1. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Thoughts on a Protagonist without a Romantic Relationship?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Marthix2016, Oct 30, 2018.

    What are your thoughts on reading a story of character who does not have any romantic relationships? Is it a big deal or no as far as readability of the story goes? To you does a romance, make a character and/or a story better?

    I am trying to figure out my protagonist and I honestly don’t believe she’s willing to have a romance or a deep relationship with someone. She’s pretty much a workaholic and gives her everything into her career, so literally doesn’t have any free time. She likes to keep to herself, a bit of an introvert though when she’s working or out-and-about she will display the opposite, but she enjoys her alone time and needs it because her life is a stressful one outside her house. Truly not a people person and she doesn’t like dealing with other people’s shit or drama. The loves living the single life, she is fiercely independent but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like hanging out with friends or family. She enjoys going home and getting a good night’s sleep without anyone having to interrupt her.

    I know she’s probably not your typical heroine, perhaps a little bit of an oddball. But there are people out there in real life that really enjoy being single and not having a romance. For my character, a romance is not her thing given her busy lifestyle. Maybe in her story some of her allies/friends will have a romance. One thing thought is my protagonist has a lot of strong and complex relationships/friendships with others in her story. She is extremely tough and a hard exterior but she does have a heart and is a really nice person.

    To you, is it a big ‘make-or-break’ deal for you if the lead character of a story you’re reading doesn’t have a romantic relationship? If they have strong friendships with others, does that suffice? I would love to hear opinions on this.
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think one of the strengths of a romantic subplot is that it can help "humanize" your character - she cares about things, she's sometimes vulnerable, etc. But I don't think romance is the only way to do this!
     
  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @BayView, that while clearly not necessary in any way, a romantic subplot certainly is one good way to create motivation.

    Obviously true, but as readers we need some anchor of emotional investment in the character. That doesn't have to be romance.

    She can be fighting (metaphorically speaking):

    ... for her kids.
    ... for her parents.
    ... for her culture.
    ... for freedom.
    ... to save a best friend.
    ... to stop a heinous injustice.
    ... etc. etc. etc.

    Are there people just clocking in and clocking out of work, going home, zapping a microwave dinner, watching something mindless on CBS, waking up and doing it all over again? Yeah, bazillions of people answer to that description, they exist, they're reading this right now, but they don't make for a novel that any of us want to read.

    Take that exact same person I just described and give him or her something to fight for that the reader can care about. A love interest is one of those choices. It's certainly not the only choice, but there has to be some choice.

    I'll say it plainly:

    If the person you just described in your OP is you - the real, actual you - and your book is about how you've become prickly and guarded about living your life the way you want to live it... I won't be buying that book. I'm uninterested in engaging your prickliness and guardedness in the form of a semi-autobiography unless you're famous for some other reason and prickly and guarded is just a facet. If that's the whole book, no thank you. There's no reason for me to invest in a book that could be titled Go Away, Leave Me Alone. Trust me, I'll do exactly that and keep perusing the bookshelves.

    Give the reader a reason to invest.
     
  4. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Senior Member

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    Romantic subplots are potentially dangerous. Do it right, and it's great. Do it wrong, and it will sour your story every time it comes up.

    But, would it ruin the story if it wasn't there? No, not necessarily. I mean, I love the romantic subplots, but, if it weren't included, I'd still read the book if I enjoyed the characters and plot.

    If you decide to include it, you should approach it carefully. The main Make-or-Break factor of a romantic subplot is how believable it is. Take that thing between Steve Rogers and Peggy's granddaughter (I think she's the granddaughter). It was pathetic. This woman just showed up for a total of five minutes, and we're supposed to believe that there's already enough chemistry between the two for The Kiss(Trademark)? Nah. It didn't ruin the story, but it was kind of sour for me.

    Another thing you would need to watch out for is how your characters react to this. A bad romantic subplot will have the characters completely change their personalities while they're engaging with the subplot. That's jarring and could confuse your readers as to why these two are suddenly all lovey-dovey when they've never been like that before. So, if you decide to include it, you need to keep an eye out for keeping your characters in character.

    From what you've described, I don't think you need the subplot. Workaholics run the risk of emotionally overworking themselves, so romance is usually a good bet to sort of calm down after a hard day's work. However, you've described her as already having an outlet for that, being the alone time in her house, so I don't think she would need a romance for that.

    By the way, who's your audience? The kind of people you're writing this story for could affect this. For example, YA books will almost always include the romantic subplot because that's what most YAs want in their own lives. Adult books have more leeway here, since a lot of adults already have that kind of thing in real life or have already decided that it's not for them right now.
     
  5. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Active Member

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    I honestly don't care if a story has a romantic sub-plot or not. Now, I do care if a romantic sub-plot is done badly, of course! I remember reading two books by two different authors that each were the first book in a series...and the moment a romantic sub-plot was introduced, it ruined both stories for me. I just felt it wasn't necessary, or that it at least could have been done better.

    Now, I was originally considering having no romance in my current story, but...it kind of developed on its own and now it felt like the right choice for me to make. You never know how your stories may end up. If romance isn't right for your story, then don't feel pressured into adding it!
     
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  6. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Agreed! I want to make her feel human. She has no superpowers or anything. She has a very tough exterior but she does have emotions. Angry, happy, sad, etc. She does love certain people, she does truly care about them...just not romantically. She may appear a bit stubborn and perhaps a little bit cold on the outside but she truly does value certain folks in her life.
     
  7. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    I would actually applaud you for not having a romantic subplot. There aren't enough books, especially books about women, which don't contain any romance. None of my books have romance in them, and I tend to stay away from books that do. Having no romantic subplot would make your book stand out and it would certainly find readers for that very reason.
     
  8. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Great points. My particular protagonist, while not romantically invested in someone else, has a passion and love for her parents, freedom, her best friend (who is a male and they’re really great friends but just no romance), and her mission in her story. She has many reasons to fight and she literally is the polar opposite of me in some respects. Lives a very dangerous lifestyle. Ultimately, there will be plenty of great reasons for the reader to invest.
     
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  9. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Thank you! I like featuring a female protagonist where she doesn’t require a romantic interest to drive her story along. When I read other author’s works featuring a heroine, I appreciate it more when she can be strong and not need a dude or another girl to rely on for romantic support if you know what I mean. There are a handful of heroines I’ve read that don’t require one and those heroines are my favorite. The novelization of Star Wars Rogue One featured Jyn Erso and she never had a romantic interest either in the movie or the book...people say Cassian and her were in love...but I will argue they were more strong comrades than anything else. I appreciate Jyn more because her story relied more on strong relationships with her alliances than love interests.

    My heroine has a good loving heart but that doesn’t mean she needs a guy or girl in her life to romantically invest in.
     
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  10. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Definitely! You know, I loved Katniss Everdeen as a character in The Hunger Games...for the most part. But I felt her romance with Peeta was a bit awkward and ultimately the epilogue of that story kinda ruined it for me. Katniss and Peeta’s romance felt forced many times throughout the three beers, especially during the very end. I didn’t like their romantic sub-plot at all. I honestly would have appreciated Katniss more if she could have stood along without a romance. She had a great loving relationship with her sister and other family, strong friendships with fellow competitors in the Hunger Games events...I just felt she didn’t need Peeta or that whole romantic sub-plot (unless it could have been better).

    For my protagonist, perhaps she may develop a romantic relationship eventually as her story unfolds. The way I know her and see her right now, her life is pretty hectic and she likes her alone time. Nothing should be wrong with that. It’s part of being human and she’s human. We all need some time by ourself sometimes. She will have to come outside of her shell a little bit in her story and go outside her comfort zone. The important thing I guess is to make sure she feels realistic.
     
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  11. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    That’s how I thought about The Hunger Games...I thought that was a romantic subplot done wrong, especially at the very end of the series. It felt forced and thus kind of ruined the trilogy...or at least the conclusion of it...for me. And I agree with you in that a romance takes time...it can’t develop between two people in the matter of just five minutes.

    I feel very comfortable for who my protagonist is and how she goes about things. How she “cools down” you could say. There a lot of important scenes I can picture where she’s alone in her room thinking about her purpose and her mission in her story. I would say my audience is more geared towards adults, not young adults.
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    LotR, I think, is a great example where the two central protagonists, Frodo and Samwise, do what they need to do and are motivated by concerns outside of a romantic arc. Yes, Samwise has Rosie, and Tolkien himself said that without a Rosie at home to fight for, the story felt pointless to him, but I'm going to proffer that Tolkien was a product of a deeply emotionally repressed culture and time. As a man of his era, he lacked the emotional vocabulary to plainly speak about what he himself wrote in his book through the narrative. Frodo and Sam fight for one another. It's not a romance. It's not. And yet, at the same time, it's one of the most beautiful love stories written in English. The problem with English is that it lacks a word to adequately describe their love. Who doesn't want a friend as unfailing, as faithful, as true as Samwise? Who doesn't want a friend as courageous as Frodo?

    Love is what saves Middle Earth at the end of that story. Love. But it's not a romance. Frodo and Sam are not husbands, much as I may wish them to be and have written them to be in fanfiction.

    It's still love, and boy did we invest in that dynamic. ;)

    Just an example...
     
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  13. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Member

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    By the description of your character, she doesn't need to have a romantic relationship, but she can have a platonic relationship with someone. Since she is reserved why not having a strong friendship with a friend? A family member? Having a small group of friends, but trust only in one?

    for inspiration if you find the idea to explore ;)
     
  14. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Active Member

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    As a fan of the LotR books and films, A MILLION TIMES THIS!
     
  15. Nariac

    Nariac Active Member

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    What's she doing while she's alone in her room? How is she ... cooling down? :p

    I have a filthy mind, I'm sorry. Give her the greatest of all introvert romantic interests - her right hand. No, no, wait! Her left hand. Mix it up a little.
     
  16. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    I seldom write romantic relationships in my stories and there are plenty of good stories that don't have them. Go with whatever you feel best suits your story.
     
  17. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    I agree with @EstherMayRose that I would find it incredibly refreshing to not have a romantic plot for the protagonist. People are still people whether or not they are romantically involved and all too often the romance seems forced or predictable.
     
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  18. EBohio

    EBohio Member

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    I haven't read it in a long time, but "The DaVinci Code". They didn't have a romantic relationship did they? I liked it ok without romance.
     
  19. Nariac

    Nariac Active Member

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    They did. Dan Brown's novels always follow the same pattern, especially the Robert Langdon ones. He always teams up with a beautiful woman whose defining personality trait is her looks, they always do the whatever-it-is together, and they always fuck in the end. Next book the pattern repeats.
     
  20. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I personally love a good romance, but really what draws me is relationships in general. Parent-child, siblings, best friends, colleagues, boss-subordinate - the truth is, all these other complex and interesting relationships are often not explored in favour of a romance, which is usually not a relationship at all but rather more of a "will they, won't they?" Even in romance, it's not truly the romantic relationship that's explored. It's actually the build-up towards one that's explored.

    For me, anything that explores the actual relationship is a winner, and no, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship.

    I think romance is just an easy trope people use, to be honest. It gives your character an obvious vulnerability that makes for great drama. It's naturally exciting due to the "will they won't they" element. It's arguably easier to write because you get to create two new characters and just see how they get on together, even if the romance ends up failing. The relationship is brand new and you get to make up all the cool and juicy bits on screen, as it were. (When people think romance, they're rarely thinking of how a marriage maintains itself or falls apart - they're usually thinking hot new romance, girl meets boy)

    Whereas any familial relationships will need a tonne of back stories and would therefore be more work. You're not writing a new relationship but you're bringing a reader into the middle of the relationship. All the explosions and gossip happened in the past that you can't always drag up into the novel at present and you don't wanna flood the narrative with flashbacks but you still need to explain how the relationship got to the stage that it has etc. It's harder work, in my opinion.

    For me, I'd say it makes for a better story when there is romance, but that's not a universal truth at all. That's only because I personally have a soft spot for romance.

    But I would say a good, strong story will always have at least one strong relationship at its centre - but no one says that's got to be a romantic relationship.
     
  21. seira

    seira Member

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    I'm not really a romantic and I often find a romance ruins pieces of the plot for me, because writers feels reader like romances so just throw one in. Maybe they're aiming for a teen girl market so think they have too have you. I don't mind a romance as long as it's needed in the story, doesn't take over the entire plot (unless it is the plot) and doesn't turn the girl into a love struck idiot forsaken everything for one guy.
    My character has a love interest but she's mostly fighting for family, friends, culture and freedom so I'm making sure a boy isn't the most important thing.

    Done well a romance can really add to a story and raise the stakes but I find it's very rarely done right.
     
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  22. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    If you don't want romance subplots, I don't see why there has to be any. That right there would set your book apart from a lot of others. In reality, life doesn't revolve around romance. I think it would be cool if this somehow became more of a thing in literature.
     
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  23. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    I have observed a general trend with "general" media (looking at you hollywood) now-a-days regarding romance in that any story, no matter it's media or genre, must have for some reason or another a romance story. Even if the writers/directors/whatever need to shoehorn it in with a 10 meter lubricated pole (thought there are some good ones and by any means, I am not saying that romance subplots are bad). Whilst this is more so an general observation with movies it does beg the question: where does it come from? It is a bit like all this PC stuff - I have legitimately never met anyone that supports this to the degree they have gone, so who is pushing for it? Just saying it just seems to come out of nowhere, with no apparent support.

    But I think that the answer to the OP's question has been covered all-ready. I'm just going to agree with the majority (if not all) of it here. I don't think i need to elaborate it given that it's mostly already been covered.
     
  24. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I remember when I wrote the first chapter of Evergreen back when I had the initial burst of inspiration. It was just Rose running from a pack of wolves, I had no idea where the story was going, just that she needed to survive. Evergreen would be a very diferent story if Lyla got friend-zoned by Rose. Or if Lyla wasn’t a character. Having a relationship opens the door to lots of meaningful dialog and deep emotional expression. Plus I kinda wanted to do a girl girl fantasy romance, even if the idea for Lyla didn’t happen till later.
     
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  25. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Active Member

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    I never originally planned on having romance in general in my current story, especially not in the way that it ended up happening. Sari was always going to be a good friend of the MC, Kaina, that was without question. But then I ended up having the two fall in love, and...it just felt right. Never planned it, but it just happened. Sure, their relationship ends rather abruptly due to outside circumstances, but...it still meant something. I definitely don't regret it. Basically it was me discovering that Kaina was bisexual, whereas I didn't know that before. :)

    Romantic relationships in general are quite helpful for my story, even if the story could survive just fine without them.
     
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