Writing Tips and Tricks: Using the Hadestown Model to Build a Romance

by - October 26, 2020

 Hello, my friends! I keep being insanely sporadic with my posts, but I'm FINALLY here to post again. Today, we're going to deal with how to write a ridiculously shippable romance, using a single example. Yes, I said just one. One example of how to write the perfect relationship (if you ignore the last three songs of the musical).

That relationship is Orpheus and Eurydice from Hadestown.

(all photos in this post courtesy of Pinterest)

If you're into musicals, I would absolutely recommend this musical. It's so powerful, it's (99%) clean, it's got the best romance of ever. It's something I can recommend with almost zero qualms. It will definitely break your heart, though, so bear that in mind (I've already broken both Brooke and Nicole with this, so...yeah).

(I see we're back fast and furious today with the parentheses.)

Today I'm going to do less of actually looking at the plot of Hadestown, and instead going to deal with how to write a romance using Hadestown's Orphydice (a thing?) as a model! So with no further introduction, let's jump in!

1. If your hero is going to be weird, make him endearing

I adore Reeve Carney's depiction of Orpheus. However, it's...weird. His first words to Eurydice, upon meeting her, are, "COME HOME WITH ME...I'M THE MAN WHO'S GOING TO MARRY YOU". Which in most (all?) contexts would be uncomfortably odd. But here it is not, and that's for one simple reason: Eurydice asks Hermes, Orpheus's father-figure, "Is he always like this???" and Hermes shrugs with a "yes". 

Orpheus is a dreamy, drifting character, wandering the earth trying to find a song that constantly eludes him. This applies to his personality in that when he meets The One, he's ready. He doesn't push Eurydice into anything she's uncomfortable with (boundaries and consent, people!) but in his obliviousness, he's adorable and compelling. He brags about how amazing he's going to be--but then demonstrates how that's true. He's humble. He makes mistakes (a heckin' lot of them, but never vicious or callous). He's always trying to do the right thing. His goal is to save the world.

Yes, Orpheus is a weirdo. Even so, he's precious and he needs to be protected.

If you're going to write a male character who's Different, don't just assume that if he's physically attractive, he'll make up for any faults. He needs to be endearing. And all readers (or at least most) will prefer a uniquely lovable guy to a physically hot but creepy guy.

2. Make BOTH characters compelling

In Hadestown, we're introduced to both Orpheus and Eurydice individually before we get to them as a couple. We already have an idea of what each of their general goals are before we get to their meet-cute, and even after their meeting, they are both individuals on top of their couple dynamic.

This is crucial. If you're writing a romance where both characters are important, you need to be able to make EITHER of them the protagonist. Even if your book has a clear protagonist and the other character is the love interest, you need to let them have their own storyline. (This is where I think a lot of my books fail, as well as popular YA--too often, the love interest's goal becomes to BE their S.O.'s world. *cough*Peeta*cough* *cough*Esma'sboyfriend*cough*. So shy away from that and give them a goal OUTSIDE OF THAT). 

3. Give each character their own desires and wants

Feeding in from my last point: THEY BOTH NEED TO WANT THEIR OWN THING! Of course they can have shared goals (like each other's happiness! Aka a healthy relationship!) But firstly: let them support each other. And secondly: LET THEM WANT SOMETHING COMPLEX. That it takes the entire storyline to get. MAKE THEM FIGHT FOR IT. 

4. If there's going to be conflict in the relationship, it needs to be something complex for both characters.

This goes back to those separate goals! Are your characters each interested in getting something that could provide some hefty conflict in their relationship? Because if so...boys HOWDY you have a good subplot (or even main plot) on your hands.

Orpheus's goal is to save the world by writing his song and playing it for the gods. Eurydice's goal is much simpler and lower to the ground in appearance, but on face value it suddenly becomes far more important: she wants a house and food. Both characters are homeless, but both of them wish to solve their homelessness in a different way, and HENCE comes the conflict. Eurydice wants to solve it by remedying her own problems, whereas Orpheus wants to go to the very root of the problem and eliminate the world conditions that make life so hard.

This is hard to pull off well, but if you CAN, do. It's BRILLIANT when it works. It generates conflict, which drives the plot, and means your characters have to deal with each other's problems too. aND if your characters' romance can survive an argument, it can survive many things. Including the villain. ;)

5. The single most compelling thing you can do is make the guy willing to go to the ends of the earth for her.

Yes, before I continue, this can go both ways. But come on, ladies. There's just...SOMETHING about a guy fighting through all odds for us that feels like magic. 

I love this trope so much. Orpheus just embodies it so well. He loses sight of his goals--and when that causes him to lose Eurydice, he decides to follow her "to the end of time...to the end of the earth...with all my heart". The songs when he chases her down across the ends of the earth are just *chef's kiss* He doesn't do it through physical strength, but he's still SO strong. And it just....ARGH do this more often, people. Please. My heart. 

In the end, it doesn't matter what the guy fights for her--just let him fight SOMETHING. My little romantic heart will pass out in a flurry of joy. Like literally. There is almost no better way to make me fall in love with a story. 

And there you have it: five fast and furious ways, direct from way down Hadestown, to make your readers love your characters and the romance between them! I hope y'all enjoyed this post ^_^ Let me know your thoughts as regards these topics in the comments below!

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  1. ACKKKKKKK I Listened to Wait for Me while reading this!!!

    This whole post. This is everything and it's so true!!

    I know we talked about the entire thing in detail as you wrote it so I don't have much to say besides MY HEART IS BROKEN THANKS A LOT!!

    Also I LOVE your new blog look. Whoever did it must be super talented. 😏😏😏

    I love you boo. Your posts are everything to me.
    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    :: words in her soul ::

    1. EEP YAY!!!!!

      Thank you!

      Well ya know...Hadestown ;)

      Thanks! and yes, she is ;) ;)

  2. Also I love the aesthetics of this post!!! Everything about this post. I just want to scream how much I love this post. To the ends of the earth <3

  3. aaaannnnndddd I'm just gonna spam you because I can >:) MUHAHAHAHA

    okay I'm done now. Love you. <3 <3

  4. So good to see a post from you!!! :D Ack, these are all such good tips! Girl, you are a pro (and no, Esma's boyfriend doesn't need anything more, he is absolutely wonderful as he is! <3 ;)) I know that I need to work on all of these.

    I haven't listened to all of Hadestown because I couldn't focus on it, but the main reason is that once I realized what it was I remembered that the myth it is based on terrified me because of a version that I read when I was younger. BUT, Wait For Me is such a heartbreaking and beautiful song. <3 Maybe my sister will convince me to finish it sometime. ;)

    Btw, I tagged you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. You don't have to by any means, but it's there if you want to.:

    1. Thanks! I'm TRYING to get back into it (hahahaaaaaa I try but will I succeed? Who can know?) (and yeah he needs help...but not much ;))

      Ahhhhh that makes sense and that's totally okay xD

      Ooh, that's awesome!!! Thank youuuuu

  5. aw, love this post. ♥️ Hadestown is amazing + heartbreaking (it took me so long to force myself to listen to the last couple songs). "Way Down Hadestown", "Wedding Song", and "Chant" will always be my favorite songs. ♥️


  6. Lovely to see a post from you! I've had Hadestown recommended to me now by three people (You, Nicole, and a cousin of mine) so I'm definitely going to have to listen to it!

    These tips are so! amazing! and yes! to! everything! I especially like what you said about making conflict complex--because non-complex conflict is both boring and cringey, but complex conflict is riveting.

    1. Aww, thank you! And yes, you MUST (I was the one who got Nicole into it, so...mwahahahaaaaa it is SPREADING)

      ACK THANK YOU!!!!!! :D

  7. Somehow I've never heard of Hadestown??? But it sounds EPIC! Speaking of epic...


    I wish like EVERY YA writer would read this because YES. SO MUCH GOODNESS HERE. And so much we basically never see in YA!

    Example #1: "And all readers (or at least most) will prefer a uniquely lovable guy to a physically hot but creepy guy." PREACH. Quirky, adorable guys are my FAVE and I get so tired of the hot, creepy ones. *sigh*

    I also just want to scream "YESSSS!!!" to your second point. I've seen so many novels where the love interest is just...there, to be the love interest, with no goals or personality to speak of. Both sides should absolutely be compelling and we should love them INDIVIDUALLY, not just love them because the protagonist does.

    Also SO MUCH YES to guys willing to go to the end of the world for their loves. It is precious. SO PRECIOUS.

    Basically, I AGREE WITH ALL OF THIS. This is SUCH solid advice that I really wish more writers would take to heart! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    (Also I've missed your posts and was so happy to see this!)



      I loved writing it! It was SO FUN

      I love me a good quirky guy I will fall in love with him FAR faster than I will the creepo heartthrobs and that's really what every YA author needs to know about me xD (actually that kinda explains everything about my top book list yikes)


      It's just...yeah I am mush


      (And awww tHANK YOUUUU)


  8. I got wayyyy too excited while reading the header for this. I very rarely come across someone else who loves Hadestown.
    Orpheus is amazing and precious.
    And I love Eurydice. (*cough* And she's personally one of the most relatable characters in a musical I've stumbled upon.)

    1. I love Hadestown SO very much *sobs*

      She's just THE BEST and I should've spent more time on her xD But I actually feel Eurydice is the easier character in terms of development, so Orpheus is easier to address from a YA standpoint? But YES EURYDICE MY GIIIIIRL

  9. I love this post and agree with all the points 1000%!!! We need more couples like you described! ^_^

    I've never heard of Hadestown before so I'm intrigued now and need to find a way to watch it. :)

    1. Thanks!

      It's AMAZING. The soundtrack on Spotify is awesome.

  10. Fantastic post! We need more couples like Orpheus and Eurydice minus the tragedy of course. XD
    Anyway love this!


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