How to Write a Break Up Scene

As much fun (and often sensual) it is to pen a love story, inadvertently there comes a time in every author’s life where their characters part ways or outgrow each other. Breakup scenes are an emotional rollercoaster not only for the readers but also for authors who pen them and they can be the hardest scenes when it comes to conveying a sense of authenticity or realism. But fret not, you’ll have mastered the art of writing a breakup scene as long as you follow this long-ish list of rules…

First, let’s learn about the types of breakups…

  1. One sided breakups:  These are usually a by product of unreciprocated love and no amount of sugarcoating can make this one easy. It’s the classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ situation. And oh boy, does it sting!
  2. Mutual breakup: These usually occur as a result of a couple picking apart each other’s merits, demerits, etc or are equally toxic, indulgent in toxic behaviour such as infidelity or emotional manipulation. However, not all mutual splits are violent or toxic in nature and most can be civil, with the couple still remaining friends post the breakup while also seeing other people. Usually there are also long, awkward silences between the couple at meetings but they eventually grow out of it and get along well without any romantic obligations.
  3. One sided violent breakup: The most toxic of them all, in this case, the ex might be triggered by the breakup to the extent that they start stalking or harassing their former partner and even resort to publicly screaming abuse at them or even continuing to be emotionally manipulative towards their ex. Spurned lovers who can’t take rejection on the chin are just not worth the effort and you should most definitely call the cops on them.
  4. Mutual, civil and unexpected breakups: In such a case, couples attempt to reconcile but when all else fails and they realize they just were not meant to be, they part ways. Such relationships can often be short-lived since both parties might have believed at some point that they were destined to be each other, but alas…!

Before you set out to write, think about the motivations and how the couple behaves before the breakup…

  • Is the couple (or just one of them) having an affair or are either of them afraid of the big C (commitment)? 
  • Is one partner suspicious about the other’s whereabouts?
  •  Is there any mistreatment, misogyny, misandry, etc?
  • Are they incompatible or simply dying of boredom in a relationship?
  • Did the couple avoid difficult issues and run away from problems that later resurfaced and caused the demise of the relationship?
  • Are they needy?
  • Are they too controlling or do they consider their partner to be inferior, as in relationships wherein one partner views themselves as a saviour and feels that it is their duty to rescue the other person in the relationship? 
  • Is the partner too attached or far too distant from their own family members or those of their respective spouse? Is the partner being asked to choose between their family and their lover? Do tensions erupt due to the over involvement of a particularly nosy and annoying family member?
  • Is the couple constantly fighting over who earns the most or are they burdened by financial issues that threaten their relationship? Is one partner deceiving the other by stealing from the joint account without their knowledge?
  • Perhaps a love triangle arises when the partner/spouse spends too much time with an ex who has recently resurfaced, further leading to trust issues or even rumors of infidelity or to the present partner feeling uncomfortable, jealous or even self conscious about their prowess as a lover.
  • As that one Spice Girls hit goes- “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends…” Do your friends get along with your partner and vice versa or do either of the parties feel threatened by each other and how quickly things have changed? This can often result in awkward silences or clashes at social gatherings where both the friends and lovers are present. To go a step further, how about writing in a subplot wherein the partner is indulging in an affair with a close friend behind their lover’s back? 
  • Hey, how’s the sex life? Is there no spice left in the relationship? Are the couple past their honeymoon phase? Are they looking for sexual gratification or satisfaction elsewhere?
  • Take into consideration the age difference of your couple. Usually couples with a huge age difference may simply outgrow each other or are held back by others who do not approve of the same. Sometimes, the younger lover will also have desires that differ from what their older counterpart desires.
  • Does the couple find the little things about each other annoying? Have habits that were cute once upon a time grown to become huge turn-offs or pet peeves in the relationship now that the couple have matured?
  • Do their opinions on politics, social issues, ethics, religion, lifestyle, etc differ greatly?
  • Has jealousy or envy or lack of empathy reared its ugly head in the relationship yet?
  • Are the couple disrespectful to each other and do they convey the same via body language (eye rolls and turning their back on each other) or via the use of verbal abuse and mocking language?
  • Are the couple giving each other the cold shoulder, utilizing silent treatment or walking on eggshells around each other?

How do they react post breakup?

It’s important to sketch out the body language and emotions of your characters post the breakup as well so that your readers can sympathise or even relate to the same. So it’s best to always address the following questions:

  • Do they cope with the help of friends?
  • Do they hug it out or offer each other a last kiss?
  • Does this breakup change them either for the better or worse or help them to develop in the future? What is the impact of the past relationship on their future?
  • Do they cry or fall into a deep depression?
  • Do they move on with their life or attempt to seduce another lover in the presence of their ex to induce jealousy?
  • Are they calm and composed or react violently with physical/verbal abuse aimed at the ex?
  • Do they break down after the argument or after the mutual breakup?

Conversation is key…

Dialogue is equally as important as one’s body language during the breakup scene and here are some tips to keep in mind while penning dialogues or interactions between the characters who are on the brink of calling it quits:

  • Usually when the couple speaks or interacts before they break up or are heading towards a breakup, they will simply let their words trail off or sentences will remain incomplete as a result of the sense of sadness and dread that follows
  • If the dialogue sounds too corny or unrealistic, try reading it out loud to yourself in order to find the right way to express the same
  • Non verbal communication is definitely not off bounds, so try to incorporate silences that might add greater emotional value. After all, silences can be golden.

Now that you have these tips at hand, we hope you use them to your best advantage to a paint a picture of heartbreak that will move your readers to tears from the get go. If you thought that this listicle was useful, do share and follow us on Instagram so that we can continue to keep in touch. Until the next one…

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