I was thinking recently about relationships and the differences between real life and the fictional stories we write. One thing struck me right away. The length of time for recovery and emotional depth is significantly less in our books. That is not to say that we should take so long to end the attachment between our characters that it overshadows the story but I have read several books where the feelings simply seem to end.
In life we go through the stages of grief when dealing with a break up. So many times when we write them we skip a step or two however. It could be that the characters will eventually work it out and so we keep the separation from getting too bitter. I have noticed though that many times it appears more to be a simple decision. It is like the characters flip an emotional switch and move on as though the relationship is simply a footnote.
I understand that there are a number of characters that are filler or bit parts made to be gotten rid of in order to further the story. Their purpose is to be a plot point killed off either physically or emotionally when they are no longer needed. Perhaps because I write realistic fiction or possibly because I am an emotional train wreck myself much of the time I feel that this light switch method of handling a break up is completely unsatisfying.
I have noticed that my relationships tend to be more detailed than other aspects of my stories and that is something I need to work on. It is not that I want to reduce the relationship but simply improve the rest. For me having relatable characters is extremely important and I want my readers to laugh, cry and fall for the people I create. So why do we do this? Why do we either over focus on the interactions or gloss over them entirely?
I came to a conclusion the other day as I was discussing a problematic relationship I have become far too knowledgable about. In reality our head makes a choice to move on. We know it is best to separate and look for someone better suited to our needs and that will appreciate us for who we are. Yet at the same time our heart holds on to the good times, the sweet tenderness that we fell for in the first place. The heart reminds us of the friends and family members we are walking away from. It conjures images of things we experienced together and tells us we may never have these times again. It wages war on the logic of our minds.
When we write the story however we can see the big picture. We know what will work out and what won't. We take our characters on journeys that can be filled with ear to ear smiles or totally gut wrenching. We promise them that we will make it up to them when we break their hearts and they put their lives, quite literally, in our hands. Because we already know where we are going to the storyline we don't have to linger over the "What Nows" and "Why Me's". We knew what was going to happen when these two characters met. That emotional switch we are unable to flip in real life is easy to turn off in our writing.
In order to demonstrate at least some reality in our fictional relationships we should include some of the pain that we experience and make sure our readers know that the end did cause some grief for these fictional stars of our imaginary worlds. We owe them the time to grieve, though the condensed version is good for a book. I just try to make sure I capture the truth of how painful a break up can be even if it is in fast forward.