Character Development Tip: How To Handle Feels

I recently (at some point last week I think) read this MLP fan fiction that surprised me a lot. It was incredibly well-written and it handled a relationship between two characters of a children’s show with a level of maturity I would have never expected. And by maturity, I don’t mean adult content. In fact, I don’t recall as much as a kiss ever taking place during the many chapters of that story.

That’s one of the reasons I like reading fan fiction; when it’s good it can be REALLY good. There are great writers out there writing strictly within the confines of their preferred fandom. Now, forget I said this was an MLP fan fiction. Scratch that one fact entirely from your minds, guys. This was a romance story that not once contained the words “I love you”, entirely lacked the obligatory kissing scene, and accurately showed the process of two characters going from being just friends to being in love.

If I knew how to do that five years ago I would cringe 80% less while rereading SOE. This is something I know I wasn’t a good enough writer to handle when I started writing Crys and Jake. I feel almost like I wronged them in a way. I’m not going to post any of their early scenes here because I honestly don’t like them and one day I’ll rewrite it, but… I will talk about it.

Jake and Crys were one of those people who were ALWAYS clearly not just friends but were not officially anything more than friends. That’s a pretty big trope, but one that fits two people who grew up together. Jake was ten and Crys was twelve when they met. She was literally the first person he saw in the Wolves’ camp, and at age 13 he was just hopelessly in love with her. It took Crys a bit longer than Jake to get there; or rather to admit she was there, but by the point of SOE; the first installment in the Shadows Series, it was already a very mutual feeling. And when Crys called Jake back to the Wolfpack to help go after the bad guy he was like “I’m gonna tell her!”, but he didn’t. And he was literally following her around the entire RP trying to gather his nerves.

That was my first mistake. I don’t think you should do that. In my case, it actually built up to something that turned out quite anti-climatic. And it didn’t have to be that way if I hadn’t made a such a big fuss over it myself. Basically, it all boiled down to, after almost being killed, Crys saying ‘I love you’ in the middle of calling Jake an idiot for almost getting himself killed and him being all ‘really?’ about it… It was a bad scene. Okay? It was a no-good-cliche-as-fuck embarrassment of a scene.

Here’s what I learned since, though; subtlety.

I’m gonna be honest with you guys… I have NO idea how many times Jake and Crys have used the words ‘I love you’ since SOE or if they even used them at all in any of their posted scenes. They might have, but I’m not sure.

Okay, I counted just in SOF. And twice. Crys said it twice. And the first time wasn’t in a good way. It was in an ‘I love you, but…’ kind of way.

Here’s some of the stuff they have said in the past two RPs however:

“You know I’m always on your side.”

“I’m right here, even when I’m not.”

“I’ll do my best for you.”

“We’re fighters, you and I.”

“I trust you completely.”

“I always take you seriously.”

So on, so forth.

Do you guys remember Princess Bride?

20120220-190041

So okay, I don’t give my characters one specific phrase that means “I love you”. Although Luckas does have a habit of repeating a few things, but that’s not exactly intentional on his part. However, there is such a thing as demonstrating love through acts of trust, devotion, faith… Jake’s a bit messed up and constantly the one in need of comforting, but when it comes down to it, he’s also the one to remind Crys that she was strong enough to fight off Death. That they’ve both survived horrible shit. That they’re fighters and no matter what, they can always fight. He does have this unyielding faith in her ability to survive and lead others; even if he still feels the need to protect her. Not because he thinks she needs it, but because he needs to.

I’m never sure how much sense I make when I start rambling about my characters, but the point I’m trying to make is that the full intensity of a character’s emotions can be expressed in far less intense actions with the same, if not greater, effect.

The main reason I don’t actually hate writing romance anymore because I found that it doesn’t have to be that super saccharine crap I thought it was; that some writers out there still seem to think it has to be.

So here’s my two cents; it doesn’t have to, and it shouldn’t be.

B.B

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