1. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming

    Character Relationship Dilemma

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Cammie B, Sep 10, 2017.

    Hi all! This is my first time posting here, and I'm looking for some advice. I'm working on writing my first novel, and it's supernatural/fantasy. My central character is a lesbian, and she starts out the story in a very strong, healthy, committed relationship. While the relationship isn't the main focus of the plot, it's definitely a major point. Throughout the story, I plan to throw in things that test them and cause them to doubt each other, even create a possibility for the end of the relationship. No cheating or anything like that, no thanks. My issue is, I have another character, a character that I love. She and my MC have an undeniable connection. I don't know whether to pursue her chemistry with my main character or leave them as friends and use that to complicate things. I don't want any sort of love triangle though, that feels very overdone and unnecessary for me. As writers, what would you do? As readers, what would you prefer? Help!
     
  2. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    It sounds like a case of "killing your darlings." That means different things to different writers, but for me, "killing your darlings" means letting go of what you necessarily want for the story in order to tell a good one. To give you an example, I might want my disabled main character to undergo some kind of miracle healing so he's better equipped to fight his opponents, but that's not what serves the story best. As a reader, I certainly appreciate you wanting to avoid certain tropes like cheating, but you may want to at least introduce the temptation. I believe some people call it an "emotional affair" or "emotional cheating."

    Years ago I had chemistry with a girl (we were both in high school), but I also had a girlfriend. I wasn't tempted to cheat on my girlfriend with my friend, but I was tempted to pull away from my own ambitions to follow my friend down her path in life. There wasn't anything sexual about it; I was reserved and uptight, and my friend was a free spirit. Perhaps you could use the chemistry between your characters to draw your main character away from her own path in life. Just an idea. You know your story best, so my advice would be to decide if that chemistry and what you do with it will serve the story, or if you should ignore using that chemistry in any significant way in order to serve the story best.
     
    LostThePlot and Lifeline like this.
  3. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    I see what you mean. When I originally started writing the story, I had this idea of this "perfect" couple (yikes), and that they would stay together even though they were tested to their individual breaking points. I had no intention of even bringing in this second character, but now that she's here, I love her and what she could mean for the story. My hesitation about the longing and the "emotional affair" is the fact that lesbian fiction is drowning in misrepresentation and cheating lovers, whether emotional or physical. I have qualms about adding to that mess.
     
  4. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    I'm afraid I can't help you there. I'm not familiar with the genre, so I don't know what's common or not. My cardinal rule is to tell a good story, whatever that means for the genre and specific story in question, but you're smart to consider what's already out there. Give folks some time to see this thread, and someone more familiar with the genre will chime in with ideas, I'm sure. I tend toward science fiction stories where there's less romance (...says the guy working on a science fiction love story).
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  5. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    I really appreciate you taking the time to hash this out with me a little, thank you! Also, I'm a sucker for science fiction.
     
    Sclavus likes this.
  6. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,085
    Likes Received:
    15,614
    Location:
    Scotland
    Have you created real chemistry between your main character and the person she's already committed to? If there isn't any real chemistry between them, and the new person DOES offer that chemistry, then I think your readers will expect the second relationship to be the important one, for emotional purposes. I don't think you need to worry too much about 'triangle' as long as this isn't the reason for your story. It can be a subplot, and if the chemistry is strong (which will happen if you write these characters well) then the story will have emotional impact.

    I'm one of those people who believes that if a person can't decide which of 'them' she loves, then she probably doesn't truly love either one. Real 'chemistry' can't be denied. It exists. Even if your character decides to stay with her original partner, because it makes more sense or is the more honorable choice, the chemistry she's rejected will not go away. You can always leave the story with that chemistry unfulfilled, but the feeling that it will still matter and won't be forgotten.

    In our lives we often come up against a head/heart sort of decision, and sometimes it's best to go with one, sometimes the other. It's where regrets begin, isn't it? Wondering 'what if.' That can make a powerful subplot.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  7. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    There's definitely real chemistry with both interests. However, both characters offer different things to the story and to my primary character. I'm unsure of how to introduce this new connection without it feeling trite.
     
  8. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    Sure thing. Also, it's totally okay to start with the perfect couple, then throw curveballs at them. My main character and his love interest were practically perfect until I blew him up with a donkey bomb.
     
    Cammie B likes this.
  9. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    A donkey bomb?
     
  10. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Colorado
    It's a trick IED used overseas. Fill an animal corpse with explosives, and the bones become shrapnel.
     
  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,751
    Likes Received:
    3,542
    Location:
    Antarctica.
    Or nails. Not to mention the threat of infection. Don't mention either what it does to your sanity to be covered in blood and entrails (and a donkey is really the most humane 'vehicle'). [Stop: Off-Topic.]

    Ahem. I'm a pantser by heart who can't write without some sort of planning, so whenever I have to make a choice like that I start writing and see which way events play out. Sometimes words you write down just come, and give you a different insight into how things can play out.

    You talk about tropes and that you don't want to take this path. Well, what's the alternative? Play around with scenarios in your head. See your characters interacting, singly or in pairs, thinking about each other, worrying about each other. Flesh your 'interrupting' character out, see what she wants. Is she interested in one of your MCs? Does she want a friendship? Or something else? Humans can have a myriad different relationships with each other, and friendship and love are just the two most commonly recognised. There's admiration, there's dependence, there's being tied together by difficult outside events, there's co-workers,... you see what I mean.
     
    jannert and KaTrian like this.
  12. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    6,775
    Likes Received:
    5,385
    Location:
    Funland
    I usually prefer to write happy couples who are tested along the way but none of the usual relationship drama touches them. I don't write Romance so I don't have to care about conventions. Because I've built the relationship to be solid, I have never been in a situation where I'd come up with a side character I'd suddenly want to wreck the relationship. There have been side characters who've tried but they always fail because I'm more interested in showing what a strong, committed relationship can be like than delving into triangles and such.

    Maybe you have to let go of the perfect couple scenario? I understand in lesbian fiction there are a lot of tropes that should be avoided, but then there's also the real world: people break up, make mistakes, fall in and out of love... And if you are inspired by writing this third character in and maybe 'cause some irredeemable trouble in paradise, it might just benefit your story.

    Alternatively, scrap the side character and write her into another story.
     
    xanadu, jannert and Lifeline like this.
  13. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,402
    Likes Received:
    2,882
    Maybe something like how the Beatles' wives considered the Beatles to be more married to each other than to them?

    When the Ron/Hermione love story started to pick up, there was a stretch where Ron was convinced that Harry was in love with Hermione and was competing against him for her, then Harry says something to the effect of "Yes, I love Hermione, like a sister. I always have, I thought you knew that."

    Would that something like that work better? Or does the chemistry between the MC and the "other girl" have to be romantic?
     
  14. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,257
    Likes Received:
    4,176
    Well, from my own experience, there was one time when I ignored my gut instinct for where to take the story naturally, and instead forged on ahead with my planned story. The result was a book that looked like two different stories, one story in the first half and another story in the second half. My WIP had a tonne of problems, and romance was also one of them. Instead of following my intuition and keeping my MC with the girl I'd planned for him, I listened to other people's opinions and decided to force him into a romance with someone else, someone I'd "planned" for the new version. The result was the story never ever felt right and for many years I lost my story. I no longer knew what the story was or what I wanted to tell.

    Now I've stripped back everything I've ever changed based on someone else's opinion or trying to please readers, right back to the basics of what I wanted originally. Got 76k words now and still writing - probably smoothest draft I've had so far. Can't tell you if it'll be successful or any good since it isn't finished, but I'm happy so far.

    In other words - go with your gut. Don't be too rigid. I know you planned the story a certain way but sometimes, stories have a way of growing organically, like a plant. You can trim and prune and guide, but there is some wisdom in letting it "go its own way", within reason :) I say, let the chemistry happen with the second character and make a note in the draft of when you decided this, write it to its completion. And if you don't like the story you end up with, go back to the point you made a note of, and write it again in the other direction.

    I know it sounds like a lot of work but you can always call it writing practice! :D I'd be more inclined to "go with your gut", whatever your gut says :) And what does it say?
     
    Cammie B and jannert like this.
  15. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,257
    Likes Received:
    4,176
    And I know @BayView writes m/m romance (I know that's not f/f - but I guess I hope it's close enough!?) and @Laurin Kelly too. The first is published and the second won some prestigious prize with her book? They may have good advice :)
     
  16. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,443
    Likes Received:
    2,083
    Location:
    New York
    You've gotten some good advice, so the only thing I wanted to say was in reference to this comment. Don't worry about it feeling trite. I know we all want to be original and amazing and do something totally different that makes the world gasp, but it's not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Part of good writing is making it easy to relate to. Relationships, love, meeting people often happens in a trite way. What makes writing original is the characters themselves, the problems they face and the way they deal with them. Focus on writing the story, not whether or not it's been done before.
     
  17. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,253
    Likes Received:
    3,546
    Well first off, if you're not writing genre romance you don't have to give your readers a happy ending for your couple. It sounds like your book is supernatural fantasy with a romantic plotline in it, so you have a lot more leeway than in straight up (pun unintentional) romance.

    That said, I absolutely get your concern about misrepresentation and possibly contributing to the negative stereotypes of a marginalized group. When members of these groups read stories looking for representation and it's the same depressing or unpleasant stuff over and over again it can be frustrating. Especially authors who aren't part of those groups have to be mindful of that. Speaking from personal experience, I am a straight white lady with an overflowing amount of privilege. It's absolutely on me to be aware that when writing m/m, LGBT folks aren't toys for me to play with in a vacuum. I was very lucky that when I first started writing (fanfiction at the time) I had a handful of friends online and IRL who were gay men, who I learned from and bounced my ideas off of to identify potentially problematic elements.

    This isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't go the rocky road route when writing a f/f relationship. I just think it's important to be aware of the how it could potentially be received by LGBT readers (which it sounds like you very much are - good for you!), and most importantly to deal with it sensitively. An example of this is one of the MCs in my current WIP. It's my first time writing a bisexual character, and of course one of the misconceptions about bi folks is that they're DTF anyone, anytime and any place. At the same time, this character Jaeden is also a 22-23 year old guitarist in a highly successful modern rock band. So as someone who has access to literally thousands of men and women actively trying to sleep with him, I felt it was very in character to portray him at the beginning of the story as someone who enjoys having lots of sex with lots of people. What I've tried to do is make it clear in the narrative that he's a horn-dog not because of his sexual orientation, but because of his youth, fame and wealth. I also have a scene where he calls his new love interest Connor out on a bi-phobic comment, when Connor expresses concern that because Jaeden is attracted to both men and women, he's twice as likely to cheat. I have a very good friend and fellow author who's bisexual, and I've been using her to vet some of this material, and so far she thinks I'm doing a fairly good job with it.

    I'm not sure if any of the above ramblings help you at all. It's something I have pretty strong feelings about though, so if you have any more specific questions I'd be happy to try and help if I can.

    ETA: Have you considered a poly relationship? I love a good poly romance when it's done well, and I don't see nearly enough of it.
     
    izzybot, Mckk and Simpson17866 like this.
  18. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    Hi! Yes, you are correct. I identify as a lesbian. So I'm very aware of the tropes that seem to come along with lesbian fiction (mishandling of characters, cheating). I think it's wonderful that you are taking such care with the work you put out. And no, I haven't considered a poly relationship for these particular characters. It's just not what I want for this story. That being said, I've just fleshed out the meeting of my MC and this new character and sparks were definitely flying, so I'm going to explore that option quite a bit more.
     
  19. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,402
    Likes Received:
    2,882
    @Laurin Kelly That actually reminds me of my go-to spiel about keeping stereotypes from being problematic (which in hindsight I'm surprised I didn't start with) :

    People are not stereotypes, only patterns are stereotypes. In the Doctor Who fanfic in my signature, one of my lead protagonists was a promiscuous bisexual from the beginning, and I realized a few chapters in that she was more interesting as a vigilante serial killer than as one of the good guys.

    I later learned that "promiscuous bisexual" and "predatory bisexual" are both damaging enough on their own – let alone combined – but I realized that the problem wasn't that one of my characters was a promiscuous bisexual serial killer, rather the problem was that 100% of my bisexual cast was a promiscuous serial killer.

    I rewrote one of my heroes (who was originally supposed to be aro-ace like me) as being bi, came up with a romantic subplot with him and one of the other guys, and it made their story so much better in addition to salvaging my portrayal of the serial killer.

    @Cammie B maybe you could keep the love triangle, temptation-to-cheat plot, but have your MC be established beforehand as being friends with other lesbian couples? That way, you could distinguish your MC by having her explicitly feel inferior for not being as faithful to her girlfriend as all of her other friends are to each other.
     
    izzybot and Fernando.C like this.
  20. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    I really enjoy that idea. My MC already has a bit of a self esteem issue, and that's something I'm working to highlight so this gives me a good opportunity.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  21. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,402
    Likes Received:
    2,882
    That's perfect! I love it when two elements that were supposed to be unrelated turn out to fit together perfectly :D
     
    Cammie B likes this.
  22. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,253
    Likes Received:
    3,546
    I didn't want to ask because I feel like that's tantamount to asking someone to out themselves online, and that's no bueno. But since you're comfortable sharing your orientation, I'll say that from what I've observed, authors who belong to the group they're writing about generally have a little more leeway than outsiders. Are you familiar with the #OwnVoices movement on Twitter?
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  23. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    I'm actually not familiar with it. I don't have a Twitter account.
     
  24. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,253
    Likes Received:
    3,546
    Well, like most things on social media it's turned a bit sour, but the original intent started in 2015 by YA author Corinne Duyvis as a way to recommend books about marginalized groups written by authors who are part of that group. The idea is that being a member of that group gives a unique insight into the story that a non-member wouldn't necessarily have.
     
  25. Cammie B

    Cammie B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Wyoming
    Ohhhh, that's handy! What do you mean when you say it's turned sour? That seems unfortunate.
     

Share This Page