I wrote a novel a few years ago and passed it around to a few friends to give critique on. This was awhile back (maybe ten-ish years now, as much as I hate to say that). I really did (and do!) love the novel but I received a critique that made me just confused.
Someone did not like the relationship between my main character and her husband. And I read back, having based it partly on my own relationship, to see what was wrong. They were different people – her, headstrong; him, more passive – that sometimes clashed. Their fights were over her job, his job, her “lack of time” at home, his expectations of her – normal, long-term relationship things to me.
My friend didn’t seem to think so. She thought that he was being overbearing, demanded too much of her, and patriarchal.
I found that a little funny. But I suppose that’s what happens when you come from a different point of view. Where she thought it made the relationship ring false, I (and my other critique partners who had experienced the same sort of long-term relationships I had) thought it was all-too realistic.
So that’s what I’m going to ramble on today: making relationships realistic. I don’t write romance primarily. Most of my novels have it in some aspect, from being an aside or part of the main plot. And what I try to do is make these relationships one readers can see in their history (or friends/family/acquaintances).
Do my characters fall into lovey-dovey romance where they never argue? No. Even The Final Rose, which has the “true love” relationship as the main driving force, has the two main characters argue with each other over important decisions and outlooks on the future.
Is there love at first sight? Very rarely. I think that “lust” at first sight is completely relatable – and I’ve used it in novels and stories! – but love at first sight far less so.
Do I have tension? Awkwardness? Embarrassment? Hiding their true selves while they’re in that honeymoon stage of the relationship? Yes. Because those aspects make things a bit more realistic. Those arguments between the long time couple? Realistic. That guilt my FMC feels when her husband starts in on how she’s not home? Not a sign that the relationship is bad; a sign that their relationship is important to her and she realizes she’s failing in it (for good reason!).
When I write, I’ll add the dirty, nitty-gritty, unfun relationship aspects. I think, even if the most speculative stories, adding the common human emotions and reactions help suspend that disbelief just a little bit further.
But if it’s elves? Totally different. 😉