I luxuriated in unrequited love when I was a teenager. In my mind, love was a force, like gravity, and surely the object of my affections would come to love me back. And like a magic spell, speaking about it would ruin everything. Part of my problem was caused by reading 19th century novels like Wuthering Heights, Little Women, and anything by Jane Austen. Even Dickens got into the act – think about Great Expectations. Reading had made me believe that unrequited love was seriously romantic and yet happened every day.
As a writer, unrequited love might ramp up the tension of a scene, be pivotal to the plot, but it doesn’t do much to add to the action. Gazing longingly after your beloved and sighing isn’t terribly exciting. However, adding a Steampunk twist can add to the action. Imagine:
- an AI airship longing after a rocket
- a human in love with a robot
- an engineer obsessed with his engine
All those unrequited passions…with plenty of physical evidence. The airship dragging free of its mooring to follow after its rocket can be a scene just full of action and emotional drama.
Passion is a great motivator, and it is also a great way to define a character. What you love says a lot about who you are. I believe I was frightened of a real-life relationship at fifteen, and unrequited love was a way hiding from the physical manifestation of passion. I wanted the love without the lust. I wanted the fairy tale without the friction. What I really wanted was to be Lily to someone else’s Snape.
I am tempted to share this personality trait with one of my characters. The culture of the British Victorian era valorized unrequited love, and it would add an authentic detail to the relationships in a Steampunk narrative.