Writing the Great American Love Story

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

What are you trying to do?

Sometimes you have to take a stand, and declare, in public, exactly what you're trying to do. - Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

 Every writer reaches the point: fish or cut bait

If you were writing the Great American Love Story, what would you put in it?

  • A highly improbable love, implausible but not impossible
  • People from different countries and backgrounds (this is an American love story)
  • Obstacles too numerous to enumerate
  • Encumbrances in the form of exes and current significant others
  • Fame and celebrity
  • Time
  • Beauty
  • Sorrow
  • Birth
  • Death
  • Regret
  • Self-awareness and selfishness
  • From courting to marriage to Divorce, and everything in between
  • Money
  • Power
  • Publicity, fandom, and the press
  • Battles, cannon, submarines, and horses
  • Obsession, lies, and betrayal – oh, and convenient half-truths and omissions and innuendo
  • A little discreet sex and some violence
  • Mayhem and chaos
  • Hospitals, hotels, and houses
  • Health, disability, illness
  • Sexism, racism, ageism, ableism
  • Values, standards, responsibility, duty, and impossible expectations of self and others
  • Religion
  • Politics (not too many politics – it confuses things)
  • Law (law gets into everything)
  • Education
  • Art and science
  • Characters of all ages, from embryos to fetuses to preemies to nineties
  • Hope, and all the virtues and vices, especially Pride
  • Consequences, consequences, consequences
  • And all the problems of the modern world you can fit in.

That’s my list. What is yours? What did I miss?

(Thanks to ProWritingAid.com for today’s image)

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11 thoughts on “Writing the Great American Love Story

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I didn’t start out overly optimistic – but one thing led to another, and that to another… and here we were.

      I think it will be interesting to compare reading it as a serial, reading it as three separate volumes, and then reading it as I planned it: one big fat volume. In my head, it’s one piece. Except that will be at least a couple of years.

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  1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Go it, Alicia!

    I’ll admit that I’m hoping to write the kind of great fantasy that goes beyond to genre. However…I don’t dwell on that dream. In fact, I try to dismiss it from my mind altogether, because it is not in the least helpful to me, rather the reverse. I prefer to focus on this story here, this scene now, these words of the moment, and write my passion. That I can do. Writing greatness? Oh, heaven only knows, certainly not me!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I think of ‘Great’ in this context more in scope than in greatness. One can aspire to writing well; the greatness part is conferred by readers, not chosen by writers.

      But the scope – that’s what determines, in my mind, whether you could call something like Gone With the Wind the Great American Novel. Or many others with a sweeping reach.

      I think of Tolkien as great – and Dune – and a host of other favorites. Part of it is their scope, part of it their quality. I’m sure many people have very different lists, and it doesn’t depend on genre.

      Some people think it’s The Great Gatsby – I have never been able to read it. Maybe I should have said epic?

      In the same way, ‘America’s Sweetheart’ conveys a certain scope of and quality about an actress – and there has been more than one in that category. It’s a convenient shorthand without a perfect meaning.

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      1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

        Ah, yes, that makes sense. I was thinking along the lines of “great Canadian novel” as the term was used in Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. While “epic” might convey your meaning more accurately (to me), “Epic American Love Story” doesn’t scan as well as “Great American Love Story.” 😉 You’ve won me over. (I agree that the greatness of a work arrives via readers and the passage of time.)

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  2. Nick

    I would add
    Plans and planning;
    disappointments and celebrations
    (although these could arguably be found in the already comprehensive listing you gave! 😉

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  3. juliabarrett

    Good for you, Alicia. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to write the great American anything and therefore, I wasn’t going to think about it. You can think about it on my behalf!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I didn’t PLAN any of this initially – it kind of happened, and then once it started happening, I went in whole hog. It bemuses me – but it’s been wonderful fun. I guess I started really writing so late in life that I had to do it this way. [Shakes head] Pray that I live long enough to finish it properly!

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