11.38: The Elemental Relationship as a Sub-Genre

We find the elemental relationship in all kinds of stories that are not fundamentally about relationships. The intimate interaction between characters is part of how we define the characters, how we understand who they are as they go on to do the stuff that the story is about.

In this episode we’ll talk about how to apply the principles of relationship writing to stories whose page-turning impetus comes from somewhere else.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Take your notes from the rom-com homework two weeks ago, and build a different relationship onto those beats.

And I Darken, by Kiersten White, narrated by Fiona Hardingham

3 thoughts on “11.38: The Elemental Relationship as a Sub-Genre”

  1. Wanted to expand upon Howard’s (I believe it was Howard – sorry if I got that wrong) critique – these relationship stores about two people coming together, only to be broken apart in the sequel. I find this to be a big thing in game storytelling – particularly Uncharted. I just finished the first three games and, in every one, Nathan Drake and Elana come together only to be broken up at the start of the next game.
    At first, I thought it was sexism – writers not knowing how to write for women outside of being pursued, but I’m wondering if it is more narrative laziness. What I mean by that is, what’s the most obvious narrative for a relationship – two people coming together. This has the most clear cut climax and easy buildup.
    I have noticed that a lot of movies and games do this. Do you think it is sexism or laziness – or the belief that relationships are only interesting when there is some drama directly involved in the status of that relationship?

    1. They do this because once the two get together, the romantic tension is gone. So the only way to bring it back again is to separate the two. TV series are terrrrrrible with this!

  2. Dan — thanks for the book of the week recommendation. For all that media loves Dracula, I’m amazed by how rarely his actual history is mined — complex family dynamics, drama, intrigue: everything for a juicy story is right there for the taking! As soon as you mentioned a fascinating relationship between Lada and her brother, my ears perked up; I knew you must be talking about Radu, and that Kiersten White and I were on the same page.

    Were we ever! Marvelous attention to detail and more research than I could ever have hoped for. Heard the episode Sunday, got the book Monday, finished it by Wednesday. I’m pleased to learn we’ll be getting two more while dreading what’s to come.

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