Fiction Focused: A Writing Advice Handbook

The path towards writing great fiction is not an easy one travelled--although many chose to pursue it. Whether these individuals be gluttons for grief, closet masochists, or simply blinded by a euphoric haze of inspiration, a consensus can be reached with each holding the phrase, "The art of constructing fiction is worth it," someplace deep in their loins.

In recognition of the great many who sacrifice themselves to these pursuits, this Fiction Focused handbook promises (in a completely non-contract-binding-unpromising way) that it might be of some use. From writing advice, to personal pet-peeves, to general writing characterisation research that most skip.

Uploads will follow (hopefully) every Tuesday, Wednesday and/ or Thursday.


6. Characterisation and Romance: Too Much Mutuality

This might come as a surprise (and I hope that my sarcasm isn’t completely lost here) however, in most cases love does not equate to love. In that, most romantic equations aren’t balanced; you very rarely end up with a stable romantic equilibrium. Unrequited love is a thing that exists; sometimes romance just doesn’t work because one party doesn’t return the affection put to them. Honestly, I’ve read way more than my fair share of stories where all the love is mutual in some way shape or form, even when the relationship should clearly not be so (forced romance doesn’t make good romance).

I know (because I am one of the people who does this) that people tend to criticise relationships that aren’t very well done. That’s what most of these all-mutual relationships read like when people wedge them into their writing. I understand that relationships aren’t very smooth in real life, however, if you have to butcher one of your characters in order to fit this relationship in, or if another character has to completely alter themselves in order for your relationship to work, then I would advise against it even existing within your work. That is, unless you’re intent is to present this as an unhealthy relationship--because that is what it is.

There are two issues when it comes to speaking on the topic of mutually. Firstly, the fact that ‘romance’ exists in an overwhelming multitude of fiction, and secondly the fact that it’s almost always the same type of relationship. These two points can be seen as two sides of the same coin.

Romance is one of the most overused sub-plots ever, and if you’ve picked up ten or so fictional books in your past few years of existence then you’ll most likely be unable to disagree with that statement. We love romance, I get it. I have already outlined one of the mains issues attributed with having romance as a subplot; the fact that it will most likely lead to undeveloped relationships if not choreographed appropriately (due to lack of time). There are, however, two extra considerations to be added to that outlining. The ‘If I am attracted to somebody, then they have to be attracted back’ and the ‘If somebody is attracted to me, then I have to be attracted back’ mentality that seems to permeate through some author’s works.

A mentality as such would earn you a first class ordered slap in reality. Nobody is obligated to return your feelings. Even in fictional works you have to maintain some essence of realism when it comes to how humans interact--especially if the history preceding your story setting echoes that of modern civilisation. Expressing these types of baggages within a relationship also make it come across as forced, fake and down right frustrating, when you would ideally want it to read as natural.

Perhaps an example would make it clearer. You have two people. Let’s call them X and Y. Character X confesses their ‘undying’ love for character Y. Character Y firmly rejects, making their disinterest very apparent. However, character X takes this as an incentive to ‘try harder’, and somehow this miraculously works, and this eventually develops into a happy romance. In most cases, character X only goes so far as to change their physical appearance. The promotion of relationships as such presumes to teach that shallow superficial relationships are okay. If that’s what you’re going for, then go ahead, however when picking up a book from the Romance genre, that’s hardly what people seek to challenge themselves intellectually with.

When someone says ‘no’, they don’t actually mean ‘try harder’, they mean ‘no’; last time I checked, ‘no’ means ‘no’. Imposed romantic approval isn’t fun to experience in reality, and as such doesn’t translate very nicely into written work; it's awkward and uncomfortable, and degrading.

The following point deals with the scarcity of relationships other than romance within fiction. This might only be applicable for Young Adult writing (and some New Adult and Adult works)--especially works aimed for women. I’ve also noticed it happens a lot in anime--but that’s another analysis for another time. It might also be due to (most likely than not) fan activity; publishing houses or self published authors are running a business, don’t forget, and as such most works must be garnered to please their fan bases. Still, I can’t help feeling like I’ve found a rare treasure worth more than Ciel’s soul when I read well executed platonic relationships.

By platonic I mean non-romantic relationships between two females, two males, two people of the same gender, of differing genders, a person and their animal, parental relations, sister and brother relations, friendships, non-romantic student teacher relationships, the relationship you have with your local corner store or supermarket cashier.

On a side note. I need an awkward character I can relate to who goes into the same exact store every day and gets into an awkward conversation with the overly-friendly cashiers and other store workers, crying inside at their awkwardness all the while doing so. I simply like the exploration of different levels of conflict presented within relationships; different from the usual romantic ones anyways. And in these ones you have an even wider scope of unknown outcomes.


Apologies for the strange syntax within this upload. And apologies for missing out last week. A-levels are a pain in the keister.

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