21. Boy Loses Girl, 22. Girl Loses Boy, and 23. Boy and Girl Lose Each Other THE GREAT urge that slick editors have to put something a trifle different into their magazines sometimes leads them to take chances with their golden formulas. An editor prints a lot of stories, very many more than any single writer writes. So an editor can take chances. If 90 percent of slick love stories end with the lovers in bed or about to go to bed, and 10 percent end with the lovers wiping tears from their eyes, there doesn't seem to be much point in producing the latter. At the end of the discussion of standard plots, a section will be found concerning "problem stories." It might have been just as well to have relegated these unsuccessful love affairs to that chapter. But somehow, feeling that their mechanics and idiosyncrasies might be more clearly explained when contrasted with happy tales of amour, I decided to give them here their own listings and space. Of the three possibilities indicated by the chapter heading, "boy loses girl" is the most acceptable. Considering usual slick literary standards, a few very creditable exam. pies have appeared on glossy pages. In doing this type of story the intention of the writer is most often to produce a heavy, terribly poignant tale that will tug at the reader's heart strings till they break. The editor's purpose is, first of all, to give the reader a change of pace, and, secondly, to introduce a "quality" tone into his periodical. But no smart editor hands out heartbreak without a dark shadow of doubt being cast over his cheery, optimistic soul. Quite often in the case of the boy losing the girl, the story will be carried along on a comic level. When the boy is finally turned down by his loved one, the unexpected outcome has a certain shock value for the reader. And the story is saved from being ironic-usually by compensating the hero in some other way for his loss of the girl, or perhaps by having him discover that he wasn't truly in love with her at all. Take the following:
"I" am busy getting freshmen initiates for my fraternity. It is the beginning of the college year and frosh week. One freshman will be a particularly fine catch for whichever fraternity gets him, since he is a boy millionaire and will be able to contribute handsomely to the frat coffers. I am also deeply smitten with the charms of a certain campus co-ed, but decide to put off my ministrations to her till after pledge week is over. I center my activity on snagging the millionaire student and, in the course of pursuing him, learn that he is engaged to, of all people, the girl of my dreams. It looks like a nasty dilemma, but, true to the old frat, I leave the girl alone and go after the millionaire. After we have pledged him, he tells us that he has purchased the mortgage on a rival frat house with the intention of foreclosing and so lessening our competition. My frat brothers and I do not consider this quite cricket and, in order to dissuade our new member from this unbrotherly act, give him some very rough treatment. He relents, but then buys the mortgage on our frat house and holds it over our heads for the remainder of his four years at the college. When he graduates, he presents the mortgage to the house as a farewell gift and marries my own true love. The predominantly feminine readership of most slick magazines seems to account for many peculiar slick mores, one of which concerns girls losing boys. A girl losing a boy is damned serious business, not to be made light of. Suppose, for instance, one were to write a story about a bright, ambitious fellow who worked very hard at a certain trade or profession and yet turned out a miserable failure. What kind of a slick piece would that make for male readers? Love is a woman's trade-even in the economic sense-and watching some heroine fail to make the grade is rarely an inspiring or amusing sight for the slick female audience. But, as with cases of boys losing their beloveds, stories dealing with the theme do occasionally creep into the slicks. Here's one.
"I," a young American woman, work in a Paris bookstore. I see a lady come into the shop one day inquiring after the proprietor. When she leaves, after having failed to see him, I follow her into the street. She tells me that during the war she fell in love with the man who now owns the bookstore and, eaten away by the passion, has come back to find him again. I tell her that the man she once knew, the Resistance fighter, the good and noble chap she loved, is no more. He has turned into a roue and a lecher; he is no more the fai thful, innocent young man who once had some use for sentiment. Hearing this, she decides to return to England, her home. The snapper is that the shop proprietor is actually still the sweet fellow he always was. But he is now happily married to another woman. I am working there at his bookstore only to be near him, because I love him too. I know the pain of unrequited love and told the lie about him to the English girl so that she might be better able to free herself from her yearning.
The story of the boy and girl, mutually in love, who lose each other is not really a rarity, if one considers (as discussed in Chapter 12) the pieces which deal with married men and women falling in love with third parties and giving them up in order to save their marriages. But as for the genuine "boy" and "girl," the young uncommitted pair losing each other, it's a phenomenon as rare as a total solar eclipse.
Non-slick literature is, and the motion pictures of the 1930's were, full of such stories. But I came across only one example of the plot-that is, one example which was not incidental music to a stronger story.
A young man, an ex-soldier, is having dinner with a sophisticated young woman whom he has known for some time. By usual standards, she seems to have everything. She is fairly witty, more than ordinarily bright, and pretty-in a cold, American way. As she chatters on about this and that, the ex-soldier's thoughts slip back to the time he spent in occupied Japan and to the Japanese girl he fell in love with there and who fell in love with him. He recalls all the tender details of the idyll, and every now and then the small talk of the girl he is with intrudes on his reminiscences. He realizes, hearing the girl's vacuous patter, how wonderful his Japanese sweetheart had been by comparison. He remembers the heartbreak of having to leave her in Japan because of their decision that the prejudice against Oriental miscegenation would be too much to bear. The story closes on a note of infinite loneliness and frustration.