This one time at Writer's Camp…
The Relationship Dynamic
I was thinking about relationships in writing over the weekend (thanks to Chris, who opened my eyes to this while we were talking about other novels and stories while I was visiting him and Janet) and was wondering if other authors pay attention to the detail of relationships they have their characters in. I’m not talking about the general romantic relationship, either. But how do you find a line in the dynamics without making everyone uncomfortable? I mean, in every friendship there is an underlying attraction to the person — it’s why we talk to that person in the person, because we like them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl, really, just as long as there’s a special dynamic to the relationship. If there isn’t one, generally the friendship tends to die out to “acquaintance” levels.
Then I took that dynamic and started looking at my characters and their relationships. I started with Corruptor, naturally, because that was my first published novel. I looked at Tori’s (obvious) dynamic relationship with Dylan, her conflicted relationship with Gavrie, as well as her odd friendship/relationship with Sergio. I noticed that people that Tori weren’t attracted to were pushed backstage, save for Raul and Stephanie. I was kind of startled that Tori’s dynamic relationships were pretty static and she had a “love ’em or leave ’em” sort of attitude. That was sort of startling to me, because I thought I had painted Tori in a different way. This, naturally, got me to looking at other works I’ve done.
In the original Vindicator, I had Nick and Amy’s relationship be an odd one on purpose, that flirty/competitive relationship that grows into something stronger as time moves on. But then you look at Nick and Shane’s relationship and I started to realize that maybe Chris was on to something about the attractive dynamics of every relationship. Nick is smart, but Shane is ridiculously smart. There is an attraction for Nick to hang out with similarly talented people (former Navy SEAL, former defense contractor, etc), to see the dynamics of the various relationships dictate who he becomes as he grows into the relationships.
But then I started looking at my more recent material and realized that as I’ve grown older, my characters and their relationships have really expanded. In the Christian Cole mythos, Christian and Jake’s friendship transcends normal friendship and into something of a big brother/younger brother mix, though it’s debatable who is the “big” brother at times. It’s interesting to see which one of them steps up and takes the responsible role for what situation. It seems like they’re seamlessly slipping between roles as it calls for it, which makes them far more compelling and deeper than a normal set of characters. There shouldn’t be accusations of one-dimensional characters here, though I do worry about the aspect of the two blending too closely together.
Then I look at Shannie (my current work in progress) and the dynamics of her relationship with Kat, Tripp and Augustine (as well as with Liza). As a younger character, Shannie (short for Chandra… somehow) has the ability to ask the questions that the reader wants to ask (but normal adults in the book are afraid to — which I shamelessly
stole borrowed from Janet Morris) and nobody get really ticked off. Shannie’s relationship with Tripp, speaking of dynamic, is really interesting, because despite being younger than Tripp, Shannie takes on the protective older sibling role as everything progresses. Shannie and Kat don’t have a sexual relationship so much as a fear of sexual relations (hard to resist a succubus like Kat), while the uncle-niece relationship between Shannie and Augustine (in lieu of parents) makes for interesting confrontations later. It allows me to play with emotions in a way that a lot of new writers seem to be afraid of (as was I, once upon a time).
But… back to the main point: how do you fearlessly play with dynamics in your novel while not crossing a line that the reader might be uncomfortable with?