1. ChloeALR
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    ChloeALR New Member

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    How do you slowly ease into a romantic relationships between characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ChloeALR, Mar 19, 2014.

    I'm currently writing a short story about mental illness. In it, my two main protagonists are a male who used to self harm but has been clean for several months and a girl who suffers from crippling social anxiety. Both are sixteen. I want to make their relationship flow and seem natural but I am writing the story month by month and I don't want anything to move too fast. I want my audience to think that their relationship is cute and meaningful without it being cheesy and I want to make it seem fluid and not forced.

    Does anyone have any advice for writing romantic relationships?

    (Oh, and before anyone asks, I have done extensive research into suicide, self harm, social anxiety etc.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2014
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  2. vera2014
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    vera2014 Contributing Member

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    The Rosie Project is a book that deals with social anxiety; it might be worth reading. I thought it was great. I'm mostly a reader but here is my input: I would make the characters face bigger and bigger challenges, with a climactic event at the end that tests what they've learned about how to deal with each other. Depending on their personalities, maybe they'd be supportive at times but also overwhelmed by their own health problems and not always able to be there for the other person.
     
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  3. Glen Snow
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    Glen Snow Member

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    That's a toughie. Personally I'd like to know the reason for his self harm, as reasons can range from Depression all the way to a need for attention. Whatever his reason is it will impact the way he acts around the girl.
    The girl is tricky too. Before I can give real input I'd like to know: how crippling is "crippling", what is their relationship at the moment, is she anxious around him, and lastly what is the main conflict these characters will face together is it just overcoming their psychological issues or is it something more?
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure what you're doing, here. If it's a short story, it's all bound to move 'fast,' isn't it—at least in a writing sense?

    Are you looking for a few very short encounters between them that escalate the relationship? I mean, something like they meet as strangers on the street, say a few words and go away without introducing themselves, then they meet again by accident in a cafe later on that day, talk for a little while, then agree to meet up at the beach the next evening, where they sit and share their stories till sundown, they each go home to their own houses, but while they're apart they decide they're in love...and what happens next? Is falling in love the end of the story, or is this only part of the story?

    It's hard to visualise this without knowing more.

    I am not a short story writer. Getting characters to fall in love over time is no problem in a novel. But doing it in a short story? I don't know. I think you'd need to pick a few significant events, but probably not spend much time in any of them. Will you be in the POV of one of the two characters, or are you telling this story from an outsider's point of view?

    More questions than answers here, I suppose! Sorry...:confused:
     
  5. Glen Snow
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    Glen Snow Member

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    I assumed " I am writing the story month by month" meant that it was a series of short stories...rereading I'm not as sure...and a little confuzzled now...
     
  6. ChloeALR
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    ChloeALR New Member

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    Phoenix's self harm stemmed from depression. He never fully recovered from mourning after his dad died. Maya's anxiety is pretty serious but is improving. When she was 14 it peaked. She's now 16, almost 17 and getting more confident but can't do things by herself, attend social functions and she often panics on how to behave around others so much so that she ends up vomiting.

    The idea of the story is to show the contrast between the two characters' situations. While Maya's situation improves, Phoenix starts to deteriorate and he has a relapse and starts to get very suicidal. Maya tries to support him but she is trying to keep her own mental health good and can't cope with the both of them. One of the key moments when this is highlighted is when they attend a firework festival together on Novemeber 5th. This is a huge step forward for Maya because she is going out and socialising which is something she is uncomfortable with. However, it's the anniversary of Phoenix's father's passing and so it's a difficult night for Phoenix and he ends up having a breakdown.
     
  7. ChloeALR
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    ChloeALR New Member

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    It's a series of short stories in 'months'. If that makes sense. :) So one is September, one is November. But they all make one big story.
     
  8. ChloeALR
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    ChloeALR New Member

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    Yes, it's a series of short stories (which are sort of chapters but longer). I'm writing in Maya's POV. I want to make them fall for each other but not too fast. I don't want to potray the idea that it's forced. I want them to bond as friends, overcome difficulties together (as they confide in each other about their mental health problems) and then realize they they are in love. It needs to be fast as it's only a short story but I don't want it too feel fast.

    The end of the story, I haven't decided. It's either going to end with Phoenix in the hospital from attempted suicide or actually dead. The love is only a side to the story.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm still not too sure what you mean. If it's a 'series of short stories, which are sort of chapters but longer' - ermm...

    Is each story supposed to stand alone? If not, they're probably chapters, and you're writing a novel. Or something like it...? Or am I missing something here????
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Just to piggy-back on @jannert's question, what do you want the final product to look like? Do you have a target readership in mind? Is this, by any chance, a school project?

    The kind of relationship you are contemplating, with the number and gravity of complicating factors, militates against a proper treatment in a short story format. If you are actually contemplating a series of short stories that ultimately comprise a novel, then is there a reason you would want/need to do them "month by month"? In the 19th Century, it was not unusual for novels to be released over time in serial format. Anthony Trollope's novels were released that way, as was Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, that was common practice back then. Not sure why you would want to now.
     
  11. ChloeALR
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    ChloeALR New Member

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    Sorry, I think I've confused them. Each is a month,
    It's not a school project. I write avidly in my own time and this is a personal project, hence why I've made the format so... different. If it had been a school project I definitely would have dumbed it down by a considerable amount. It's a series of short stories which can be read stand alone but follow the general idea that the two main protagonists are falling in love. Then, the final short story, is the end. To be able to understand it, you will have to have read one of the previous stories. But not all. It will still make sense and ends, ultimately with the death or attempted suicide of Phoenix, my main male character. I suppose each story could be compiled together into a novel. But it's not necessary.
     
  12. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I don't think you've done nearly enough. For instance:
    Mourning isn't a disease or a disorder. Consequently, it isn't something you "recover from." It's a normal, healthy process of coping with loss. You don't "recover" from that process. The process enables you to recover from the blow of a loss.

    What you've described wouldn't be a romance. It would be an extremely complex and troubled relationship between two people who have serious psychiatric problems that prevent them from having the kind of normal romantic relationship that readers can identify with.

    I think you're trying to bite off way more than you can chew. My advice is to work on a normal romance. When you get that down (no small feat), then move on to relationships between people with debilitating psychiatric disorders.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ChloeALR : It's difficult answering your question because there are many ways to portray that. You can show their emotions growing through hostility, or co-dependency, or friendship, or, or... The options are endless. But for slow progression, I'd imagine a lot of 'will he/she or won't he/she', misunderstandings, subtext, insecurities and near misses. Most romantic novels get you through the entire book in this way, before the heroine and the live interest actually get together. :)

    This is quite incorrect. Whilst bereavement isn't a disease, it is a process of dealing with a loss. Uncomplicated bereavement, which is resolved within 12 months, is certainly something you 'recover from' because the effects of severe bereavement can be very similar to depression and at times even psychosis (with pseudohallucinations which appear due to missing someone and expecting to see them again, around the house etc). Complicated bereavement, which is still unresolved (ie. hasn't reached the final stage of acceptance and the person is stuck in denial, anger, depression, bargaining or other symptoms of grief - google 'stages of grief') then they indeed have psychiatric diagnosis which is treated with counselling and or medication.

    Quite a few people never recover from losing a loved one, especially if the attachment is very strong, such as between parent and a child, or a child who was dependent on the parent, or cared for them, or otherwise had significant issues with them.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
  14. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I'm outta this thread.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Then my next question would be why you chose this format. Young writers often make the mistake of doing something very differently just because it's different. But your format should serve the purposes of telling the story. I'm not sure if by "monthly" you mean that you plan to write one story per month or that each story represents one month in time within the story. Either way, you may be constricting yourself unnecessarily in an already extremely complicated setting. I have to echo @David K. Thomasson concerning research. I'd hazard a guess that you've chosen these two character types because of some personal experience of your own - maybe a friend or a family member. But to accurately represent their issues you will need to acquire clinical knowledge well beyond your years, so that you can understand the ranges of behavior that is possible in such conditions. Having both people with these issues complicates things even more.

    My advice would be to simplify your project to allow yourself a good chance at making some progress. A straight novel or novella would relieve you of the artificial restrictions of a string of short stories (keep in mind that in a series of short stories, each would have to be significantly different from the others). David suggested focusing on a simple love story, which would be easier. But if your purpose is to portray someone with serious issues - and I think it is - you might at least want to limit it to one such person.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    But @EdFromNY she doesn't have to focus on the clinical side of their illness at all. Just because they have a diagnosis and their behaviours can be damaging to interpersonal relationships, it doesn't mean that's always present or pervasive. A lot of people with chronic illnesses, including psych ones, don't really go on about it, but lead normal lives, coping the best they can with their problems and life issues. I for one would love to see two characters that have illness, interact in a story that doesn't focus on the unusual aspects of them, but rather the usual ones. And for that, basic research and some understanding of their conditions is more than enough, for a short story anyway.
     
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  17. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    All relationships, including romantic ones, become meaningful once you relate them to theme.

    Spend some time trying to figure out how relationships and theme work together.
     
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