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On Writing Romantic Relationships

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Editor’s note: This article first appeared as a post in the thread “Fellow crew member or PNPC?” on the Lambda Alliance forum. All credit for its content goes to the writer behind Lieutenant JG Eileen McClaren. Thank you for letting us repost it as a Writer’s Workshop article! As the thread title suggests, this is the writer’s take on writing a romantic relationship with another writer’s PC or PNPC versus creating a PNPC yourself for your character to engage in a relationship with.

For me, as a writer, it’s important to be eye-to-eye with whoever you’re collaborating with in regards to sharing the emotional narrative of a romantic relationship between characters. I’ve done it a few times before and aside from one it’s been a pleasurable and mutually engaging exercise, adding a level of complexity to the creative process, the depth of the characters overall, and provides me (and the other writer as well, hopefully, of course) the opportunity of experiencing our characters in a slightly more substantive level.

That said, making sure you’re at that point (eye-to-eye) with other writer(s) has always been key to me to assure that while I’m not trying to wrest control of the overall arc, that the arc of the relationship (whether or not it’s meant to be one that’s casual or more devoted) does have direction, progression and inertia. In other words, it takes a little bit of effort…just as relationships do. That it’s organic and not simply something being accepted by rote. (People aren’t always blissfully happy or defensive, etc.) That the evolution of the character’s experience is likewise organic, as well. (People…unless with rationally understandable cause… don’t have usually have violent and dramatic personality shifts, going from expressive to unemotive in 0.0002 seconds, etc.) Personally, I’m from the school of stream-of-consciousness writing that embraces the unplanned for but dislikes the idea of drama for drama’s own sake. Someone else might be the sort of writer that plans an arc out with an annotated outline, having very specific goals for their character’s growth and development. It’s a balancing act that mirrors, I think, the pattern in which the most stable actual relationships we have fall into. Knowing what’s expected or desired for/from one’s own character, voicing it clearly, and having empathy for the same in another’s creative expression. We get as much as we give in the creation and “life” of these beings and that should be respected by all involved parties.

Please drop by the forums if you’d like to add your thoughts to the ongoing discussion!

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