Writing 101: Breaking Up is Hard to Write

Characters in books are made to fall in love, aren’t they? It happens so often, in fact, that there’s an entire book genre that’s just about characters falling in love. It’s nice to fall in love, and it’s nice to write about falling in love. It’s even nice to read about, and that’s why it gets written about. But in the real world, that shining coin has another side: the breakup. This is a very hard thing to write, but you can’t always avoid it. So flex your typing fingers, and get ready to break some hearts.

We’ll Always Have Chapter One

Sometimes break ups happen on the page, too. There are a few different ways to write it, and I’ve rarely seen it done well. But it is a fact that when characters fall in love, a break up can always happen later...even if it’s only a temporary one.

  • Depression: Many authors follow a break up with depression. How long did Bella sit in her room? A sense of loss is a very common reaction to a break up, but it’s depressing to write and depressing to read. Lots of readers get turned off by characters who wallow.
  • Taking action: On the flip side, characters who become very actionable after a break up are very hard to control. Judgment is commonly impaired, and reckless action results. This can be fun to read, but you’re the one who has to clean the mess up later so just keep that in mind. A character coming off a break up might go out drinking or otherwise looking for trouble, even when you wish they would be reasonable instead.
  • Moving on: Some people move on to a new romance after a break up. This is the inevitable conclusion to most stories involving a love triangle. This is also the trickiest to write. You don’t want a character to seem heartless for moving on too quickly, and you don’t want the character who got dumped to become too sympathetic (unless it’s the hero and he’s watching someone else move on). You either have to turn the rejected character into a villain or make sure that they, too, are moving on into a new relationship. If you kill the rejected character, then the main love interest always won a little bit by default in some minds.

Breaking up is hard to write because it involves a lot of complex emotions. Figure out how your character will work through it, and make it feel like a natural transition for them. You can use break ups to make characters stronger, to present them with another challenge and to make them more human. Break ups happen, even to the best of characters. It takes the best of writers to put it on the page in a believable, and eventually rewarding, way.

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