Sometimes there are relationships in novels that just feel flat, and if you try, you just can’t bring them to life. The characters themselves may be interesting, but when they somehow get together, things just don’t feel like they’re bursting.
I am here to help.
Similar to individual charactersThe key to spicing up relationships is motivation and conflict. Here are some tips.
Give the characters different motivations
Two characters moving in step are usually not very interesting. It is much more interesting to see how two characters deal with different visions of the future and different plans, even if they are allied in a search or feel romantic to each other.
Even two characters who have the same target (e.g. save the galaxy) may have different reasons to pursue it. You may want glory, you want happiness, you may want to restore peace and quiet.
Always knows what your characters want! And no two characters should have exactly the same underlying motivations. Make sure these differences emerge.
Make the characters more active
It is not enough if characters have only one motivation. You have to actively take care of this thing. If one or both characters are passive in a relationship, the relationship itself will inevitably feel lifeless.
A great relationship in a novel starts with two characters who are not afraid to do the things that motivate them.
If your characters are both doing the things they want, they can do little more than have an interesting relationship, as these different underlying motivations lead to interesting conflicts.
Put obstacles in their way
Too many romantic relationships I read the progress in a very neat and orderly way from the first attraction to passionate love.
The best way to show two characters in love is to hit the reader over the head with their immediate and light passion. Instead, throw a number of obstacles in your way! False starts, misunderstandings, temptations that disturb the outside world … it can be anything, just don’t make it easy.
When characters have to move heaven and earth to be together and make sacrifices, it feels much more deserved than a perfectly straight line from the first attraction to the wedding bell. Characters who have to work for it demonstrate their attraction to each other through their actions and it’s far more tangible.
Show the contrast in their values
When you think of some of the most interesting duos in literature, it’s often two characters that move around the world in very different ways.
Similar to big bad guysA contrast of values brings interesting dynamics from both characters. The relationship puts their worldview to the test.
If a relationship lacks some jazz, consider how you can give characters different worldviews that conflict.
Always end scenes in a different place than they started
By far the most common and problematic problem I see in relationships in novels is when there are two characters that basically have the same interactions throughout the novel. They may have a fun relationship and make some fantastic jokes, but if their essential dynamics don’t change from start to finish, it will feel static and not that interesting.
Each individual scene between two main characters should end up with their relationship in a slightly different place than in the previous scene. Ideally this will be a series of ups and downs with increasing intensity over the course of the novel.
Think again and again about how you can introduce conflicts and solutions that deepen over the course of the novel.
Do you have any advice on how to spice up relationships in novels? Let me know in the comments!
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Art: Richard Bergh’s Nordic summer evening
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