April 12th, 2012

promise tea

More on Mystery: Romance

Taxes are done, and now I can move on to the other nagging tasks in my life.

I learned last night that the worst time to have a bad foot cramp is when you're holding two little girls in your lap. I think I scared them a bit, but I had to stand up and get my foot flat on the floor immediately or I'd start screaming (and that would also have been scary). The foot is not designed to curl into a fist. It's still twitchy this morning, which may make ballet interesting tonight. Oh, and we didn't resort to twirling and dancing, but we played a lot of musical chairs. We did a variation where when kids started being eliminated, we started a second circle and had two games going, and when there were approximately even numbers in each group, we had it so that getting "out" meant joining the other group, so no one was ever really out. They just went back and forth between groups. We still had the kids who were frantically trying to win (who would fight tooth and nail to get a chair) and the kids who were practically fighting to get out (they'd just stand there near a chair and refuse to get in it), and then the kids who seemed to have no idea what to do. There were also rhythm sticks and lots of noise, and I earned my glass of wine.

Since I get twitchy (and not just my feet) if I'm not plotting something, we're back to planning the mystery series. Today's topic: romance. I've found in reading what people have to say about various mystery series that while they read each book for the mystery in that plot, they buy the next book more because they want to see how the main characters' personal lives progress. Mostly, that has to do with the romantic subplots. One thing I find interesting is that in all the mystery series I've read, I haven't found any that handle the ongoing romantic relationship in the standard TV way -- the will they/won't they, where there's one main couple from the start that are total opposites in many ways -- or maybe even in opposition -- and who spend a lot of time bickering while having "chemistry," and over time they may almost get together a few times, but then have roadblocks flung in the way. They may or may not ever actually get together, and by the time they do get together, it's nearly impossible to do it in a way that pleases all the fans. See Remington Steele, Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and just about every male/female partner team on TV.

Not that not having this is a bad thing, but the mystery book series do something almost as bad: the triangle. There are usually two main romantic possibilities in the sleuth heroine's life, and she's drawn to both of them or torn between them. In some series, she wavers back and forth between them. In some, she's involved with one but is tempted by or drawn to the other and I get the feeling she's going to start with one and maybe end with the other. Quite often, there's the good boy vs. bad boy thing, where one guy is the cop she runs into during her investigations and the other is the just slightly shady or mysterious one who's generally on the side of right but who isn't bound by the same regulations as the cop. A motorcycle and longish hair may be involved. Otherwise, if there's just one guy, it seems like the relationship is established in the first book, and from there it's more of a "Nick and Nora" thing, where they work together as a team with no doubt about their romantic relationship.

I would rather avoid either of those models, but I don't know how much is genre convention and if something different would fly. The current TV mystery relationship model I like best is what they've done on Haven, where it wasn't an obvious done deal from the start that the two main characters would get together, but it also wasn't a will they/won't they thing or a triangle. They hit it off from the start, but with just about zero sexual tension. She had a more flirtatious relationship with the bad boy, but it never came across like she was actually romantically interested in him, and we later learned that he had a plot-related agenda in cozying up to her (though I doubt he'd have rejected her if she'd taken his flirting seriously). The main guy was dating someone else for a while, and his partner was supportive in that and even played wingman for him, then was compassionate in the aftermath of the breakup, which was what really solidified their friendship. The outside relationship that usually is used as a temporary romantic roadblock for the main couple in this case was a stepping stone for them. Then later she started dating someone else, and though he was kind of hurt because he had started developing feelings for her by then, he was still supportive and was nice to the boyfriend, then was there for her in the breakup. Again, what could have been the romantic roadblock was actually a stepping stone because it showed her the real worth of her partner, that he was the one who was always there for her, who trusted her absolutely and who "got" her on a fundamental level. Plus, with their crazy jobs and schedule, they were always having to run off to work, which meant leaving any other romantic interest and running toward each other. As we left them at the end of last season, they were finally getting together. I guess if we translated this into a series of mystery novels, that would have been at about book 12 (since I figure you could fit two episodes into a standard-length book), which is a really, really slow build now that I think about it -- except in the world of the series, in which both seasons so far have taken place in one summer, so all this has happened in a few months.

So maybe something not that slow, but still, I like the idea of the slow development with the person who's always there while they still interact with other people and even have other involvements, but with those other involvements being less Mark Harmon opening the door (the big roadblock in Moonlighting that derailed the relationship) and more steps along the way to finding the right person who was there all along. Then once the main couple gets together, if the series continues beyond that I wouldn't want them breaking up and making up or her being drawn to someone else. I figure once you're sleeping with someone, you need to stop getting yourself into compromising positions with another person who really turns you on. I really don't like the going back and forth between guys, which has turned me off from a couple of mystery series, where it feels kind of like the author is afraid to commit, for fear of turning off the readers who pull for the other guy.

I guess the result of what I would want to do would be a slightly slower build than I did with Katie and Owen -- though there was still a lot more relationship development and conflict that happened after that first real kiss in book 2 -- but still along those lines. I refuse to include a long-haired guy who rides a motorcycle, though. I might even get crazy and mix things up and have the seemingly super-nice guy be the one who's slightly shady and the one who's a little more rough around the edges be the boy scout. I don't know yet. My heroine is very clear to me, but the people surrounding her are still blurry.