The Art of Actual True Love

Credit: Nasjonalbiblioteket

Credit: Nasjonalbiblioteket

“My darling, I cannot remember what life was like before I touched your hand.”

“You have a most wondrous hand! Holding it feels as if the world has begun anew.”

“I have only one desire more: To come to the other side of the bench and behold your face.”

“No, my love. This is why I wear such a large hat. I fear you would find my face far too beautiful and would never be able to look away.”

“I already never want to be away from your side, and why would I want to step away from such beauty?”

“To be frank, my love, a lady needs her privacy now and then. Gazing and holding hands is wondrous, but I do have other hobbies. I am nearly finished becoming a zoologist, and I certainly can’t take my exams with you staring at me, can I?”

In songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Ten Minutes Ago”, or “Call Me Maybe,” the spark of instant attraction is celebrated. While these are fun, many of us are unfulfilled and unimpressed by these instantaneous bursts of love. While this sort of romance is wish fulfillment, we sense the lack of grounding in reality and real emotional impact.

As a writer, I’ve thought a lot about what makes a great, realistic romance, and it breaks down to one thing: it must be earned.

Any emotional arc in a story must be earned, but this is far more important, and sometimes trickier, in the romantic arc. This is why I have trouble accepting romances like Romeo and Juliet and Twilight – they have an instant attraction which they are willing to sacrifice everything for. It’s a fast-paced and dramatic emotional arc, but lacks the sweetness and impact of a love which must be earned.

Love-at-first-sight can work – I think it works well in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and in the Kowalski-Queenie romance in Fantastic Beasts. However, there still must be a price to pay and a developing relationship where we go along the journey with our romantic leads, building up to the moment they are able to come together. When the couple is able to finally acknowledge their love and have their first kiss, their wedding, or whatever the culmination of the story, there is a great pay-off.

Even better still is the long-term romance. More often than not, we focus on the courtship and presume the marriage will work itself out. However, with marriage come obstacles surrounding jobs, children, illnesses, and so on. The married couples who stay together for decades, becoming closer together despite the challenges in life, should be celebrated.

To this point, I want to share a quote from my latest book, The Lady and the Frog:

“True love is a lie for starry-eyed dreamers. It’s a silly passion, which lasts three months into marriage and then fizzles into the grind of daily life. True loyalty, however, is far more powerful, and lasts much longer. It means, no matter what comes, you will do what is right for those you care for.”

With this in mind, I want to share some of my favorite examples of both slow-burn and long-lasting romances below.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular classic Disney films and fairy tales because of the long-burn romance. Both characters change and develop over time, growing to understand each other. This does not rely on instant attraction, but on seeing past the layers of anger and hurt to the person beneath.

It will be fun next month to see the live action Many of us are excited for the live-action version of this classic Disney film because this

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

After 200 years and a thousand remakes, Pride and Prejudice is still a classic for a reason. Similar to Beauty and the Beast, it’s not easy for Darcy and Elizabeth to overcome their own prejudices and faults. I think the long-lasting power of this story, besides Austen’s wit, is the transformation of our opinion of Darcy by the end, when he is revealed to be an incredibly good man. (Being rich, good looking, and falling in love with Elizabeth Bennett and her wit doesn’t hurt either).

On a side note, I included both of these because I think it’s debatable whether the 1995 or 2005 version is better. Both are excellent and deliver a different tone – The 1995 version hews closer to the book and the 2005 version is slightly romanticized. I slightly prefer the 1995 version, but it’s also nice to have a solid feature-length version (with incredible long takes and cinematography to please my Film Major heart). Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe

While Anne spends most of her life dreaming of romances similar to her story that ends up selling Rollings Reliable Baking Powder, her real romance is with her childhood friend Gilbert. He is the epitome of patience, always waiting and longing as she’s too busy to realize what’s always been there. Fortunately for Gilbert, and for us, Anne is able to see Gilbert for everything he is, and now you can go to YouTube and see many, many, many music videos of their romance (as set out in Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Avonlea (1987).

The Princess Bride

No romantic list would be complete without The Princess Bride. Lately, I’ve read some complaints that Westley is kind of a jerk to Buttercup. I say he’s trying to figure out what’s going on and cover his emotions. How would you feel after running around as a pirate trying to survive that you show up and your true love is engaged to another? I think there are stronger romances on this list – and Miracle Max and Valerie are a great older, married couple (despite their bickering) – but this film still deserves its place.

Up – Ellie and Carl

Speaking of the long-term couple, the entire emotional heft of Up is built in the first ten minutes of the film, which leaves most of us with a wad of tissues in hand. The sweetness and growth of their relationship shown in a series of clips, followed by Carl’s longing evoked in a few fleeting seconds of sadness is one of the best romances on cinema. This is the sort of relationship we all long for in our lives, a real true love and loyalty which lasts beyond heartaches and setbacks. Wall-E and Eve’s romance is also great, but lacks the full heft we feel for Ellie and Carl.

It’s A Wonderful Life – George and Mary Bailey

Mary Bailey is one of the great unsung heroines of cinema. Her romance with George, growing over the course of the film, and lasting into their marriage full of children and a well-worn house, culminates in her saving him. It’s Mary’s not recognizing George in the alternate reality which drives him to want to come home. It’s Mary who realizes something is wrong when George storms out of the house on Christmas Eve and rallies the troops. The end of the film, where all of the friends and family are coming to help, isn’t possible without her knowing and loving her husband. She’s a quieter character, often in the background, but essential to George’s life.



  • What makes a great romance?
  • What are your favorite romantic stories?
  • Which romantic hero or heroine sweeps you off your feet?
  • How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Side Note 1

My second book is available now in e-book and print. One thing I’ve tried to do in both The True Bride and the Shoemaker and The Lady and the Frog is to build a grounded and realistic romance in a fairy tale world. Magic and adventure swirl through the story, but the core is about real relationships between good people.

If you’re in the Provo, UT area, I’ll be up there for a writing conference (see Side Note 2), which includes a book signing from 6-8 on Friday, February 17th at the Provo Marriott Conference Center. If you’re in the Ventura, CA area, stay tuned or contact me directly. I’m working on setting up some local signings.


Side Note 2

Final reminder: This weekend is Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE), an annual symposium on speculative ficion in Provo, UT. I’ll be doing the following panels/presentations:

Pulp Fiction Power (Thursday, February 16, 8-9 PM)

A panel on Pulp fiction writing and it’s powerful impact on current trends in books and movies with fellow authors David Boop, James Minz, Alexander Sousa, and Johnny Worthen

A Review of Motion Capture Technology (Saturday, February 18 10-11 AM)

Presentation on motion capture technology, including the history, how it’s done on set, and how it’s transformed into the films we love.

Writing Group Sample (Saturday, February 18 2-3 PM)

I’ll be running a small writing group, as are various other authors over the weekend. I highly recommend checking this session out if you’re an aspiring author. Don’t be intimidated by authors – we were all aspiring at some point in our career.

I’m looking forward to this weekend and will hopefully have a full report some time early next week.

Side Note 3

Today (February 14) is the final day of the Fellowship of Fantasy Valentine’s sale. Check out the books in this post.



Side Note 4

While looking up the videos above, I stumbled on this series and was highly entertained:

Side Note 5

Last, but not least, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Freebie: Star Wars Valentine’s Day Cards |

6 thoughts on “The Art of Actual True Love

  1. Omg so many good movies you have on here! That scene in UP…oh my gosh, I still get goosebumps and tears in my eyes thinking about it – and I’ve only seen the movie once! And It’s A Wonderful Life – goodness that is good too. Mary Bailey is really wonderful. And P&P is a classic. I love the theme “Mrs. Darcy” from the newer one but the one with Colin Firth will always hold first place in my heart.

    I think you forgot Melanie from Gone with the Wind. She loves Scarlett and Ashley despite both their faults and sees only the good in people, despite everyone telling her not to. Well, upon further reflection, I’m not sure she actually grows much in the marriage, but I have always loved her.

    • Melanie is one of the better characters in Gone With the Wind – though I do love the Carol Burnett version (
      It’s very tough to beat Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, but Matthew McFayden is really good.
      When I was looking through the clip for Up to check something, I only watched the last 10 seconds and got teary eyed.

      • Hahaha thanks for that link! Just watched it and isn’t that what we all want to do to Scarlett? Funnily, I actually am one of the few people who loves Scarlett O’Hara. I think she’s a quite strong character, despite her stupidity over Ashley. I’ve read the book quite a few times, own the movie, and just love her in both mediums.

        • She’s a great strong female character who is resilient – also a vain jerk, but she’s tough, and I think that overcomes her lesser qualities.
          And, a lot of people must love her too, since Gone With The Wind has such staying power.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.