What are typical figures of love stories?

Each figure has a specific function in a story – similar to a chess piece: For example, one figure is supposed to fall in love. Another one has already fallen in love and wants to separate. A third figure wants to prevent the love of two others and sabotages the lovers. However, a fourth figure helps the lovers and so on. Characters always serve a higher goal, the central story to be told.

In love stories there are different parties. Besides the lovers (the main character and her partner) there is often an opponent. Furthermore, there is almost always a character who supports the love of the two lovers. The two latter figures are secondary figures. I call these secondary figures either the party of the “troublemaker” or the party of the “helpers”.

“Troublemakers” serve to make the love of two characters more difficult. They make sure that the love doesn’t develop too quickly. For example, the figure of a jealous husband can take over.

“Helpers”, on the other hand, support love. They bring together, for example, spouses who have gotten over their problems and encourage the main characters.

These “typical figures” are placeholders of our decision-making options: We as humans can fall in love. We can be loved. We can help or hinder others in developing their love. Maybe we get to know ourselves a little better by means of these placeholder figures?

The most important figure in the field of love stories is the protagonist.

The protagonist

The protagonist of a film is the character with whom we as viewers sympathize and cheer most. This is, for example, Rose in “Titanic” or Scarlett in “Gone with the Wind”. A protagonist and his story can also be the occasion to tell a story in the first place. This is often the case with stories based on a biography. A protagonist has the following characteristics:

  • The perspective of the narrative is predominantly that of the protagonist.
  • Of all the characters, he is introduced in the most detail at the beginning of the story.
  • With him the spectator is supposed to cheer and sympathize.
  • He experiences the strongest emotions in the course of the action.
  • He is directly involved in almost every plot line of the story.
  • He makes the plot that is at stake most clearly and demonstrates it properly. In a way, he personifies the plot.

Sometimes an author first invents the protagonist and only then decides on a plot. Or an author has the plot first and then chooses the ideal protagonist. However, there is no clear rule on how an author should proceed. Every author works individually.

The protagonist is always the character who is at the centre of a story – whether it is a love story, adventure or action movie. In adventure films, however, we have a different constellation of characters than in love films. In adventure films, for example, there is always a strong opponent, the so-called antagonist.

This does not always occur in love stories or only in passing. Exceptions are the superplots “Revenge after a Breakup”, “The Love Intrigue” or “Love Lies”. There even the protagonist’s partner is a real antagonist.

So it depends on the genre on the one hand, and on the plot on the other, above all, whether and how the antagonist’s party is set up. Therefore, it is not possible to name a constellation of characters that applies equally to all love stories.

The partner of the protagonist

Since love stories should be about love, the second most important character is the protagonist’s partner. If the protagonist is active, he or she also takes the lead in the plot. For example in “Gone with the Wind”. In “Titanic” Rose is the protagonist, but she is rather passive and waits to see what Jack does. So Rose is an initially passive protagonist and the partner Jack is initially active. But there is no rule for who is active or passive. It all depends on the story and how it is told.

Protagonist and partner are bearers of the following relationship: They strive either towards each other or away from each other. This means that the main characters love each other or hate (miss) each other.

The lovers should not be neutral to each other or only for a short time or be indifferent to each other. Only in this way can tension and conflict arise.

Typical secondary figures

Essential tension can be brought into a love story by the antagonist or the so-called “troublemaker”. He usually hinders and prevents the protagonist and his partner from getting together. Only the already mentioned stories with the superplots “Revenge”, “Lies” and “Intrigue” have a real antagonist in the genre of love stories. In such a case, however, the antagonist is no longer just a secondary character, but becomes a partner of the protagonist.

Normally the function of the antagonist in love stories is limited to that of the troublemaker, whose presence should naturally be of great importance for one of the main characters. The term antagonist in relation to love stories is therefore in my opinion rather inappropriate. The term “troublemaker” describes his function more accurately.

The troublemaker may be, for example, a husband on a business trip or a partner on holiday. His presence and his return then hover like the “Sword of Damocles” over the heads of the protagonist and his partner, who are about to fall in love.

In many love stories the troublemaker hinders the coming together of the lovers. He delays the plot more and more and creates tension whether the two lovers get together at the end or not.

As already mentioned, there are also the other important secondary characters, the “helpers”. Those who act as “supporters” or “friends” of the main characters. These are often selfless people who care a lot about the welfare of the protagonist, for example. Helpers have the following qualities: they like to listen, have a lot of patience and a great understanding for the problems of the lovers.

One party that is sometimes forgotten in connection with love stories is society. Social upheavals can hinder or prevent love. In films like “Casablanca” (1942) or “Gone with the Wind” (1939), society plays a central role as the “troublemaker”. A social troublemaker can be the war, the associated imprisonment of a partner or the separation of a partner in social chaos.

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