Writer and fellow friend Hyba (of Hyba Is Writing) wrote a great post on how she portrayed relationships in her writing, and I responded by...rambling on at length on how I do the same!
This is such a fun topic and your stance re: romantic relationships is one I share! You say you can’t write romance, but I think you just don’t enjoy writing the sort of star-crossed, instant attraction, obsessive type of romance completely lacking in the characters actually…liking each other?…typified in some works (correct me if I’m wrong).
I also don’t like that kind of thing, especially when it’s framed as a healthy and normal relationship, and I definitely don’t like reading it! (Anymore lol. As a teen I was obsessed, but my viewpoint as an adult has since changed).
I was gonna say I don’t have many wips exclusively focused on romance and that it’s usually a subplot for me but uh….that’s not actually true lol. See: Rivener, Bo & Eve, and No Capes. But anyway, the reason I don’t think of my wips as ‘romance driven’ is because I like my romance to be a vehicle for character development and (usually) to underscore plot development!
Take Rivener for example: while a very self-indulgent wip, my focus being almost solely on the romance between Wren and Kai, the overarching goal was for their connection, friendship, trust in, and loyalty to each other to be the facilitation for their healing from various traumas, by finding a safe space within each other. Both, at their core, are incredibly lonely people with horribly scarring pasts. The romance, for me, could only happen after they found comfort in each other’s presence and—crucially—with themselves.
Ultimately, I wrote their relationship as something meant to help them grow as individuals, but it was also meant to give them someone to lean on, and find peace with. (Something I was really yearning for at the time, personally). It was tricky to write, because I didn’t want to make it an over-dependent relationship, but it was partially unavoidable (I felt) due to their post-apocalyptic environment. If I ever rewrite and expand upon it, I want to give them both more solidly developed relationships outside of each other. I made some strides towards that near the end, but not enough for my taste.
With Bo & Eve, the romance is going to be a very slow-burn thing. Eve has a lot of growing to do, a lot healing to undertake, and she’s kind of awful for a long while, and to Bo too! Before they can even like each other as friends (let alone lovers), she has to unlearn a lot of classism and selfishness and plain mean-spiritedness. This story is really about Eve, and Bo is kind of there to help her become a better person, overall. (So far, anyway. I’m still working out his personal character arc).
But it’s so important for me that they actually like each other as whole and rounded individuals before they begin a romantic relationship, regardless of physical/sexual attraction. It’s important to me that they go into a romantic relationship generally understanding each other’s flaws and issues, and each determined to better themselves, because they owe it to themselves, and they owe it to their partner not to be awful or abusive, or tolerate that kind of behaviour.
With CofM, the romances and relationships are all over the spectrum. I have healthy and unhealthy familial relationships, I have unrequited and unexpressed love, mutual pining, various types of friendships further complicated by social standing, etc. There’s lots of dysfunctional relationships, and there’s lots of functional relationships. Ultimately, the functional relationships are based on mutual trust, empathy, understanding, respect, and boundary setting. I emphasized that last one because it’s something I struggle with IRL, but have come to realize it’s completely necessary for any kind of relationship to work.
People have to be able to recognize their own boundaries and stick by them, and respect other’s boundaries, and do their best to work with other people’s boundaries even if/when they haven’t been explicitly stated. Which boils down to communication, communication, communication. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be verbal, either! So I have a lot of fun playing around with that, character’s motives, prejudices, perspectives, and assumptions. Also add in misinformation and secrets and lies, and the stresses of the collapse of the entire structure of many character’s lives, and you have the underpinnings of all the subplots of CofM.
The main plot is a very simple, ABC kind of structure (inciting incident, rising action, climax, etc). It’s the subplots and the relationships that make it (or are meant to make it) an epic. The romances specifically can be summarized like this:
Those are for the mains anyway, that’s not counting side characters. Most of my MCs all have examples of generally healthy romantic relationship examples in their families though! But all the relationships impact both character and plot development in major and minor ways. It’s one big web! And it is so fun to write!
Do you have a favourite portray of a relationship, romantic or not? Drop a comment and let me know! If you're a writer, I would also love to hear how you portray relationships in your works!
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