I want the characters to be real, and I want them to have problems they don’t always overcome. I want them to love each other, even though they know it can’t last. Won’t last. I love when they know how wrong they are together, but they can’t help it.
I realized this when I was thinking about the relationships that have really affected me in books and movies. I’ll list some, and you can see what they have in common (maybe spoilers):
- Buffy and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Logan and Veronica (Veronica Mars)
- Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Starbuck and Anders (Battlestar Galactica)
- Aliiza and Khanir Vhok (Forgotten Realms)
- Jamie and Sarah (Taming the Beast)
- Rosalind and Bill (Battlestar Galactica)
- Oryx and Snowman (Oryx and Crake)
These relationships are all doomed, destructive. Dangerous. They have such pain and anguish behind them. In all but ONE of those examples, at least one person died at the end of their relationship.
And those are the ones that I remember, fondly. I remember weeping and getting emotional and sad and just feeling so strongly for the characters in a way that a happily ever after could never really match.
Sometimes we torture our characters. We make them suffer, and give them relationships that aren’t right for them, or aren’t what society thinks of as acceptable. They’re sometimes abusive, or dark, or passionate, or needy because I think of our characters as whole and complete people. They’re not avenues for a happily ever after, or a plot device. Sometimes they go places we don’t want them to, and sometimes there’s no looking back from the dark places they visit.
But in the end, I think our characters will impact you. They’ll leave an impression, and that’s what counts, for me. I don’t remember the happily ever afters. I remember the passion and pain and intensity of relationships that aren’t perfect, between people that aren’t perfect.
Those are the ones that stay with me after years.