The Basics of Writing Love Letters

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Be Specific

Imagine, if you will, a room -- a gathering -- of all your old flames. I mean all of them -- Gina from the fourth grade, Chris the sophomore soccer player, and hot, handsome Joe from last night. Now, let the sheer terror of this situation roll off your back -- it's just a daydream. Let's say that at some point you wrote love letters to all of them, and they are now going to stand in a circle and, one by one, read your letters aloud. My question is: Do your letters all say the same thing? Do you jump from relationship to relationship carrying with you the same compliments, the same romantic turns of phrase, the same run-of-the-mill repertoire?

If you do, then don't. You've got a new and exciting person in front of you and they deserve new and exciting tokens of appreciation as unique as they are. Grant each person a version of your love that no one else will ever have access to. Even though things won't always work out, each relationship is significant and special in its own right and should be treated as such. Let this be reflected in your letters. So that if you ever did end up in the scary circle scenario it wouldn't be as awkward. With every letter read it would be clear that you noted and highlighted everyone's individual eccentricities. It would flatter them all to know they possess affections from you that no one else has ever or will ever receive.

I'll be the first to proclaim that there is no formula for love letters. Close your eyes and feel is the best advice I can give, but if you need help kick-starting the process, here are a few suggestions:

How to Start The first sentence of just about any written work is always the hardest. It is, however, slightly easier with love letters because there's no introduction required -- you can get right to the point. One quick sentence and you're good to go. Try starting with a sense of urgency, "There's something very important that I need to tell you." Confessing a state of helplessness -- both mentally and physically -- also works well, "I'm sitting here unable to focus and barely able to breathe, as thoughts of you are taking on a life of their own."

Bring on the Adjectives Make a list of all the things you adore about the other person. For example: Bright, thoughtful, driven, daring, beautiful, breathtaking, I-can't-stop-looking-at-you! You get the idea. Then use this list to craft the letter. Wrap a few sentences around each word. Like so: (Adjective = striking) "You know I didn't hear a word Chuck said when we were at his party because you were in that baby blue dress and everywhere I turned I could see you out of the corner of my eye. My God, you're a striking woman."

Disguise Your Letter Camouflaging love letters as thank-you letters always gets a good response. Thank them for the things they do, "Thank you for washing my car last weekend." But also thank them for things they have little to no control over: "Thank you for making every day a truly unique experience -- you are an unending mystery." Or "Thank you for looking so radiant when you first wake up. The sight of you is the perfect start to all my days."

Ask Questions I find that clever, rhetorical questions work well as a flattering technique: Could you be any sexier? Could I look any better being seen with you? Could you be any sweeter? How could I possibly stop myself from falling for you?

Take Note of the Time Pointing out the length of a relationship is an effective tool. If you've been together for a short time, write "I can't believe my feelings have grown so strong in only four months." If you've been together forever, then that certainly deserves a nod: "Well, would you look at that? After thirty years I think it's safe to say we beat the odds."

Fake 'Em Out Please, forgive the reference I'm about to make: There's a Michael Bolton song, "Said I Loved You...But I Lied," which sounds harsh, but the lyrics continue, "Said I loved you, but I lied. 'Cause this is more than love I feel inside." This misleading concept translates well to letters. You could write something like, "You, for some reason, find it necessary to distract me from work and from volleyball on a regular basis. Thank you so much for doing that."

Counteract the Cliches There are common compliments that we all need to hear -- pretty eyes, lips, hair, naturally good-looking, talented, smart, funny, etc. Of course use these, but try to use them in a fresh way. Play with the words -- it's fun. Well, I think it's fun. Instead of writing "You have beautiful eyes," try "I'm helpless in the presence of your electric eyes." Instead of "I love your smile," try something like "Your smile is my favorite distraction."

For Better or for Worse Every relationship has its sore spots. Some spots are huge issues and others are minor irritations that you eventually learn to laugh about. I suggest using the latter in your love letters. Let them know you love them with all their imperfections attached. For example: "You are still my favorite person, despite the pile of trash that always seems to be at my feet when I ride shotgun."

Role Reversal Think of a few compliments that your love may not be used to hearing because of their sex. You can tell a woman you admire her for her strength, courage, determination, and bulging biceps (okay, maybe not that last one). And I'm a firm believer that every man deserves to be told at least once in his life how beautiful he is, especially by the one who loves him.

Have Fun You're not in trouble. They're not in trouble. There is no trouble. There is only satisfaction and delight. If you find yourself sitting down to write a love letter, congratulations! You're in love, and that is a good place to be (unless you're writing a love letter for someone who does not feel the same way).

Continued on page 3:  Details, Details, Details


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