1. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    Balancing Characters and Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by suddenly BANSHEES, Jul 23, 2011.

    This is probably a silly question, but please bear with me;;

    Most of my stories are very short and character-driven, with very loose plotlines. I've always been more interested in characters than big, elaborate plots (which are all fine and dandy, too, don't get me wrong). I guess this is just because I really like people?

    But, recently, I came up with this idea for a longer piece, with a somewhat complex storyline - complex in comparison to what I'm used to writing, anyway. The main story is more or less thought out, and I'm pretty excited about it. I've also got a vague idea of the main characters' personalities, and I know they'll become more developed as I write, so I'm not too worried about that.

    The thing I am worried about, though, is their relationships. Ideally, the two main characters become very close friends, even though one is hiding something from the other. I'd like people to care about the relationship, so when freaky stuff starts going down, their concern for each other actually means something, and at least some of the readers will actually care. What I'm saying is, I wanna write a rad bromance :p

    What I'd like to avoid is something like Dune - it's got a good plot and interesting characters, but their relationships, at least in my opinion, aren't very strong. For the most part, everyone seems to just be hanging around each other, and there aren't any connections that I actually care about. I mean, I love Paul and Chani to death, but I don't care much for their relationship. The only hint that they're even a thing is that Chani calls him "beloved" sometimes.
    (On a side-note, I'd be lucky if my writing is even halfway as good as Frank Herbert's. This is literally my only crit of Dune.)

    On the flip-side, I don't want the character relationships to interfere with the storyline too much, or feel like pointless filler. I don't want the readers to suddenly go, "What the hell are you guys doing? You're supposed to be hunting aliens. Hurry up!" Or something like that.


    My question to the more experienced writers out there (ie, everyone): How do you find a balance between your characters' relationships and your main storylines? How can I tell if I'm focussing too much on one over the other?

    Thanks, y'all.
     
  2. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I am also a huge fan of Dune. It has been a while since I read it, but I think I get what you are saying about how Mr. Herbert handled the relationships. That is not to say that Dune was lacking in character development, and interesting characters.

    I know I've mentioned Lonesome Dove about 100 times before, and here I go again. The best way to learn to write is to read, and Lonesome Dove is a great study in character interaction, and coincidentally, a study in a "bromance" between the two main characters. I would recommend reading that if you haven't already. The book was and still is a great inspiration to me.

    It is difficult to answer your question directly about how to find a balance. The best I can do is point you towards an example of something I believe finds that balance. Lonesome Dove.
     
  3. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    I've never heard of Lonesome Dove - will definitely check it out. Thank you!
     
  4. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    I think a good way of making the readers care about and beleive your characters relationship, whilst not over-doing it, is to show how they love each other, rather than tell. They don't have to be confessing their love/care for each other constantly, it's the little things, like a protective arm around one another, or that reassuring smile. Rather than having them have that big, cliche moment where they confess their undying love for one another, make their caring for one another ingrained within your story as part of the way they act around one another.

    I hope this makes sense, and helps somewhat :)
     
  5. foxanthony
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    foxanthony Member

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    I hope this doesn't seem glib, but show don't tell. When the characters interact with each other show the relationship in their dialog and actions.

    In Dune, I always believed it being about royalty and warlike/hardbitten cultures was why it was so coldly written. Of course those choices may have been wisely made by Herbert to avoid writing out of his depth.

    You shouldn't need to balance anything, the relationship should just be apparent in the actions and dialog in the course of the story. Please, don't write any special scenes to show this; it will be boring.
     
  6. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    Makes perfect sense to me :) Thank you both!
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would amend this just a bit. You can use a subplot to highlight the nature of the relationship, something that is an interesting story but subordinate to the main plot. If you rely on actions within the main plot to be solely responsible for getting this across, it could seem like the crisis/adventure/conflict was tailor-made for the people whose relationship you are showing. Using a subplot not only avoids this, it also allows you to show things in the main crisis/adventure/conflict that put stress on the otherwise remarkable relationship. After all, no relationship sails through life unscathed by problems.

    One other thing. Show AND tell. "Telling" is a good way to telescope time, survey details and keep your story moving. Balance is the key.
     

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