1. B.M. Corwen
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    B.M. Corwen New Member

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    How do you write boy/girl protagonists without turning it into a romance?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by B.M. Corwen, Aug 30, 2015.

    (This might go under plot development as well, but a lot of it is characterization, so...)

    In my story, there are two protagonists, and their roles in the story intertwine a lot with one another. It's a story that develops over the course of many years (from 12 yrs. - 22 yrs. of age), so I intended for both of them to consider each other as a romantic interest at one point or another (the girl considers this at 12 yrs., the boy at around 21 yrs.), although I thought it might just be better for them to stay as really good friends because romance isn't really the focus of the story, as it's a fantasy story.

    They banter a lot, and their personalities clash sometimes, like any relationship (friendship) out there but they really do care for one another. I, as the author, don't really want to put them together because I wanted to develop their characters as individuals, as opposed to being called x's boyfriend or y's girlfriend and I'm scared that if I put them in a romantic light, it will take away from their characters a bit.

    I also thought about giving them separate love interests over the course of the story, which can also pull away from the x and y being together bit.

    What are your opinions on writing boy/girl relationships that aren't romantic? And how would you write it without introducing romance into the mix?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Think of your friends (online and in real life). You care about them, you want them to not be upset or angry, but you don't love-love them in any romantic way. You may get into arguments with them, laugh with them in the fun times and mourn with them in the bad (wow, that sounded cheesy. :p) Point is, you two are friends, not lovers. You like each other, but you're not interested in each other, you know? Lovers are a few steps beyond that. They are passionate about each other. They can envision a future life together. They want to take things to the next level.
     
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  3. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Close friends of the opposite sex sometimes get 'flirty', but they both know that they are just friends. Not sure how else to say it. Hope this helps a smidge. :p
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Definitely don't hint at a romance unless you're going to go through with it. That will just frustrate your readers. I think giving at least one of them a separate love interest, and showing that the other is completely un-jealous, is the best way to go.
     
  5. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Romance is not something that starts in the story - whether you want it or not - and that you would have to actively remove from the story if you don't want it. Romance is something that you would have to actively add if you do want it. If you don't make the mental effort to add romance to the story, there won't be any.

    It doesn't sound like you want to add romance, and nobody's forcing you to do so. Lack-of-a-problem solved ;)
     
  6. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Emphasize a very brother-sister relationship with them, making it more familial than flirty. With a male/female protagonist, readers may expect it, but if you keep it clear throughout that romance isn't in the cards, your readers wont spend a lot of mental energy "shipping."
     
  7. Gavin Wadsworth
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    Gavin Wadsworth New Member

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    I really appreciate this. I think way too many people abide by the classic tvtrope "First Girl Wins". So it's really a breath of fresh air to have two opposite-gender main characters who ultimately don't become romantically involved. So you should definitely go through with that.

    I think that's a really great idea, Tenderiser. Another possible option is to have the two main characters try for a romance at one point, but it ultimately doesn't work out. It's also a pretty good method of stopping those shippers in their tracks, because it can show concretely what would happen if they tried it. ;)
     
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  8. B.M. Corwen
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    B.M. Corwen New Member

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    Thanks for all the answers - you all made really good points. I was actually worried about unnecessary "shipping" - I've seen stories where they intended for two characters to be a couple but the fans really wanted another "ship" to occur (Arrow, I'm looking at you), but the issue with that was chemistry and unnecessary drama, the latter of which I won't add.

    For my two characters, I'll likely just end up having them think about it at different points in their life and deciding against it in the end because they both know that they'll not work out. Or it might be ambiguous, since the ending is so abrupt anyway.

    On another note, would it be too cliche if I put them together in the very end, after all the drama subsides, as a couple?
     
  9. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Easy way to take the focus off romance between the two is to close the loop; put one of the two in a relationship.

    As for putting them together in the end, it wouldn't be awkward if you'd led them to that point. If, however, you'd spent the whole book creating a sort of brother/sister vibe... that would be kinda creepy.
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yes, but your readers will probably love it anyway!
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm having trouble seeing the problem. I realize that fiction does have a bad tendency to always treat any interaction between male and female as potentially romantic, but in real life, I feel that it just doesn't work that way. What you want in a friend, and what you want in a romantic partner, are not necessarily going to be the same things. In a romantic partner, especially a serious one, you need some commonality in life goals, in how you envision your life. And you need to be attracted to one another.

    And many people have "scripts" for what a romance is supposed to be like, scripts that a friendship doesn't necessarily need to comply with. Maybe a man either wants his romantic partner to be submissive and stereotypically feminine, or maybe submissive and stereotypically feminine are the last thing that he wants in a romantic partner--but in either case, he may be just fine with those characteristics in someone who's just a friend, because the stakes aren't as high. Maybe she wants a man who is protective, or maybe a man who is protective makes her feel controlled--but, again, in someone who's just a friend, she can laugh off what she wouldn't tolerate in a romantic partner. Maybe he wants a woman who can hold her own financially and won't depend on him, but he's OK with taking his broke female friend out to dinner once in a while, because he knows that it's always under his control.

    And so on. And so on. There's just no reason why people who are friends are necessarily going to become romantic partners, no matter how much they like each other.
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    My initial thoughts were the same as @ChickenFreak's. Then I thought well, as right as that is, in fiction readers do expect opposite sex main characters to get together and tend to feel cheated if they don't. I think you need to warn them early if that's not going to happen, to avoid disappointment.

    Maybe this is not true in all genres.
     
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  13. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    One thing I would suggest is to throw a third person into the mix for some of their interactions. I mean, a guy bickering with another guy and a girl telling the both of them to shut up holds a very different connotation than a guy and a girl having little arguments with each other. The first one is brotherly, the second one is romantic. Likewise, if the characters are hanging out at a festival with her best pal, or star gazing with his mentor, it still carries a bonding moment, just with less romantic overtones.
     
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  14. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    My boy & girl protagonists, Boris and June, have only two points in the story where it looks like they might be attracted to each other, though I have to bear in mind that they're both 12 years old.

    The first time is when they're both in a hospital, and they've been attacked by a large robot tank. Boris decides to go back and fight the machine without her, and she reaches out to hold his hand. He doesn't notice, since he's not that good with body language yet, and he runs off to face the danger alone.

    Right at the end of the story, June has defeated the tank, but has lost consciousness. Boris grabs the power source for the robot and runs off, after asking the soldiers to look after her.

    And that's as close to romance as it gets. My only advice, no matter how old yours are, would be to forget about their genders while they're interacting.
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Then there's the dreaded friendzone... :dead: But perhaps you don't want to go down that road 'cause you might end up with unnecessary drama.

    Anyway, your characters might end up talking about their separate crushes, which is one way to show their relationship is platonic. It's also possible they just simpley aren't each others' types. They get along, but for whatever reason, only see each other in brotherly and sisterly ways. It's just something you feel. You can't really see yourself dating them, you feel sort of icky if you think about kissing them or having sex with them. The other person may remind you of your brother or sister, which can also make the relationship extra platonic. Granted, when you're teenager, things tend to get confusing. Sometimes raging hormones override the voice of reason.

    I agree with those who've said you should not hint at romance if you have decided not to follow it through. It is a bit aggravating.
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One of the best ways to do this, and to add to your story potential at the same time, is to have them discuss the issue between themselves fairly early on. If they BOTH agree (and this is the issue...once can't have a wee crush on the other for this to work) they can actually pretend to be 'together' if it creates opportunity to throw others off track in the story.

    I've had many male friends during my lifetime, and still do have them. It's never been an issue. I remember one discussion I had with one of my best friends. I said "Why AREN'T we in a relationship? We should be. We're totally compatible, have lived together for several years, share our grocery bills as well as rent, etc, share most of our interests and life goals, have many mutual friends. So why?" And being the kind of friends we were (and still are) we considered it for a few moments, then looked at each other and went "Naaaah." It was hilarious. Then we went out for a beer to celebrate!

    Trying to be something we were not would have totally ruined our friendship. Interestingly, it was a friendship that developed instantly, and not over time. We clicked the first time we met. Somehow, like meeting 'the one,' you also know when you've met a kindred spirit who is not mate potential.
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's not really true. I end up writing as if the characters were romantically interested in each other even when I don't intend them to :( A romantic relationship may never develop - in that sense yes, it's an active effort on the writer's part - but all the innuendos and hints would still be there and end up just being confusing cus the romance would never be followed through, or the genuity of a character's actual romantic subplot would be questioned because the character seems to also be interested in someone you never intended for them to be interested in.

    I actually have the same problem now myself... :bigfrown: I never seem able to write male-female friendships or sibling relationships. Makes me think perhaps I simply never had very many male friends! I certainly had a few in my life, but I could count them on one hand. And I have no brothers.
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hehe that does sound like a funny moment :-D

    I don't think I've ever met a kindred spirit of the opposite sex who is not mate potential... (and I'd say my husband's the only one who was mate potential anyway cus my other two ex's would never have worked - no potential there) I don't really think I've ever had any close male friends. The one at uni got close, but we had little in common actually so I wouldn't call him a kindred spirit. I've only ever met such kindred spirits in the female form :ghost:
     
  19. Lemon flavoured
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    Lemon flavoured Active Member

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    I'd also suggest showing that the significant other isn't jealous of the relationship between the two friends either.
     
  20. Hamish246
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    Hamish246 New Member

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    Definitely agree with this, but one thing, make sure you don't stress the fact that they aren't jealous. If you play on it too much people will start taking it as if they ARE jealous. It's a fine line, having separate love interests is a good way to go as long as you make it clear there is no residual feelings for the other.

    Depending how you go with the story you could always include like a seer or fortune teller that foresees their future partners or something similar.
     
  21. historymom
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    historymom Member

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    I'm very much one of those people. My immediate response to this thread is, Why are these two the main characters, and what is the purpose of their relationship?

    Other questions to consider:
    • Is the purpose of the story simply to chronicle their friendship?
    • What is the climax?
    • If they're not going to get together, then why am I reading about them?
    • What does the author want me to take away from this story?
    • Are you trying to prove a point that a male and female do not have to have a romantic connection to have a successful relationship?
     
  22. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Easy. Write them as friends. If you've got a friend who is of the opposite sex, think of that. If you don't have a friend of the opposite sex, then make one.

    Just don't overthink this, whatever you do. Make it simple, make it efficient.
     
  23. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    Honestly don't think its possible if a male character and female character are put together immediately in a story or a book a romance is going to bloom between them.
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'll echo @ChickenFreak here. Firstly, you the writer need to buy into the idea that people with the potential to be romantically/sexually attracted to one another don't end up dating or even hooking up the vast majority of the time. Whether one is gay, straight, whatever, just because the other person has the right requisite equipment does not a real-life romance make. Also, and I know this is the stuff of so many romance stories, but if I knew someone from the time they were as young as 12... uff... I would have a hard to getting that out of my head. It would be difficult for me, personally, to see that person as a romantic partner.
     
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  25. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why? One could already be in a relationship. One could have no desire for any sort of romantic relationship at that time. One could have an incompatible orientation. There are a ton of possibilities.
     

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