On the first page of The Art of Love I let the reader know that the protagonist, the young art student Patrick will have his heart broken. The readers then watch Patrick meeting Mary, falling in love and both of them stumbling along in their relationship. When I met the Delta Kappa Gamma book club a week ago they all said they grew increasingly hopeful as they read the book that Patrick and Mary could somehow make their relationship work. Even though they knew from the first page that it would fail, they kept hoping it would all work out for the best.
This has been a typical response of people who have read The Art of Love. I asked DKG as I have asked other readers, “Have you ever been in love?” DKG readers answered, as most of my readers have, “Yes, of course.” I followed up with my next customary question. “And have you had your heart broken?” Again, the usual answer has been, “Yes.” I could have written a traditional “Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, get married and raise a family” kind of story. But the struggle is in making the relationship work. Many times it doesn’t work and that’s where the best stories come from. That’s where I as the author and you as the reader find tension. Heartbreak makes a good story because we have all muddled through a broken heart. We can all identify with Patrick when his relationship with Mary fails.
Patrick and Mary are friends with an artistic power couple, Melanie and Aaron. They offer a contrast to the naivety of Patrick and Mary. Melanie and Aaron are beautiful, successful, and rich, living a dream life in a fashionable loft apartment above their art gallery. Patrick idolizes Aaron and hopes to be like him after he graduates art school, selling great art and living with Mary. Mary wishes she could be more like Melanie in many ways but can’t bring herself to live that life. Ironically, Melanie wishes she could be a little more like Mary and walk away from her wild lifestyle and past. As the story develops Patrick and Mary discover that this seemingly ideal relationship is not all they have believed it to be. That is a different kind of heartbreak, seeing our friends love stories falling apart.
As the reader turns the pages of The Art of Love they begin rooting for Patrick and Mary. They are charmed by Melanie and Aaron. We care about these characters. But remember. We read on page one that it will fall apart, things will go bad. Isn’t that the way it is with the relationships so many of us have been involved with? We care about the other person, we ignore the signs that things are going wrong and cling to the hope that it will all work out.
That might be the beauty of my story. With love we are almost always optimistic. But too often it all comes apart. That is why our hearts break when we lose love.
Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel. Peter Stipe.com Facebook: PeterGStipe