“Our” picnic table, the one where he told me he loved me, is no longer there. It was swept away during the flood last fall. I think of that fact every time we return to the riverside. Three other picnic tables survived. But the one where we sat that sunny summer day is gone forever. Want to know why that’s okay?
That day had begun just like any other summer Saturday. Except I’d had a book signing later that day, so we were just grabbing lunch “real quick.” Except he took me to the river. Except we didn’t just eat our cold sandwiches and walk the boardwalk per our usual riverside routine…
He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him, too.
I remember trying to memorize the moment. Clasp it close to my chest so I could have it all to ourselves for just that small moment. I can still feel the way his hands shook around mine. I can remember the dress I was wearing.
If you know no more of my story than this, you may be wondering how I’m going to show you how to write an authentic love story by telling you mine. Ours—my husband’s and mine—love story is a real one. It exists, even now, in a small apartment in our Southern hometown. In the shuffle of work schedules and car repairs. In filing jointly on our taxes for the first time.
And here’s the thing:
Observing authentic love stories is the best way to learn how to write them.
I love stories, especially love stories. Inspirational romances have been my favorite genre to read for a decade now. A love story saga spanning three books paved my path to publishing as a novelist. Love stories are consistently the most common form of fiction I work with as a freelance editor. Helping others learn to write an authentic love story is one of my favorite things.
After all, who doesn’t love a good love story, right?
Personally, my favorite love story is ours. Perhaps yours is your grandparents. Or a movie romance. Or the one in that novel you read that’s never left your head. Whatever your favorite love story, study it like it’s your job. Analyze why you love it so much.
- Is it the little details? Like the park bench that got swept away?
- Or is it the big picture? The fact that they knew each other for a day in 1942? Then they got married, and she waited for him for years to come back from the war?
- Is it the wondering if they’d ever get together?
- Is it the knowing they would, even when they couldn’t see it?
When you’re trying to write an authentic love story, there are so many aspects you must juggle. The pacing, the passion, the patience—not to mention all the other story ingredients plus plot swirling around, trying to make the whole thing unravel or worse.
But if you know what makes a love story an amazingly authentic one to you… Whether the little details or the big picture or whatever. The secret is this: Add that and your reader will feel as you do. As if… this couple? They’ve just got to make it. Even if their picnic table doesn’t…
Speaking of that picnic table…
Oh, you want to know the rest of the story? Well. When he proposed to me, it seemed like everyone knew inside of one evening, when we had finished making phone calls. When he vowed to me his forever and I did the same, everyone cheered when he dipped me for our first married kiss.
But the moment he told me he loved me, it was just us on a picnic table at the riverside.
Then in a torrent of rain, that picnic table was swept away the fall that the flood came. The river gorged and overtook the banks, the boat landing, the boardwalk. And our picnic table. I think of that every time we return to the river side, now receded, restored.
When we were dating, Devin would park in front of “our” picnic table. We’d pull out the sandwiches we’d packed, eat, talk, laugh. We’d always finish up the afternoon with a walk around the boardwalk that juts out over the water.
When we were married, and the flood came, I didn’t give the river a thought. We were too busy stocking up on canned goods and bottled water. Waiting for the electricity to turn back on and the rain to stop, the streets to be cleared and the waters to recede. When I found out that the river had flooded, I wasn’t surprised. It’s a tributary that traces to the Atlantic, so it makes sense. After all, all that water and rain must go somewhere. The ocean.
Weeks later, Devin and I drove up to find that there were only three picnic tables instead of four. Neither of us left the truck right away.
“That’s where you told me you loved me,” I told him, just staring at the vacant spot where our picnic table used to be.
He reached over the center console and took my hand. “I still love you.”
An authentic love story endures in the hearts of readers. Let’s write an authentic love story to that end.