WRITE LOVE STORIES WITH HELP FROM HIT K-DRAMA, THE KING’S AFFECTION
Or The Art of Writing Romance That Will Resonate With Your Audience
When I look back on the kind of stories that have stayed with me, I can find mysteries, comedies, suspense thrillers and definitely horror, but none has swept me to dizzying heights of emotional investment as much as a good love story. John Donne said that no man is an island entire of itself. I believe it is true of the human heart too. Within the heart itself beats a secret yearning. A yearning for the Other. That missing piece that completes this Jigsaw puzzle we call our human heart, is none other than your Significant Other. And a good love story resonates precisely because it awakens our awareness of this secret yearning, and reassures us of something that we want desperately to believe.
That true love exists.
And we can find it.
The best Korean drama series pulls us in with a good love story at the heart of its narrative, and the most recent one to do so is The King’s Affection. Much can be learned about the art of writing romance from watching this 20-episode series on Netflix.
The Plot Engine of The King’s Affection
The series premise is based on an oft told “Switched At Birth” plot. In this case, twins were born to a king. This is forbidden as it was considered to be disruptive to the social order. So the court ordered the girl to be killed but as fate would have it, it was the boy twin who died, leaving the girl to assume his identity as the Crown Prince. Only a few people know the true gender. That’s the plot premise that kickstarts everything else that follows.
And everything else that follows is when the story picks up ten years later.
As in all period dramas set in a palace, there is the inevitable political intrigue. The betrayals. The power plays. The sacrifice of good men as they strive to right the wrongs of corrupt rulers. The inevitable gender sub plots and misunderstandings that ensue. But I wager that they are all just side dishes in a typical Korean meal. Garnishing meant to whet your appetite for the main dish. In The King’s Affection, this was the Romance and, in this case, the romance between the Crown Prince and the Royal Tutor, who has no clue that the Prince is his childhood first love.
Whether the series resonates with the audience depends entirely on the writer’s success in selling this romance to the audience.
Romance in Korean Dramas
Here’s the thing about love stories in Korean dramas. The consummation is never the point. It is the romance that matters. The intricate choreography of courtship. The back and forth, and ebb and flow of the attraction between the hero and the heroine. Lust is an afterthought. In Korean dramas, and particularly in The King’s Affection, a man and a woman is drawn to each other because of a quality of goodness in the character. Not only is she pretty but she is caring. Not only is he handsome but he’s thoughtful. Love begins with noble intentions and an admiration of good character. This is important. It brings us into the embrace of the two characters so that we are invested in their relationship. They become for us, people whom we can aspire to be, because they appeal to the better angels of our nature.
But an initial attraction is all very well for the beginning of a romance. How does one prove that one is worthy of a love sustaining? In The King’s Affection, the writer does not just make the hero say nice things. No, that is not enough. The writer made the hero do things. Unexpected things. Things that put the woman in the forefront of the hero’s thoughts. In King’s Affection, without venturing too much into spoiler territory, it would be the following.
He built a garden for her and renovated an old crumbling house because it was where she spent her peaceful years as a child.
He lit a path with lanterns so that it would be safe for her to walk in the evenings.
He changed his secret wish to a wish to become a doctor who helps people in a poor village because that was what she had wished for. That the people in this particular village had doctors who would care for them.
The cynic amongst us would sneer at such actions. Some might even say they are cringe worthy. But I dispute. I think it shows us what real love can and should be. It is about being so in tune with your Significant Other that you are able to think five steps ahead of how you can make the life of your mate better without your mate realizing it. It is about proving, with actions, that you mean what you say.
These actions made the hero in King’s Affection very likeable, and more importantly, showed the audience that he is indeed a “worthy catch.” Only when the audience is sufficiently convinced that the couple is meant for each other, will they will be emotionally invested in the romance. They will desire to see the boy get closer and closer to the heart of the girl.
To close the distance.
And it is your job as a writer to prolong that distance until the very last scene in the very last episode of the series.
Takeaway For A Writer
“I have always loved you. There has never been a moment when I did not.”
These words must be earned. They will gain maximum emotional power only when the hero has cleared dozens of obstacles. Keep them apart, then bring them closer, before you break them up again. Keep doing that until the audience teeters on the knife edge of agony. Because when they finally get together, the love will feel earned. The audience will be convinced. Love is not love when only pretty words are spouted. Love is not love when mere declarations are made. Love is love only when words are accompanied by action.
Character IS Action.
And if you wish to write a good love story, make the romance convincing. Have hero and heroine demonstrate their affection with action.
Let the first spark of true love begin with an admiration of a quality of character.