Friday, March 29, 2019

7 Non-Romantic Relationships for Your Stories - A Guest Post by Beth Wangler

Something awesome this way comes. Allow me to introduce you to the incredible Beth Wangler: indie author, Phoenix Fiction Writer, and friend. She's here today to share some amazing ideas for writing non-romantic relationships, so listen up and take good notes: 

You know how it goes: Boy meets girl, girl meets boy. Probably they hate each other at first, but through the course of the story they fall in love, just in time for a dramatic kiss at the climax.

Am I the only one who’s getting bored with all these romantic subplots?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with romance, per se. Romance can be a very powerful driving force in anyone’s life, and it can drastically shape lives for real and fictional people. The trouble is, romance is by far not the only type of meaningful relationship that people have with each other.

I have a little secret for you: The core relationship your main character has doesn’t HAVE to be romantic. *gasp* I know, it’s crazy.

Gif of Vizinni from Princess Bride saying "inconceivable"

Here are 7 other types of relationships for your characters to have.

7 Non-Romantic Relationships for Your Stories - A Guest Post by Beth Wangler

1. Parent-Child

Parent and child relationships are some of the core relationships in our own experiences. Whether that is a healthy, nurturing experience or an experience of neglect or abuse, these shape us from the day we’re born. They can be complicated and messy, and each one is different. In addition to adoptive, biological, or step-parents, people may have parents-in-law. I would love to see more of these kinds of relationships in stories, and not just stories where the parents are dead.

Also, your main character can be the parent in the relationship. I know, it surprised me, too: Parents are also real humans with stories to tell.

Books already doing this well: Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse features a troubled mother-daughter relationship; “Beast in the Machine” by E.B. Dawson features a beautiful father-daughter relationship; “The Traveler” by E.B. Dawson features a sort of adopted parent-child pair.

2. Siblings

Siblings can be...complicated. Brothers and sisters love each other. They also know each other better than anyone else--which can be a wonderful thing, and it can also lead to a lot of hurt. For the most part, siblings are stuck with each other (much more than girlfriends and boyfriends are stuck with each other), so this provides an incredible opportunity to explore reconciliation and forgiveness. And siblings don’t have to be young: I’d love to see more adult siblings.

Gif of Sam Winchester saying 'You're my brother, and I'd die for you."

Books already doing this well: “Colors of Fear” by Hannah Heath features brothers, and her “Skies of Dripping Gold” features a brother-sister duo; “Irellia the Night Walker” by me features sisters; the Beaumont and Beasley books by Kyle Robert Shultz feature a great, supportive, complicated brother pair; Two Lives Three Choices by K. L. + Pierce has a brother-sister pair with one of them as the antagonist; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is centered on a beautiful big sister-little brother relationship.

3. Other Family

Family is more than immediate family. Cousins have a special connection. Aunts and uncles can be very influential on nieces and nephews. Godparents and grandparents are some of the most important people in a child’s life. Whether family lives close or far, whether there’s a small or large age gap, whether it’s a big or little family, these relationships are beautiful, meaningful, and often strange.

Books already doing this well: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson has a wonderful young aunt and niece relationship; Child of the Kaites by me features an MC with close relationships with her uncle, cousins, and pseudo-adopted parents; The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis has a nephew-uncle relationship.

4. Friends

We need more examples of healthy, supportive friendships as well. Now, there are a decent amount of these relationships in fiction. I would like to see friendship take more of a forefront rather than being put on the back burner while romance takes the lead. From a conversation I had on Twitter, a lot of people (myself included) also want to see more completely platonic male-female friendships, and we’ve noticed an extreme dearth of supportive female friendships. We need more ladies supporting each other in our fiction, friends. We also need more guys who aren’t ashamed to have good, close relationships with their bro-pals.

Books already doing this well: Creation of Jack series by E.B. Dawson has a plethora of incredible F/F, M/M, and M/F friendships; The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder; the Malfunction trilogy by J.E. Purrazzi features both a M/M and a M/F friendship, both of which are incredible; my “The Temple Builders” features a M/F friendship.

5. Teacher-Student/Mentor-Mentee

If you’re writing a futuristic, modern, or even probably historical story, chances are high that your characters had to gain knowledge about their world through some kind of schooling. That might be a private tutor, it might be a one-room schoolhouse, it might be an apprenticeship, it might be a massive, impersonal university. Most societies have both teachers and students of some type, and both student and teacher can be a main character. The same goes for mentors and mentees.

Gif of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn starting up their lightsabers in unison.

Books already doing this well: “Flames of Courage,” by Hannah Heath; “The Word Thrower” by me; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card takes place in an academy system; and Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis.

6. Employer-Employee/Worker-Customer

Many cultures feature economies based on buying and selling, and so consumer-worker interactions are some of the more common relationships people have. This could be a regular customer at a grocery store/coffee shop/lumber yard/etc. It could be the relationship between an employer and someone who works closely with their family, like a nanny or housekeeper. There is some overlap with this and master/apprentice relationships, but that’s okay: Our goal is just more diversity in relationships in stories.

As @JessieBWrites mentioned on Twitter, good bosses are common in real life but almost impossible to find in fiction.

Books already doing this well: “The Astoundingly Mortal Peril of Denna Dorwin” by Nate Philbrick has a hilarious shopkeeper-client relationship; “Beast in the Machine” by E.B. Dawson also features an employee-employer relationship.

7. Colleagues and Team Mates

Colleagues and team mates are people who may be very different from each other but share a similar interest. They might be competitive with each other, or they might be supportive. They might have very different religions, genders, social or economic statuses, or personalities, but they can still end up caring for each other. If your character works full-time, chances are they spend more waking hours with their coworkers than with their family or friends.

Books already doing this well: It’s hard to classify the main relationship in H.L. Burke’s “Magicians’ Rivalry,” but I’d say it leans a bit more into colleagues than employer-employee; Dracula by Bram Stoker has a wonderful team of colleagues/friends; the borgs in J.E. Purrazzi’s Malfunction trilogy; the Mythfits in Kyle Robert Shultz’s Beaumont and Beasley series.

For more ideas on diverse character relationships, check out this thread on Twitter of people sharing what they would like to see more of:

What types of non-romantic relationships would you like to see more of in stories? Do you know other examples of stories that focus on these types of relationships? Let us know down in the comments!

Great tips, right? Beth Wangler is amazing. Be sure to follow her online: 

And, if you're on the hunt for good Christian fantasy, you just found it. Beth Wangler's series, The Firstborn's Legacy, is incredible and you should read the entire thing: The Lake of Living Water, Child of the Kaites, and the Steward Stories. Already read some of her stuff? Let's fangirl about it below!

Related articles:
Romance in YA Novels: The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid
Don’t Write Every Day: 9 Ways to Rest and Rejuvenate - A Guest Post by Beth Wangler

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, Beth! I didn't even think about boss/employee relationships in books (probably because I write Middle Grade) but that's a great relationship to explore.

    1. Thank you, Elza! Some relationships will be more relevant for different genres/age groups. I hadn't thought much of boss/employee relationships, either, but several people mentioned it when I was researching for this post :)

  2. My work in progress has a strong relationship between brothers, an adult mentor for the MG protagonist, and developing relationships with other boys at school who become the protagonist's "tribe". The main girl in the story is a strong young woman who in some ways teaches and mentors him too. Romance? That is in the sequel!

  3. My WIP has a romance, but that's not the main relationship. The MC is a teenage orphan living during WWII and her closest relationship is with the child abuse victims she mentors. While she does fall in love with a co-workers, she's more at home with the children or maybe with her cousins, who she is governess to.

    The reason for this is that I suck epically at writing believable romance!

  4. There was a character called kindred in League of legends... It... They? had a unique relationship that i never saw anywhere else... And that game's lore is, i don't know. Kinda wastes that character.
    Kindred was actually made of two separate entites that born from the same mind. Basically, a man took an axe and cut himself to two, each part took one aspect of the man. Emotions, memories, pain, hunger, abilities, beastial instincts... You name it. Those two could be used in lots of interesting situations for creating a character. But straight out stealing would be wrong, so writer must go a little original after inspiration...

    And, of course, sealed fate. "You see, we need to act together until this binding is removed. Until then, if one of us is going to die, other will die too. So, either you like it or not, we will stay together". Bonus points if both of them has really different world perspectives. One is a kinda villain, other is a kinda hero like, but none of them are main proto/anta-gonist. Interesting ideas...


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