apart, their relationship is vital to Harry’s growth and eventual happiness.
  • The Godfather: Kay tries to keep Michael on the side of light. Though Michael marries her, he also rejects her values and consequently falls into darkness. If he just listened to his wife. . . .
  • Batman: In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes is the one who shows Bruce the depth of Gotham’s problems. In a way, she is the Herald for his journey to becoming the city’s savior. It is important to note that Bruce looks forward to the time when Gotham doesn’t need Batman anymore and when he and Rachel can be together. Bruce knows that his life is incomplete without her. This is why her death hits so hard and why he spends eight years in mourning.
  • Lord of the Rings: Aragorn is pretty centered due to his love for Arwen, but he retains a lot of doubt (until the final book/film). She has confidence in him and helps him see and accept his path. Without her strength, he never would have been able to become the King the world needed. In the end, they marry and live happily ever after.
  • Star Wars: Poor Luke. He thought he had a love interest . . . but it was really his sister, so . . . yeah. The love plot goes to Han Solo. Leia certainly helps Han analyze his own character and encourages him to be a true hero rather than a mercenary. Han has to accept his true self (hero) and this never would have happened if not for Leia.
  • Skyfall (James Bond): Bond is the closest hero in my list to Rambo because although he has plenty of lady friends, few are meaningful. Bond uses women and doesn’t let the too close (he got pretty burned in Casino Royale). Generally speaking, the Bond Girls are there for fun and games. In Skyfall, he really has no true love interest though he manages to find a few girls here and there. Instead, we see his love for M (who has become a surrogate mother to him). When M dies, Bond cries, and we see a rare glimpse of his humanity.

Why Outline?

There are so many variables to weigh and balance when starting a novel, it is silly not to spend considerable time mulling things over, working out the conflict, major scenes, character background and personality, setting, deciding on a point of view, and a thousand other things before you actually begin writing the book.

Some people dive right in and just start writing, claiming that they don’t know what will happen or even “who did it” in a murder mystery until the characters reveal it to them . . . though I suspect these claims are false and yield shoddy stories.  Still, maybe that approach will work for you, but most of us need to plan well in advance.

For the ending to satisfy, you should consider it when you write the first page. I can’t imagine any novelist is like Mozart, seeing the entire story before him all at once in one fantastic flash of inspiration. Therefore, if you just start writing before you have a good idea of where you’re going and how you’ll get there, you will likely end up getting lost. At the very least, your opening will not be as effective as it would otherwise be if you could lay some subtle groundwork. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll probably write some okay stuff, get stuck, not know where to go, realize you should have done something else 40 pages ago, scrap the last 40 pages, etc.

I wrote “essays” on each of my main characters. I pretended that my novel was already written and a professor told me to write a character analysis of each major character in the book. Basically, I looked at their personalities and histories, then plotted their character arcs—figuring out how they would change during the story, which scenes would catapult that change, how the background info was relevant (or not) and how to reveal it during the story, etc. This was a huge help!

I also wrote brief paragraphs about what I consider my main themes: explaining each theme, how it is introduced, developed, and what the story says about it in the end. If I found that a theme got “dropped” somewhere, I had to make decisions: do I scrap that element of the story? Do I find a way to “bring it back in” by the end? What changes would need to be made? How would this decision affect other factors in the story?

Use the computer, note cards, post-its, or whatever you want—but get organized before you actual begin writing that novel.

Keep in mind that IT IS OKAY TO DEVIATE from your outline. And you will. When you do (usually because your characters demand it), you may be able to easily steer the book back on course. If you can’t or the characters won’t let you, you’ll need to start outlining again from that chapter onward. Or I suppose you could go back and revise the character so that he/she would make a different series of decisions that would allow the book to remain pretty much on track with your original outline—but even that involves going back and doing a lot of rewriting and seems odd.

NOTE: It is true that you can discover a lot by writing, but if you do so without an outline or map, the writing will be without direction. As a result, you’ll end up cutting much of it. You might surprise yourself and come up with some fascinating characters, scenes, and plot points, but most likely, you will have to rewrite much of your work, so outlining can save you a lot of time. Diving in and writing while brainstorming might give you a rough draft. More likely, it can be a useful way to get to know your characters, but you’ll still have to do major revisions—possibly even starting over once you do know where you want the story to go. I know several authors journal as a character. They are often surprised by what the character will reveal to them during this process and some of that information makes it into the book. But that’s a journal. It isn’t the novel. That’s the author “doing research” to get to know the character and those journal pages will not be in the novel itself, so journaling is not writing the novel.