1. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Intentionally frustrating readers?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by C. W. Evon, Aug 27, 2015.

    This is a bit odd, and difficult to explain.

    So from the time I created my male and female POV characters (Miles Beamer and Mollie O'Neil), I shipped them. They're good friends and I love their interactions. I intended to create a romantic subplot around them. But then this other female character, Honora "Honey" May Surrey popped into my head. And that's where I went a little crazy.

    Maybe Miles only ever thinks of Mollie as a friend? I mean, I discovered this part, not long after he meets Mollie, in which he thinks about how comfortable it is to talk to her: "It was like it used to be with Billy [Miles's best friend that he grew up with]. Before the war, of course." So I mean, red flag there. That ship was friendzoned from the start. (On Mollie's side, not necessarily, but we'll get to that).

    So anyway, I thought, Honey May is a very decent girl. She's an interesting character in her own right, even though I'm biased towards Mollie because she's somehow become like a daughter to me. Miles is clearly not as interested in Mollie as I was hoping for (he even says that "I was afraid she would misinterpret it if I didn't look away. I wasn't staring because she was handsome. She really was not. Freckles muddied her face, and her lips, while nicely shaped, were so rough-looking and covered in cracks as to be exceedingly unappealing." Ouch!) On the other hand, he seemed smitten with Honey from the moment they meet.

    It breaks my heart because Mollie loves Miles so much. It's not all romantic either, that's just a small part of it. I don't know if you're familiar with the triangular theory of love, but her love for Miles most closely resembles the compassionate type. Here is a description from the wonderful writerology.net:

    Featuring high levels of intimacy and commitment, compassionate love often appears in long-term relationships in which passion has diminished. The feelings of closeness and dedication remain, however, meaning the partners in this love style are usually very good friends.

    In fact, in many ways Mollie is content just to be his friend and to use her astute problem-solving skills to help him out of all the crap he gets himself into. Besides, I only recently found out, she's dying and feels that it would be selfish to get Miles to fall in love with her, when she knows that would it would break his heart.

    And then I thought that since I ship Miles and Mollie, maybe some of my readers will too, even though it isn't the canon ship. And I liked that idea of people being a little frustrated that they never end up together and ranting on forums and writing blog posts on why Mollie should have lived and ended up with Miles...yeah I got swept up in dreams of unlikely fame for a while there, but when I came back down to earth, I still liked the idea.

    So yes my intention is, at least partially to frustrate some of my readers by subtly trying to get them to ship something that will never be canon. It's not like I'm going to promise something and not deliver--I mean, it's clear Miles doesn't think of Mollie that way, and Mollie keeps her feelings to herself. And it serves plot functions too, her loving him so deeply and him not really returning it (even though she is clearly perfect for him and they should be together forever and...sorry. I really just wish he would have cooperated and he and Mollie could have been a thing!) as well as result in a lot of dramatic irony and him unintentionally hurting her and all that kind of good stuff. Frustrating some of my readers would only be a side-benefit.

    Yeah, I'm kind of an embittered shipper of non-canon ships who has decided to put others through similar pain...is that okay? Would you feel like you were being emotionally manipulated if you read such a story? Even if it was subtly done? I mean, people ship what they want to ship, even if there is absolutely nothing to support that ship in the characters's interactions. So it's not like I'm going to do much to try and force people to ship this. I just think it would be fun because I hate love triangles but I do like when there are lots of different options as to who to ship and then you can argue with your friends and stuff. :bigtongue:

    This was long and confusing, but any thoughts?
     
  2. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I am not opposed to romantic novels where the MCs do not end up with each other. Sometimes people are just ill-suited or they hurt each other involuntarily.

    Having said that, in your case, I would probably feel cheated. MCs are very close to the reader, and it would probably make me resent your male MC. After all, the girl is left with a tragic ending: She is dying and her best friend replaced her with a girlfriend already before her death. Even if he decides to care for her as a best friend, his time will be occupied by his romantic relationship in some way. The female MC does not have a good end. Your male character, though, has got a somewhat good end. His future is "secure." Sure, his best friend is dying, which is tragic in itself, but his life is given a direction by the romantic relationship.
    This discrepancy might reflect on how the reader perceives your MCs. Personally, I don't need the characters to end up with each other, but it would seem "fair" to level their ends. Here are two examples of what I mean: Either the female MC finds someone else who will care deeply for her to ease her pain, or neither of them ends up in a romantic relationship at the end (and the male MC could support his friend in this difficult time). There are countless other options, and I do not intend to force anything onto you.
    If this was my idea, I would be worried about the discrepancy in the characters' fate. It's a good story. I am not denying that. But something feels off to me. It makes me uncomfortable. Personally, I would attempt to increase the impact of the female MC's death on the male MC. Losing a good friend is horrible. But his tragedy is lessened by the fact that he is given someone who will support him (the girlfriend).
    I like tragedy. I'd probably have all characters be completely devastated and lonely at the end. But this might not be your style. Feel free to ignore my advice. Your novel does not have to be for everyone.
     
  3. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    I was kind of toying with different endings, and everyone being completely devastated and lonely is the one I've been leaning toward. Miles's character arc is kind of about learning that sometimes people are hurt so badly by his choices that he can't just smooth it over. About the time he realizes how Mollie has always been there for him and how badly he has treated her by comparison, it's pretty much too late. I don't know that he will end up with Honey May. I can't imagine Honey being okay with some of the choices he's made in the story. Besides, I suspect she has feelings for Billy, but since her family was on the Confederate side of the war and he fought for the Union, her father would not like that one bit, so I think she's kind of trying to make herself love Miles instead. I think at the end of the story Miles will be alone. He might even get dragged back home by his mother, which would mean defeat. But then part of me worries that people don't like unhappy endings (even though I happen to myself) and will be angry and disappointed with my story.

    I don't know!
     
  4. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Yes, most romance novel fans love their happy endings. I understand how difficult this is for you. Maybe just give it some time, let it rest, then do what feels best.
     
  5. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Well, you know I'm not writing a romance novel, so I never promised a happy ending, dang it! I write historical fiction, and history ain't happy.

    Problem solved. :) Thanks for your help!
     

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