There’s a Great Love Story Behind Every Great A Crime Drama!
By Jennifer Dornbush
When we think of crime and mysteries series, love isn’t the first thing that usually pops into our minds. But the truth is, EVERY great crime drama starts with a great LOVE STORY.
How is That?
Love comes in many sizes in crime stories. Here are four common forms that drive the stakes for our crime fighting heroes and heroines.
First, romantic (eros) love. The most traditional form. This is the love between spouses and lovers. It is intense, enduring, and often bittersweet. The love of a spouse (Monk, Breaking Bad) or partner (Bones, Castle, The Good Wife) is supernatural, fiery, and irrational. Our characters will do anything to defend this love!
Second, familial (storge – STOR-jay) love. Probably the strongest bond of love on earth! It is a devoted, protecting bond between family members. Love for family will drive a hero to do anything for them! This is love between father-son (Dexter), brother-brother (Hell or High Water), brother-sister (Ocean’s 8), or an entire family (Peaky Blinders, Sopranos).
Third, platonic (philia) or friendship love. The love that two friends have for one another is a selfless love. It often takes years to build and is centered on loyalty and sacrifice. This is the love between two close childhood friends (Veronica Mars). Or two detectives working closely together for years. (Sherlocke, True Detective) Or two friends who share a common past or destiny. (Rizzoli & Isles, Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Fourth, divine love (agape). This is the love that one has for God, Truth, and/or Goodness. This hero has a complete and immeasurable love for humankind. This love hates Evil and is driven to unearth and destroy it. (Luther, Father Brown)
Explain this more?
Let’s take a look at how love becomes the center stake for the TV detective series Broadchurch.
Broadchurch is a great example of how three types of love are motivators and foundations for high stakes in this crime drama series.
The main detective Ellie Miller steps into the murder case of her friend’s son, Danny. She is driven by love for Danny and his family—Danny was her son’s best friend, (platonic love) to find out why Danny was killed. Yes, crime solving is Ellie’s job, but add the personal stakes of being family friends and you’ve raised the importance and urgency.
Now enter the real stake-lifter! Ellie’s marriage and family (romantic and familial love) are thrown into crisis when Ellie learns her husband, Joe, killed Danny.
You can see how this highest of stakes will affect her, drive her, inhibit her, transform her, and motivate Ellie through the next couple seasons. It’s one of the main reasons we are compelled to watch the show. We want to see what happens to Ellie, Joe, and their family.
How do I use love to craft a great crime drama?
Determine what type of love is driving your protagonist. The love that is motivating that hero to act should relate directly to inform her story wants and needs.
Spend some time crafting the back “love” story of your hero. Just like you and I have backstories to our love lives, so does your hero.
Ask your hero… Who have they dated before? Who hurt them and how? Who loved them and how? How do they view their love life now? Are they satisfied? Are they interested in a long term relationship? Marriage? What does their dream love story look like? Or are they living it? Are they currently married or in a serious relationship? Did their dream love life get shattered? How? By whom? Do they want revenge? Do they ever think they’ll have that perfect love story? If not, why? If so, when? What are they doing to create a love story in their life right now?
Once you have the answers to these questions (and you’ll probably discover more!) then you’ll have the solid motivation for a great crime story driven by a dynamic, multi-layered, relatable hero.
Other Love Story Tips to Keep in Mind!
• Love is the source that ultimately motivates your hero to fight crime or your criminal to commit a crime.
• Love send your hero out to solve a personal vendetta.
• Love can motivate your hero to take revenge on behalf of a spouse, parent, or friend.
• Love give your hero what they need to stick with someone they believe in despite any and all consequences.
• Love makes your hero fight for a cause she believes in.
• Love may happen to your hero while she is fighting crime.
• Love may be lost while your hero is fighting crime, forcing them to deal with it and how it affects the crime they’re solving.
• Love often has a transforming effect and make your hero a better person than he was before.
Fictional crime solving always starts with love. Determine what type of love story you want to tell first. Then, focus on creating the elements of suspense, building trails of evidence, and plotting your character’s crime solving story. Happy crime creating!
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Jennifer Dornbush, screenwriter, speaker, forensic specialist and author of Forensic Speak: How to Write Realistic Crime Dramas and The Coroner, mystery series.