Dealing with The Red String

Nothing intrigues a reader quite like romance. In fact, romance is a key thing for so many people, that the internet has a term for them: Shippers. Shipping—short for “Relationshipping”—is a fan-based practice of supporting a specific couple in a piece of media, whether said couple is officially together or not. Platonic relationships may not exist to the dedicated shipper, and every glance could mean a potential hookup.

So, what are some key things you, as a writer, should know when you’re looking to create some love interests?

Who is the Love Interest? When I say “who,” I don’t mean in a sense of “Is she the girl who sits in front of him in class,” or “Is he the cute barista at her favourite coffee shop?” I want to know who the love interest is as a person. While flat love interests still exist, sadly, they are of little interest to your audience. The love interest is a person in the same way your protagonist is. What’s this person like in a general sense? What are they like under duress? What makes them happy? Sad? Angry? Do they have hobbies? What are their goals and dreams? Do they like dogs?

There needs to be more to a love interest than just the protagonist’s attraction to them. When a love interest is just as fleshed out as the protagonist, it makes them a more interesting character, and thus the relationship itself is more interesting to readers.

Why is the Protagonist Attracted to the Love Interest? There are a lot of factors that cause attraction between two people: appearance, intelligence, sense of humour, etc. What attracts your protagonist to the love interest can say a lot about their character. Attraction solely based on how good-looking the other person is going to be regarded as shallow unless balanced out by other factors. While a lot of shipping happens based on how “cute” character A would look with character B, your writing demands more. Physical attraction is only part of the package. Maybe your protagonist likes the guy at the coffee shop because she shares the same love of puns. Maybe your protagonist likes his classmate because she’s so passionate when she talks about architecture.

This and tip #1 are especially important to consider when writing interracial couples. There’s a pretty sordid history of ethnic fetishes, usually based around unfair and untrue stereotypes. Yes, your white protagonist can have a Japanese love interest, but he needs to love her for reasons that have nothing to do with her being Japanese. Obviously, he’ll think she’s pretty, but she needs other factors to attract him, like sharing his passion for poetry or being an engaging conversationalist.

What Interests do They Share? Obviously your characters will have to have some likes and dislikes in common. You probably aren’t going to want to date someone who doesn’t share at least some of your interests. Whether it’s hobbies, a similar taste in movies, a love of culinary experiences, a couple needs some common grounds for activities.

They aren’t going to have entirely common interests though. This is where part of their couple’s exploration comes in. Part of being with someone is being willing to do stuff they like, even if you aren’t too fond of it yourself. Your outdoorsy protagonist might have to indulge his girlfriend’s love of video games by going to a convention, while she’ll have to try camping for a weekend. Through this, each member of the pair can get outside of their comfort zone, and discover new things to enjoy (or tolerate for the sake of love).

Where is There Conflict? Not everything is sunshine and roses and puppies when it comes to being in a relationship. Couples fight. Everyone has annoying habits that drive their significant other insane. What would your couple fight about? What might your protagonist find annoying about her girlfriend?  How well do they tolerate the things they don’t like? Do they discuss it, or do they try to ignore the issue?

How Long Have They Been Together? A newly established couple is going to act very different from a couple whose been together for a few years, and that couple is going to be different from a couple whose been together for decades. The length of time they’ve been together determines a lot of things. Their maturity levels, for one, or what they might fight about. A high school couple is more likely to fight and break-up over something petty than a couple that’s been together for several years. Older couples are more likely to argue about money than younger couples. Older couples also have better grasps on dealing with their significant other’s annoying habits.

On the more positive side, older couples are bound to be a little looser with each other. While both parties in a new couple will be trying very hard to impress the other. Embarrassing bodily functions are something that mortifies a new couple, while an established couple might tease each other in the same situation. The length of time a couple has been together might determine how affectionate they are with each other, or the types of subjects their comfortable talking about.

These are but a few things to consider when writing couples. Obviously every couple is different, and a lot of changes boil down to the two individuals you’ve created.

Happy “shipping.”

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