Free Lanes 101: Part 4, Relationships


Just because somebody is right for you doesn’t mean you’re right for them. We don’t get the people we want, we get the ones we need. And other clichés. Actually the first one is something I think I came up with unless you can prove otherwise. The driving force of every individual scene and the overall plot has to be conflict. This was one of the most important lessons anyone ever taught me. It doesn’t matter if it’s because the Dark Lord killed your parents and still has a grudge against you, or you’re being entered in a televised death match in a modern circus arena or if your significant other did the dirty on you. There has to be conflict, some sort of tension , otherwise you just have a bunch of people agreeing with each other, getting along, peace on earth and generally not much interesting is going to happen. And that’s boring.

*** Spoilers ahead. Turn back now ***

Relationships are a key way to create this conflict, all you have to do is have two people who don’t quite get along. Let’s go with Nel and see what her relationships are like. She’s the major protagonist so hers are kind of important and she has some form of relationship with most every other character. The Captain for example. Nel and Horatio have a lot of respect for each other, though you might wonder why sometimes. Like I’ve already said before, Horatio has the skipper to run his ship so he can dodder off into old age and senility and spend more time at the gambling tables. Their relationship comes down to responsibility, Horatio can’t handle it and Nel doesn’t want it so they juggle it back and forth, each somehow justifying that the other one is really in charge, except when they’re not. That and fixing the captain’s problems is the skipper’s major responsibility. But that’s better than having to make some of those big decisions. You didn’t notice how much Nel tries to avoid taking on additional responsibility? She’s quite prepared to ignore shipwrecked survivors or turn away from desperate refugees. The skipper is a hard woman, as Piper will tell you, she’s prepared to make hard decisions to protect people, but also to protect herself. She’s been hurt pretty bad in the past, in several ways. Which is why a lot of the crew admire her, but don’t want her protégé Violet to end up anything like her. Survivors are often strong people but surviving necessitates a tragedy of some description.

Nel and Violet. It’s a very mentor-student/sidekick sort of deal. Violet hero-worships the skipper and it shows, but Nel isn’t going to cut her any slack because of it. She might play knight errant to the damsel in distress if she has to, but that’s part of being skipper of the Tantamount and this knight’s armour sure isn’t white.

Maybe grey. Smudged, dirty and heavily scratched grey.

Like I said, Nel’s relationship touches most of the characters. Violet is her protege, Gabbi her friend. Piper is confidant. Scarlett is her rival, or possibly nemesis, Heathen is her past.

The skipper and Quill. Now these two have served together for a long time. There’s a lot of mutual if grudging respect here, and believe it or not Quill gets to be the one who calls the skipper out on this, when he tells her he has a right to be judged on the whole of their shared history rather than any recent actions alone. To be fair at this point he has just stolen the Tantamount, with his partner in crime Sharpe. Sharpe is a bit of a user, but he and Quill happen to have goals that mutually align often enough that they get along. Sharpe does that though, use people. Impressionable people like Violet and Horatio. Possibly that’s why the skipper doesn’t like him. Otherwise he’d just be you average Han Solo-esque anti-hero scoundrel.

Alright, let me put this really plainly. And add that spoiler tag again. Ok? ***SPOILERS***. Nel and Sharpe. Now, I was very deliberate about putting a lot of female characters in. The ratio in your average fantasy novel is probably something like 3-1 against females on a good day (I’m making that up but it sounds about right). Somehow I ended up with the protagonist, deuter-protagonist and two of the three antagonists as females. It just happened that way. But I was fairly deliberate about avoiding the clingy, arbitrary yet requisite romance. Yeah, sorry. I need to work on my romances. Probably in real life too but let’s not go there.

There were a couple of reasons, apart from struggling to right plausible and well developed romances. It can undermine an otherwise strong and fun female character if they go all swoony over the nearest rippling biceps and crooked smile. If the love interest is too much of a good thing you have Wonder Woman getting upstaged by Superman, if they’re not then you have people going ‘oh, she could do so much better.’ It’s more fun to make Nel roll her eyes and sucker punch her ex-dalliances. Nel and Violet don’t get romantic interests because quite frankly they’ve got better things to do like being the stars of their own story.

So what’s the first thing I get asked by write-ins and close friends? Female friends I might add?

‘Do you Nel and Sharpe get together in the sequel??? Are you going to write someone new for Violet?’

Really? Nel and Sharpe? You got that from what I wrote? I guess it really is programmed in there somewhere.

I’ll point out that my male friends got in ahead of the curve here, prior to publication. They’d sit down next to me at the bar, half swivel in their seat and lean nonchalantly on the bar with one arm wrapped around their beverage of choice.

‘So…this book of yours…are there any sex scenes? Cause I’ll buy it there’s some sex scenes and…’

‘It’s an all female cast, guys.’

And watch their little eyes light up. Marketing 101.

So yeah…Nel and Sharpe get together in the sequel. And there’s copious sex scenes. Happy?

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