Everyone loves a good love story.
Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy gets Girl back.
What a classic, am I right?
We’ve all seen or read it a million times over, and we keep coming back for more. Because above all else in life everyone wants to love and to be loved. Even us tattooed, weight-lifting, chest-pounding apes called men love a good ol’ heart-tugger now and then. Heck, one of my all-time favorite movies is Untamed Heart with Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater. But shhhh! Don’t tell anyone.
Time is life’s most valuable commodity, but Love is life’s most precious gift.
Such is life.
But sometimes we don’t always get what we want, also such is life, so we watch a movie or read a novel already knowing going in that the two lovers will eventually end up together despite whatever differences separate them. Just like we want them to do. Just like we yearn for in our own tragic lives.
I can’t think of any other genre which has the same predictable ending 9 outta 10 times yet still endures to this day (‘Liar, Liar’ with Jim Carrey is a great example of that 1 outta 10, by the way). So much so that nearly all movies not of the love genre have “the love story” as their subplot.
Rocky and Adrian.
Neo and Trinity.
Han Solo and Princess Leia.
But I digress.
Romeo & Juliet, and When Harry Met Sally.
Two of the classics.
One modern, and one . . . well, not so modern.
To the untrained eye these two love stories are as different as night and day.
Romeo & Juliet fall in love at first sight.
Harry and Sally argue to the bitter end.
But to the trained eye they are almost the exact same story.
Two potential lovers meet, are separated, then meet again to live happily every after.
Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy gets Girl back. Or vice versa; Girl meets Boy, blah blah blah . . . depending on your cup of gender tea.
Of course, Romeo & Juliet “meet again to live happily ever after” in the afterlife by committing suicide, and that depends on your personal opinion of the existence of said afterlife. Clearly Shakespeare believed in one, at least for their story.
So what’s the “almost” difference?
Boy loses Girl.
Or, the separation.
Romeo & Juliet are separated by External circumstances. Their warring families hate each other, and the two young lovers are forbidden to be together because of it. But like all horny teenagers they defy their families’ wishes and see each other anyways. Because that’s what lovers do. Darn those rambunctious teenagers!
Harry and Sally don’t have such family problems. Their issues stem from another source: themselves. They’re adults. And their separation is one of Internal circumstances. Harry believes men and women can never be friends because of sex always getting in the way, while Sally believes men and women can be friends just fine without ever having sex. They argue this topic despite their clear attraction to and chemistry with one another, then separate to go about their lives until they finally meet again.
So who is right?
They’re both wrong, silly!
And after learning as much, Harry and Sally meet again to live happily ever after together. Yay!
The only real difference between Romeo & Juliet and When Harry Met Sally are the circumstances which temporarily separate them. Romeo & Juliet = External. When Harry met Sally = Internal. Switch the circumstances around and you have When Romeo met Juliet. Or Harry & Sally.
You see, life is like a box of . . . no, wait, that’s not right.
A bird in the hand is worth . . . no, no, no.
Adversity builds character.
That’s not only a fact of life but a fact of fiction. Especially so a fact of lovers.
And “adversity builds character” also happens to be the premise of every story ever told before they’re written.
Boy meets Girl has been done a million times before, and will be done a million times again. So if you’re planning on writing a Boy meets Girl (or Girl meets Boy), then as the writer it’s best to begin plotting with why they can’t be together. Because the circumstances of their separation (External or Internal) is not only the true test of their love, but the whole middle of your Boy meets Girl story.
Boy meets Girl, and Boy gets Girl back, are just the two pieces of bread. Boy loses Girl is the entire meat of your lover sandwich.
Don’t choose bologna.