It’s Tuesday! The first Tuesday after NaNoWriMo to boot. I finished with a strong 57k. It’s the first year I’ve completed it on time and I have to say I feel pretty good about it. Moving on, today’s blog topic is inspired by a book I’m reading right now. I won’t say what book it is because my complaints will give away spoilers, but it has definitely given me some fuel for today’s topic which is organic relationships.
What’s my complaint? Forced relationships. Forced. So forced. Like jamming shredded hot meat through a paper towel tube forced. It’s doable, but it’s hot. Sticky. Misshapen. Not pretty. Perhaps revolting. Definitely not appetizing.
The book I’m reading now has a wonderful story. A wonderful setting. A wonderful antagonist. A wonderful everything. I would love this book and everything about it if it wasn’t for the forced romantic relationship. It has ruined many moments for me and I just read the most awkward, unnatural sex scene ever. I don’t mean unnatural in a perverted way, but in that I just can’t believe either of those characters are willing, much less wanting, to copulate with each other. I can’t bring myself to pick it back up. I don’t know why the romance is in there. It’s not necessary. It doesn’t drive the story at all, it’s such a strong plot. The author doesn’t even justify it with lust. Or just…aaaaaaaaaaah!
Anyway, as you can see I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Or to me for that matter. It’s difficult trying to simplify the human psyche on relationships into a blog, but here I am. Trying anyway. We can spend years approaching the psychology of human relationships and their multifaceted dynamic, but today I think it best to try to answer a few simple questions instead.
Is it natural? Is it necessary?
As mentioned above, take a look at the relationships your character has and ask if they’re natural. If they’re natural and organic then necessity isn’t really an issue. You only need to figure out how prominent it is to your story. In some stories it may be what drives the plot, in others it may be a subplot handy for determining obstacles for you character. If the relationship is necessary, ask if it’s natural. If it isn’t, make it so. Shape it so that it is. If the meeting feels forced, change it. Or if the meeting is forced, make it so that the force is within the confines of your story’s world and not you. A blind date would be an example of this.
If you’re writing a romance, whether as the main or sub genre, then the relationship is pivotal. If the relationship is unbelievable then so too will your book be.
The book I’m reading is a fantasy adventure. The romance isn’t necessary. Is it necessary in yours?
What kind of relationship?
Relationships are more than just romance, of course. You have family, friends, and acquaintances and thousands of variables of each. Let’s focus on not only organic romance, but friendships and family dynamics as well. I’ll go into more detail below.
Six Degrees Of Separation
There’s a theory that every person in the world is separated by only six individuals. This can be fun to use when you think of the relationship between a villain and a hero. Heck, it’s fun to think about in your own life. You’re separated from the Queen of England by only six people according to that theory. You can have just as much fun trying to connect all of your characters.
Justification & Time
If the relationship must exist then there’s nothing you can do about it. Especially if it’s a plot point to drive your story onward. Your duty as the author is to make it believable. It’s your job to set the tone and justifications as to why and how this relationship works. Those reasons can be varied. Some examples are lust, forced to work together by elements within the story, they remind the character of another loved one, etc. If you’re writing a fantasy there is always the option of spells and magic as well. There are mind control options. And the old pretending to love someone until you do cliche. Sometimes when people are desperate they cling to someone in an attempt to cope with their situation when normally their judgement would make them more cautious. There are so many ways and reasons to justify relationships there’s no reason not to place them.
Another factor to consider is time. Have they spent enough time together? Whether talking about two friends at a summer camp or a Romeo and Juliet together at last. How much time has really passed? Now in the case of Romeo and Juliet there were many outlying factors that contributed to their believable, though rushed, romance. Their age, their attraction to each other, and the forbidden element to their love. In my own marriage my husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. In someone else I know’s marriage they dated for five months before getting married. It can vary and everyone is different. There are those who got together after two weeks and their marriage lasted a lifetime vs those who were together for years and split up. Consider what variables make that happen. Consider the personalities involved.
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me! No more. OOOOoooooOOoooo! All right, fun 90’s dance music aside, what is love? Really. Not only must we consider the varying degrees of love we have to consider the types of love. You have healthy love. Jealous love. Venomous love. Obsessions. One-sided love. Mutual love. So many variations. And of course the relationship could have all of these, some of these, or none. We are complicated creatures. Every emotion in the spectrum can be felt about our friends or significant others. Which one dominates the relationship?
Your own family dynamic probably determines how you feel about family. If you grew up in a loving environment then you probably think of family as a safe haven. People you can run to when you’re troubled. If you grew up in a conflicting or dangerous environment you wouldn’t feel the same as your counterparts. If one grows up with no family then they can go either way. Or neither. I’m not here to determine the underlying reasons for your own personal feelings towards family, but to make you aware that characters can have the same range of emotions when drawn up in three dimensions. Consider that if nothing else your family members are the earliest relationships in your life. If they’re absent they are still something one expects to be there and an anger at that absence is plausible. Or going the other direction the character could feel blessed not having to deal with the complications of family. It’s not black and white, cut and dry. Nothing is simple about family dynamics.
It’s easy for us to fall into our own romantic ideas and interests when creating a love interest for our main character. We may mirror our own desires in our characters. It’s all right to an extent. After all, we only know how we think and no one else. We’ll put characteristics on people we don’t like that we ourselves find repugnant. We also have a tendency to make the romantic interest of our main character perfect. Don’t. Everyone has flaws. Your character’s ability to accept those flaws is part of what makes their relationship real. And don’t make the flaws not really flaws. If their main flaw is to be too kind, make a it a real thing. They’re gullible. Easy to walk on or take advantage of to the point that it’s difficult. They withstand abuse. If they’re clumsy make it real. They have scars. Medical bills. They have to miss work as a result of an accident. Are these things that your character wouldn’t mind? Would it drive them nuts?
In real life opposites don’t necessarily attract despite Paula Abdul’s advice. Sometimes they do but it really depends on what those opposite attributes are. Sure if someone is relaxed and the other more uptight then it can balance out. One motivates the other while the other helps their partner to relax. (I’m the uptight one in my own relationship.) It can work, but not always. If one person is kind and loving while the other is abusive and mean it may not last long. Sometimes relationships with opposites do last for ages while others fizzle out after the fire of lust is gone. It entirely depends on what those opposites actually are. Can someone who is unhygienic live with someone who is very neat? Yes. Technically. It depends on other factors. Such as the patience of the two individuals involved. If they’re both patient with each other then it can totally work. If one of them has a short fuse perhaps not.
I don’t condemn the book I’m reading for having romance. Romance is nice and I quite enjoy it. I condemn it for having an unbelievable romance. I was immersed in this wonderful world and ripped out of it and jarred by the fact that these two people who hadn’t gotten along and one was in fact quite abusive to the other are suddenly in love. What? Just what? It came from nowhere.
Love and sex drive billions of dollars in our own real world economy. There’s a reason for it. Sex, if not love, always sells. I can see why the author thought to include romance in her story. It’s not that. It’s that she didn’t fulfill her duty in making it organic or believable. Romance can also be a powerful force to drive a character to accomplish a great feat, but it doesn’t have to be shoehorned into every story. It doesn’t have to be present on every person’s mind. It isn’t in the real world.
Just like with family and romance you have healthy friendships and poisonous friendships. The proximity of friendship varies as much as any other relationship and should be considered when you decide how far your character will go for a friend. In my own life I have friends I would take a bullet for and others I would mourn them at their funerals. Is it mean? Yes. Is it honest? Yes. Friendship can affect character reactions and motives as much as any romance or family dynamic. Any factors that you can apply to those can be applied to friendship with perhaps the exception of the sexual attraction you’d find in a romance. Then again, maybe not. Friendships can be one-sided with give and take scenarios as well as romances. What kind of friendship does your character have? Does your character have any frenemies? Think of the dynamic between Frodo and Sam in The Lord Of The Rings. One could argue either way that it’s a healthy or unhealthy friendship. Your own experience with friendship can affect your view on this.
I would put anyone not within your character’s circle of family, friendship, and trust as an acquaintance for simplicity’s sake. This can be someone they knew as a child to the guy who runs the donut shop down the street. They know them by name. They know broad spectrum facts about that person. A good indication is do they know their birthday? If your character doesn’t know their birthday then they can be put into that grouping. As with the other relationships the degree of closeness depends on many factors.
Not family, but that group of people you’re related to but have no other connections. You don’t talk. You don’t write. You don’t spend holidays together, but if you were to mosey onto ancestry.com your names would be on the same page. Relatives do have a stronger bond to you than strangers or acquaintances. I’m sure if I were to approach one of my second or third cousins in a dire situation they would take me in. A person who works the donut shop might not. It’s something to consider.
Consider the relationships your character has had before the beginning of your story. No matter how prominent or forgotten, they can affect how your character reacts to affection. They determine how trusting or open your character is. They can affect how your character approaches any relationship. Family can determine coping abilities. Romance can determine motivation. Friendship can determine trust. All are examples and not set in stone. Make a shortlist of your character’s current and past relationships in short form. Just to have an idea of their experience in social situations.
Until next time…
I apologize for the late post. I had a bit of a cold yesterday and felt like my face was stepped on by an elephant. And yes. I do my blog posts on the day. I’m a world class procrastinator! 😀 I also apologize if this started off as a rant. I love the book I’m reading. I love most things about it. In fact, other than the romance there are brilliant examples of family dynamic and friendship. So despite my complaining I’ll no doubt finish and give it a high rating. My reaction, or overreaction, is an example of how we must be careful not to jar our readers from the world we’ve spent so much time building because of a simple thing.
Now, am I saying you have to answer these questions for all of your character’s relationships? No. Just consider them for the ones that are prominent in the story. It never hurts to get those details figured out because relationships affect our personalities and reactions to situations just as much as any other factor.
Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.