Anyone out there care to brainstorm with me?
I have a vague idea for a romantic novel, and I know its very, very rough outline. Two long time friends fall in love in college is step one. I've got some stuff written down in this section already. But then they are taken apart for, I don't know, 10 to 15 years before finally reuniting permanently. I can imagine the reunion scenes decently well for not having written them. And I kind of have a feel for the novel -- what I want the emotions to be like, what the moral struggles are about, etc. The main trouble is that I can never decide what takes them apart.
It's a contemporary novel, essentially, though it could move around a bit this way and that as needed -- 80s through 00s or even 10s. I have been watching a preview for the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, and it looks like he uses the old device of rich girl / poor boy with an interfering mother. I don't want to use that as it comes across as a cliché to me nowadays. However, the only thing I can really come up with is some sort of war; believe it or not, I keep coming back to war with aliens. But, well, that's got its issues clearly.
I know I don't want it to just be a misunderstanding. And, while I plan to make full, full use of the normal pressures of hometown friends moving in new directions with college and future jobs, I don't want that to be the whole story. I want both of them to always believe or at least hope that the other person still wants them desperately, but there is something stopping them from being together. In fact, I have a little bit of a Casablanca image where our loves and needs don't mount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Both the heroine and the hero are choosing to do the right thing, choosing to do some task, which keeps them apart. And at least the hero is starting to hate that he must do the right thing over and over while his life is slipping away.
When the wait is finally over, well, have you seen (or read) Like Water for Chocolate, where the two lovers set the entire room on fire? That's the emotion I'm going for.
So, any thoughts? What can keep two people who want to be together apart in the modern world? They are both American, but travel is okay.