1. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Arranged Marriage Plot: To Love Or Not to Love?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by malaupp, Dec 15, 2016.

    I've recently begun a story with an arranged marriage aspect. It's not necessarily the focal part of the plot so much as it is a mechanic to throw the main character more directly into politics. The MC was chosen to be the prince's bride for her skills in languages and understanding culture, chosen by the king to help his son in ambassadorial efforts. While traveling abroad as ambassadors, she discovers the country they were invited to, and believed to be an ally, is actually plotting war. So there is a lot of conflict above and beyond the arranged marriage aspect.

    My dilemma lies in the actual relationship between the married couple. The prince already had a mistress and is furious that he cannot marry her. He refuses to consummate the marriage, hoping he can have it annulled later. Now, as they will be going through some harrowing experiences together, like having to escape the castle of a hostile nation, there is a definite chance for a relationship to develop. But I' m wondering if that's overdone. I've rarely heard of an arranged marriage story where the couple did not end up falling in love and I don't want to fall back on tropes. But I'm also worried that it wont feel as complete a story if they end up in some sort of platonic friendship.

    The third option I've wondered about is having the marriage annulled entirely and having the MC hired as a king's adviser or something to emphasize the politics of it, not the marriage.

    [[Also, in case this will affect the feedback given, the prince the MC is married to is not the heir apparent. He is the third son and both of his older brothers have sons as well, so he is not that close in line to the throne.]]
     
  2. Desertphile

    Desertphile Member

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    Well gosh: in the time frame your story sounds like it is placed, love hardly existed at all; people married for vastly different reasons--- usually a girl's parents would sell her to a man as breeding stock; if she was a woman and not a girl, she was sold to some man as a domestic servant. In much of the world marriage was a business transaction between men, with love and romance reserved for people who avoided marriage.
     
  3. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    While the story is in a made up world, it is very much inspired by that time period. And it's emphasized in the story. The MC is the youngest of 5 sisters, each married off to raise the family's position. The eldest was married to a rather low-ranking nobleman with each succeeding sister being married to someone of higher stature till they're prominent in court. So in terms of verisimilitude, it would be perfectly normal for the couple to never fall in love. But knowing what I do (anecdotally, at least) about people who read stories with main characters in arranged marriages, they often expect the couple to fall in love. So I'm attempting to decide whether or not the story can feel complete without it.
     
  4. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Personally, I would have the prince look down on her, have a relationship develop while escaping (she has the brains and leads the way), when they get where they are going either he puts her forward because she is better, or takes the credit and she proves herself and rises. The prince can then be a supporting role and can go back to old ways or not.
     
  5. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    I would like to have some character development for the prince, as looking down on his wife isn't his only major flaw. I'm just wondering if an improved prince automatically translates into a romantic subplot. A writer friend of mine suggested a sort of deep platonic friendship, but she has a bias in favor of those anyway.
     
  6. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    If she makes the escape possible and leads the way, he will begin to admire her, which could lead respect, then love/lust.

    Of course not, but can be an overriding theme. What will he say about her to his mistress? To his father? Some of his character flaws can be due to his resentment to her for him being forced into this marriage. You know, like real life. Resentment on top of resentment.
     
  7. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    There'a definitely resentment. As well as a feeling of inadequacy, as his eldest brother is the heir and the middle child is an important figure in the military. He feels superfluous. I could definitely play off that. I love me some bonding moments.

    The catch is making it believable and no feel forced just because they're in an arranged marriage.
     
  8. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'd probably make the prince gay, or his bride lesbian, or make one of them asexual/aromantic. Or any combination of the aforementioned.
     
  9. ddavidv

    ddavidv Senior Member

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    You can't fake attraction. Either the MC is attracted or she isn't, and vice versa. One could be attracted to the other but it not be reciprocated.

    Shakespeare did a great job of such a relationship with Taming Of The Shrew.
     
  10. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Those are great ideas for a story, although it might be a distracting subplot for what I'm going for. I'm assuming you're on the "not to love" side then?

    So would you say hold out on deciding until later in the story?
     
  11. ddavidv

    ddavidv Senior Member

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    What I would suggest is see if the characters take you where they want to go. As you write them they may make the decision for you.
     
  12. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Well I'm not a big believer in characters "coming to life" to take over the story. But I do believe that the writer's subconscious will often follow the logical paths from what's set up in the story, which is what makes writers feel the need to write out a certain plotline for their characters. It's essentially the same basic principle though. And I'm not that far into the story (haven't even gotten to the wedding yet) so there's definitely time for that.
     
  13. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Hmm, it sounds like the kind of thing I'd read! I think it depends a lot on whether there are any other love interests. The prince has a mistress - does he love her? If so, he's less likely to fall in love with the MC. The whole "two characters don't like each other but are forced to marry/pretend to marry/pretend to be engaged/are forced together in some other way" thing is done A LOT, especially in YA fantasy books. (Though if you read something like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard you'll find an interesting spin on it.) That being said, I think it's okay to do it. However, I certainly don't think the story would feel incomplete if the characters didn't fall in love - and I'm saying that even though my favourite genre is romance!

    In fact, the characters not falling in love might even be a breath of fresh air. They should definitely get close though, one way or another. Just don't lead the reader into thinking that there will be a romance if there really won't be. Then I'd say that the story will probably feel "incomplete", or even disappointing. In addition, consider your desired ending. Perhaps it all rides on whether you pick romance or no romance, but if the prince won't be able to annul his marriage and will have to live with the MC forever, then the happier (and potentially more satisfying) ending to read about would be him falling in love with the MC.

    Are you especially eager to write romance? If it was me, I'd just have to write the romance in because I love it so much and it features in everything I write. So, if you can, follow your heart and consider which you'd rather write. Do you feel you can write romance or platonic friendship better? What do you think would better aid the story, regardless of what the reader might like? What would make it a more moving/thrilling/whatever-you're-aiming-for tale?

    My head says you should write a friendship, and my heart says you should write a romance. So follow your own. Sorry that I couldn't give you a definite answer.
     
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  14. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    You could write a friendship to give it a fresher spin, but as @Seren pointed out, it'd be important to keep in mind that you don't want to disappoint the reader in the end. You could make us root for his attempts to get the girl he really loves and her attempt to e.g. get into an influential position in her society? Perhaps they will eventually come to some kind of arrangement where they both have love interests elsewhere, but appear as a couple in public. I think a friendship arc can be just as interesting and enjoyable as a romantic arc.

    Or you could write a ménage à trois. ;) In the end he marries the princess but also keeps the mistress with whom the princess falls in love too? :p
     
  15. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I don't really have an opinion either way; I think even the tiredest tropes can be enjoyable if they're written well. But it sounded like you don't want to take the route of them falling in love, thus my suggestion of one way to go about that. :)
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The full trope, IMO, is "two people who hate each other's guts suddenly discover that they're madly in love."

    How about breaking both halves? They're very good friends, maybe friends from childhood. They conspire together about how each of them can make the marriage as un-restrictive as possible. She covers for him when he visits his mistress. He covers for her when she has her own romantic outings. He uses his influence to get illegal birth control for her, because, well, romantic outings. They discuss the logistics of him having a child with the mistress but passing it off as her child, because she CERTAINLY doesn't want to get pregnant and they're going to be badgered by everyone until an heir is produced. And so on. All as a backdrop to the plot that you actually intended.

    Edited to add: And while we're breaking the expected, she's also very good friends with the mistress. I suddenly love the idea of a subplot where the mistress gets in some sort of danger and the other two are both terribly worried and desperately trying to help her.
     
  17. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    I might be leaning toward friendship as well, but I can't be certain. I'm not usually this up-in-the-air about a story when I begin writing it, usually the ending sequences are pretty much down in my head during the brainstorming part. My writer friend is pretty dedicated to the platonic friendship idea, but then she loves platonic friendships all around.

    Haha, a menage a trois could be an interesting take. xD But the mistress is definitely conniving. Although I am intrigued by a friendship that makes him realized the mistress isn't good for him.

    But I do get what you're saying. If I don't intend to have a romance, don't even hint at one or it will be disappointing.

    True. I just always fight against that "they have to fall in love" idea.

    That sounds like an awesome idea for a story, only the animosity between the two is a major plotpoint, so I couldn't exactly write that out. And fortunately, they're not as harassed for an heir because the prince is the third youngest son and both of his elder brothers also have sons, so he's not really on the line to continue the lineage (although the family would definitely still like him to reproduce).

    I would love to read that, where the mistress and the wife are like in cahoots with each other. I almost wish my story was set up for it. Damn my love of conniving lovers! xD
     
  18. Jacquesari

    Jacquesari New Member

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    What about something inbetween?
    Maybe throughout their ordeal they develop a deep love and respect for each other, without actually falling in love. Maybe they see that together they could stand strong to rule in the future and make sure there will be heirs. So they could have a solid friendship based on mutual affection and honesty. Maybe they could even agree to take lovers outside their marriage.

    It sounds like a novel I would read by the way :)
     
  19. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Well the prince has two older brothers, who both have sons. So I would have to kill off a lot of characters for him to actually take the throne. His position in the family is more of ambassador to other kingdoms. But seeing as his wife was specifically picked to help him in those endeavors, the marriage would still benefit them both.
     
  20. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Malaupp, I've read your story summary and I have a suggestion that might be an option for you.

    Have the prince and princess be forced to marry each other to AVOID the war (This creates stakes.) Have the princess and Mistress become friends and the three of them (the prince, the princess, and the mistress) have an understanding; while the Prince and Princess are a 'couple' in public, the prince and mistress are a couple in private and the princess is okay with this. The conflict will arise when certain people (your villains?) learn of this secret relationship and try to use it to nullify the marriage and have the countries go to war. This creates a lot of inner-personal, personal, and outer personal conflict which will give you the options to explore this story deeply, and give it a tragic touch.

    Obviously, this is just a suggestion and you can take the story any direction you choose.

    I wish you the best of luck.
     
  21. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    It's definitely an interesting idea, but I would have to change large parts of the premise to make it work. But thanks for the feedback!!
     

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