Tag Archive for: relationships

Relationships – They’re Complicated

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Doesn’t it capture the good, the bad
and the ugly in a relationship? Yikes! Hopefully it’s all good, but so often
the best words to describe a relationship are, “It’s complicated.”
My husband and I ran errands on Valentine’s Day and watched
with amusement as people made mad dashes into Edible Arrangements, CVS, and the
grocery store for last minute candy, cards and flowers.  It took two seconds to make up stories about
those couples and their relationships. The stories became wilder as the day progressed–funny, tragic, strained, hopeful. The wonderful part—from a writer’s perspective—is
how deliciously complicated relationships can be.
“It’s complicated.”
What a wonderful relationship description. Messy, imperfect,
human. The term implies a hint of mystery, half a cup of vulnerability, the
other half trust. Heartache tossed with belief.
Can you think of any relationship in you life where “it’s
complicated” hasn’t applied at some point?
In my life, beyond (my wonderful) husband, there are parents (don’t get
me started on my father), children, siblings. Friends who’ve held and broken my
trust. Pets who own pieces of my heart. I love them all but the currents,
subtext, history and mutual flaws has woven a multi-dimensional tapestry that’s still evolving. 
I’m wrapping up a novella this month that features several
characters from So About the Money. While the who-dunnit is front and center, the relationships drive the story. The novella is a strange format
for me since I’m used to telling wonderfully complicated stories with subplots,
but it’s terrific for focusing on one character’s path. (And because I can’t
resist, there is a small subplot with Detective JC Dimitrak wrestling with his
prickly relationship with former cop, Frank Phalen.) The new story centers on
Maddie, though; her relationship with her ex, an elderly gambler and his
children… Well, it’s complicated.

What about you? Do you like your relationships stress-free
or complicated? Real life vs. stories?

Cathy Perkins is currently working on an as-yet-untitled story in the So About… series.  She started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams.  Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories.  When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure.  Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 

How to write with pickles

by Bethany Maines

I just read a blog about a woman who bought her husband a giant 5’ chicken because they got into an argument about the need for more bath towels. It was done with a great deal of love, humor and antagonism – like a good marriage.  Or at least like my marriage.  I frequently tell my husband he has extra-large fingernails; he finds this statement bizarre and tells me I just have midget hands.  I haven’t bought him a giant chicken yet, but we’ve only been married for some amount of years under five (I’ve outsourced this knowledge to my husband and he’s not home), maybe when we get to 15 we’ll have reached the giant chicken stage.

But my point is, (stick with me here – I usually get to a point sooner or later) that relationships, even loving ones, frequently work in opposition, as well as compliment, to each other. And yet, that simple, everyday dynamic is one of the harder motivations to write into a character. Why would anyone in her right mind buy a giant chicken and leave it on their front porch to annoy their husband? That’s not logical, or as my agent sometimes says, “I’m just not seeing it – I don’t think she has significant motivation.” Um… he said the pink beach towels were good enough for regular bath towels? That’s practically an engraved invitation for giant chickens right there.

What I’ve discovered is that there are two kinds of people in this world – the chicken people and the non-chicken people. Unfortunately, I don’t get to pick which ones read my books, which means that I have to write for the non-chicken people. And they are much less willing to take that leap to chicken on the front porch ringing the door-bell with me. Which means that I have to do writerly things like establish a history of chicken type actions in my character. Sometimes I add alcohol to an incident – that seems to help readers believe the unbelievable idea of chickens. But I think the most important technique I use is to make sure the tone of my story matches the tone of my character.

I once wrote a science fiction story – very serious, very edgy etc – and at some point my character ate a pickle. Why? Because she likes pickles. But I was informed, in no uncertain terms by my critique group that pickles weren’t allowed. Apparently, pickles are an inherently funny food choice and not in the least sci-fi. I railed against the anti-pickelites, but they were right. You can’t just throw a pickle in from out of no where and expect readers to roll with it. They have to know they’re in a pickle type book.

And then it occurred to me that I must be living a pickle type life if I think 5’chickens are a good thing. I’m ok with that.