Relationships and Death

Before I dig into this, I would like to open with a disclaimer; nothing below is intended to reflect my opinion of real life relationships, past, present or future. It might reflect my trends in reading material or the fact that I’m very much in the southern hemisphere of a depressive episode. Or it could just be because I’m crazy.

But if you really think about it, isn’t the best ending for a relationship the death of one of the partners?

I hear some people screaming out there. But bear with me a moment.

In the fictional world, there are three perfect relationships. There’s the Prince Charming, happily-ever-after. Which people daydream about and possibly obsess over, but which we all know isn’t real. Sometimes that knowledge taints it, rots the image from the inside out, because we unconsciously rebel against it, knowing nothing is ever actually perfect. Westley and Buttercup either had a ton of fights that we weren’t aware of, or they grew apart with Westley lurking in a back room of their mansion penning his memoirs while Buttercup was off playing Dread Pirate with Inigo or something. Belle and the Beast (and yes, I’m aware he has an actual name, I just forget it and think it’s mostly irrelevant) realized they had nothing in common except Stockholm Syndrome, after which he took up painting and she started spending a little too much time in spare bedrooms with Lumiere. Sure, we’re happier if we just pause and say it’s all good at “on his white horse they rode away” or “Oh, hey, I’m human… But I still looked better as a beast…” But we acknowledge it’s essentially unrealistic.

Then there’s the “perfectly awful” relationships. Joker and Harley. Mickey and Mallory. People who are so genuinely fucked up and broken that only someone equally messed up can possibly begin to understand them or tolerate their presence for long. We tend to romanticize this, make it a shining castle of acceptance and compatibility, but really it usually boils down to an abused/abuser scenario, or to a pair of sociopaths who like to pretend they’re not alone and can tolerate the presence of someone else for short periods. That’s not exactly a hot ticket, if you’re asking me.

Then there’s the third one. Where the husband/wife died – generally young and fairly early in the relationship. That leaves the living partner with a pile of memories, which through the magic of grief and attachment, gain a coat of gold paint that conceals the downsides, even assuming they had been together long enough to find them. The deceased partner becomes a legendary icon of what could have been, a magical yardstick to hold any future prospective mates against and find them wanting. There’s no time to fall into complacency, regret, resentment; there’s only that period where they have come straight from the Heaven of your chosing to please you. It’s a perfection we can believe because it can involve “normal” people, rather than psychos and criminals, and because the ending is present without it being the fault of one party or the other in a destructive way. There’s no happily ever after that we reject, and the idealization is considered normal and natural.

Yeah, I’m probably crazy. But I still am wondering if I need to kill off some characters. The endings of the mystery manuscript and Lune de Amant are both now in question from where I originally concieved them. We’ll see where it goes.

My bed is calling, I think. Your thoughts are welcome, as always, in the box below.

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3 responses to “Relationships and Death

  1. I suppose it depends on your reason for reading. If you are reading for escapism, for setting aside the problems and frustrations of your own life, then you want the happy ending, etc. However, personally, I think fairy tales and romance novels kind of set the bar too high for the real world. I even wrote an entire post about it last Valentine’s Day! Anyway, Nicholas Sparks is the devil!

    On the other hand, the other two types of relationships can leave you feeling worse after finishing a story. How do you feel about Heathcliff and Cathy for example? Ugh.

    So in crafting a relationship for your novel, is it a central theme or a subplot? Will it influence the eventual resolution or is it after the fact? Besides taking the relationship somewhere unexpected, killing someone off, having one of them turn out to be someone wholly different from the way you’ve portrayed them so far… That’s good stuff.

    I like the way you think Kaine. It is Kaine, right? I’ve been taking my writing in some brave new directions lately. I’m really glad we connected!

    • Thanks for the comment! And yes, it’s Kaine. (Today, anyway. Tomorrow I might feel more like Roger. Or Etienne. Or god knows what. XD)

      So far as the relationships in my own fiction go, they tend to be background noise, generally; they’re a thing, and sometimes they’re a relevant thing, but they’re not the focus. Both Lune and Mystery Project X are “romances(ish)”, though, so they’re the main focus, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately… And think it will be best for certain things to be changed from the Ultra Shiny Happy Ending ™ or the So Crazy They Can Only Stand Each Other ™ that initially seemed to be the possible routes. Lune, in particular, is undergoing an overhaul of it’s final moments. Maybe I’ll actually get it finished this year, even. XD

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