Universal Plots: I hate you/I love you

I’m a sucker for the hate you/love you plot. You know the story. Girl meets boy. Girl hates boy. Girl catches boy. Girl throws boy back then gets teary when she realises that girl really really loves boy. Or vice versa.

Why has this plot proved so enduringly popular? We all know how it ends — girl and boy live happily ever after. I think it’s because we do know how it ends that we like it so much. It’s a comforting plot, the kind of story we sob over when our hearts are broken or laugh over when things are going well in our world.

The plot is pretty simple. Girl and boy meet but immediately dislike each other, perhaps because of a personality clash as in William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew  or its more contemporary clone 10 Things I Hate about You. Or perhaps they clash due to some social prejudice as in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and its clones like Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Against their wills they begin to like each other until one of them (often the boy) declares his love. A spanner is then thrown in the works (eg. Mr Darcy’s overbearing prejudice and Elizabeth Bennett’s pride, a jealous rival concocting lies, a previous misdemeanour/lover coming to light etc.) until finally they redeem themselves, kiss and make up.

There are few surprises. We all know how it ends. However, the journey has to have its own quirky little ins and outs to keep us interested and the story will only work if the characters are likable. They can be annoying at times and a little bit sneaky but the reader has to like them and want to know what happens next on their journey or we won’t be bothered reading or watching the story. This is definitely not    a plot for an anti-hero.

About Carol Jones

Carol Jones is the author of 'The Concubine's Child', set in 1930s Malaya and The Boy With Blue Trousers set in 1850s China and Australia. Born in Brisbane, Australia, she taught English and Drama at secondary schools before working as an editor of children's magazines. She is also the author of several young adult novels as well as children's non-fiction.
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