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Posts Tagged ‘Empire of Night’

It doesn’t matter where you go, what you watch, or what you read. Inevitably, there is some sort of relationship involved. That relationship could be with another person, with yourself, or with God, but there is always at least one relationship involved in life and stories.

Every writer needs to know the relationships between the characters in the story, and many times aspects of those relationships are taken from the author’s life, whether consciously or unconsciously.

In my last post, I reviewed Kelley Armstrong’s Sea of Shadows, from her Age of Legends trilogy. In an email interview, she answered a few questions regarding the relationships within this trilogy, specifically the first book.

http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/images/Kelley_Armstrong_5-lrg.jpg

Photo credit: Kathryn Hollinrake. kelleyarmstrong.com

“Relationships are a huge part of any novel for me,” she wrote. “They might actually be the part that interests me most because it impacts so many other aspects of the plot.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the characters of stories, and I’ve loved the relationships that are formed, whether I root for them or not. It’s something I’ve always looked at in stories, and I’ve always found them to be the most intriguing aspect of a story.

In Sea of Shadows, the plot focuses on twin sisters Moria and Ashyn as they travel to the Imperial City of the empire. They are forced to leave their home on the edge of the Forest of the Dead. They each travel with other companions, but are separated. (For a lengthier summary see my last post here or Goodreads here.)

How much should relationships impact the overall story? “I had the primary relationship of the twin sisters,” Armstrong said, “and I wanted to explore how that changes as they near adulthood. It’s such a close bond, and yet one that will change, as they prepare to lead independent lives, away from the family home. The plot of the book let me accelerate that process.”

Armstrong, like many writers, incorporated some of her own life into the relationships in Sea of Shadows. “I would take my own relationship with pets or my experiences seeing twins and then add the fictional ‘what if.’” Two of the “what if’s” she asked were: “What if your dog/cat was supernaturally bonded to you?” and “What if, as a twin, you grew up in a world where you’d never been apart?”

Writers often take their own experiences and find ways to express them, and for fantasy writers sometimes that means taking life experiences and incorporating them through fantasy elements. By doing this, authors can better connect their readers to the fantasy world, as there are familiar aspects involved. By incorporating small aspects of life, authors let readers bring their own ideas and experiences to the story.

The next hurdle for authors is in how to show the relationships within the confines of the story’s plot. Both dialogue and action are important. Armstrong says, “Dialogue is the easy way—show how they interact in conversation.” However, she thinks showing a relationship through action is stronger. “It’s the old adage about actions speaking louder than words.” She likes to take it a bit farther. “It’s also very telling if a character says one thing but does something very different, and I often play with that. Trust the actions, not the words!”

The story doesn’t end after Sea of Shadows; it continues on with Empire of Night, the second installment of the trilogy, and then with Forest of Ruin, to be released in 2016. Even as a writer myself, I haven’t yet had a story that’s warranted more than one book. It’s fascinated me how well characters’ relationships can both change and stay the same over a multi-novel story.

Armstrong wrote that it can be difficult to maintain relationships throughout a multi-novel story. “I think the hardest part is maintaining the right balance of focus on each relationship, as new relationships form and the old remain (and remain important).”

Not only does Armstrong maintain human relationships with five main characters throughout the trilogy, but she also adds Moria and Ashyn’s “bond beasts,” which she characterizes as “a pet relationship in overdrive.” She includes the sisters’ relationship as it grows and changes, the friendships they make, potential romances between characters, and each characters’ relationship with the bond beasts, as the sisters’ bond beasts are with them the majority of the time.

How does one keep track of so many relationships throughout all of the plot that has to carry through three or more novels? “I actually tracked all of those in charts,” Armstrong said, “to be sure that I wasn’t focusing too much on one relationship at the expense of others.”

That sounds a lot like real life to me, aspects of which, as I said above, many authors want to include in their stories. Not only does the author need to maintain a balance in those relationships, but the characters themselves may have to balance relationships throughout the story. Which is yet another thing for the author to keep track of while in the process of writing.

As is fairly usual for an aspiring writer interviewing an established author, my last question for Armstrong was if she had any tips for portraying character relationships. “Deep relationships should be complex,” she said. “They are in real life. We might have simplistic relationships with acquaintances, but it’s very different with deep or long-term relationships. When drafting relationships, look for points where two characters are in sync but also for where they conflict.”

That’s some good advice. As far as I’ve found, no relationship is all sunshine and roses. Nor is a relationship all fighting and contention. There has to be a balance of both, as there usually is in real life. People’s interests conflict and cause tension in a relationship, and characters should be the same. “It’s those points of conflict that will really add to your interactions, but you need the “in-sync” points too—endless bickering between characters is as boring as no conflict at all.”

 

What do you think? As a reader, how do you prefer to see relationships portrayed? What are some of your favorites?

Writers, how do you prefer to portray relationships, and why? Do you use a model of some kind? Leave your comments and ideas below!

 

Find out more about Kelley Armstrong on her website or blog. The Age of Legends trilogy can be found on Amazon.

 

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