Determining Relationships in a Story
Human beings need relationships to thrive. We need people to talk to when we’re happy or sad, whether we’re relaxed or stressed, or when we just want to hang out in a social setting. An author takes all of the elements of a relationship and adds them to characters, so they come to life on the page. The author crafts relationships between characters, so the reader feels every point of pain, pride, and pleasure. That’s because relationships matter.
Welcome to this video about relationships in a story. A story is one that you read in any number of mediums, including novels, newspapers, and magazines. We’ll take a look at how authors use relationships in storytelling and how those relationships help you, the reader, stay engaged in the story.
It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. A story without strong character relationships is like a house without a roof. It’s incomplete. Relationships give characters humanity, and it draws your attention to their plight. For example, you care about the scrappy Elizabeth Bennett and the initially snobbish Fitzwilliam Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” because of their character traits and the tension their relationship causes. Can Elizabeth overcome her poor initial impressions of Darcy? Can Darcy overlook his feelings of superiority to understand that Elizabeth is more than her social standing? The interplay makes for fascinating reading. What drives relationships in stories? The personality traits authors give their readers, and how they use those traits to connect with the audience.
In the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen gave Elizabeth pride and Darcy prejudice, two strong relationship characteristics. Here is a list of some of the other characteristics that make for an excellent relationship story.
Tension: Tension builds anticipation in a story and makes the reader identify with the characters involved. For example, you can feel the tension when, “The Silence of the Lambs,” Agent Clarice Starling confronts the killer Buffalo Bill at his home. The tense relationship between the two begins the climactic good versus evil confrontation. Relationships in stories don’t always have to be good. They can be tense and dangerous, and that tension transfers to the reader, who eagerly awaits what’s next.
Greed: That’s a trait that results in strong emotions. People despise greed. They especially despise greedy characters and wait for them to “get what’s coming to them.”
The miserly and unfeeling Ebenezer Scrooge inspires only disdain from readers until he changes his greedy ways. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby,” was consumed by the trapping of wealth and used his money, and greed, to get his way. When he died, only one person attended his funeral. Talk about “getting what’s coming.”
The infamous and loathed character Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street utters the famous line, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” It made your hair stand up on your arm. And that’s the intended purpose of any author. Get that reaction. In all of those cases, with Scrooge, Gatsby, and Gekko, the author gave their characters the trait of greed and explored how greed had an impact on all of their relationships.
Determination: As much as readers can’t stand greed, they love determination. That’s grit, the desire to succeed in the face of all adversity. In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the old Cuban fisherman Santiago refused to give up when trying to catch a magnificent Marlin.
Those are just three individual characteristics that can help craft relationship in stories. Humor, devotion, loyalty, cruelty, pessimism, dominance, and stubbornness are also among those qualities.
Authors write relationships in a way that is multidimensional, just as they are in real life. Two characters each with a single trait make for a boring relationship. That’s why characters need multiple traits, which makes their relationships more complex and appealing.
Let’s take the example of Jean Luc Picard, the captain of the Star Ship Enterprise on the fictional space adventure “Star Trek.”
He’s stoic and distant yet kind and compassionate. He’s as loyal to his crew as they are to him. He loves his chief medical officer but keeps his feeling for her at a distance, so you feel for his silent suffering. His relationships with his crew aren’t all about rank. They see him as a fair and unbiased leader who can be tough when needed.
He’s a multidimensional character the audience identifies with, and his complex character traits lead to more interesting relationships.
So we’ve taken a look at some relationship qualities. Ask yourself. Is it always easy to figure out the relationship? The answer is not always.
Authors can hide relationships for shock value. The famous, “I’m your father,” uttered by Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars,” was certainly a shock and played against the backdrop of Skywalker’s good versus Vader’s evil.
So that’s our look at relationships in stories and why strong character traits make for the most compelling relationships. When you understand the relationships in a story, you better understand the characters and plot twists.
I hope this overview was helpful.
See you guys next time!