Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Characters Hook Up...or Not

By Andrew E. Kaufman, Author of Psychological Thrillers

“I’m so glad the main characters didn’t fall in love.” 

This is one of the most persistent comments I see while reading reviews for my books. And while I’m always pleased by positive feedback from readers, I do find it interesting when they feel strongly enough to make note of this.

But to be honest, I’m not sure if I can tell you why my characters never hook up. I don’t think it’s ever been a conscious decision—in fact, most of what I write rarely is.  I’m an intuitive plotter, which means I don’t outline, plan, or imagine my stories before creating them. Generally speaking, all I start with is a basic premise (very basic, often no more than one sentence), and then allow my instincts and characters to lead the way. So maybe I opt out of those love connections because they just don’t feel right to me (or should that be, to them?).

Of course, I’m talking about thrillers here, and admittedly, I do find myself having the same reaction as some of my readers, especially when it seems the situation doesn’t require it or appears particularly unrealistic. And when you think about it, people don’t necessarily fall in love just because they’re thrown into a tense situation anyway; in fact, I think the more natural choice would actually be just the opposite.

Then there’s the predictability factor, something that (cringe) we as authors often see in our reviews. But if I'm going to be completely honest, as a reader I find myself being just as critical about this. I can't count the number of times my eyes have started rolling at the exact point in a novel where a male and female characters start falling in love. That’s not because I’m a love cynic, but rather because in many cases it almost feels too easy, and then it's just plain annoying.

I suppose it all boils down to intent. If it’s relevant and moves the plot rather than being disruptive, I don’t think readers mind so much—if not, then they probably will.

Oddly enough, after saying all this, love is in fact an element that drives the plot for my upcoming novel, Darkness & Shadows, but I don't think readers will find it to be anything near typical, but instead, dark and disturbing--just the way I like it.

 What do you think? Authors: do you allow your characters to share a love interest? If so, how and why? And readers: do you feel particularly strongly about this either way?


  1. That question is different when you're writing a series, but even with my first Jackson book, my instinct was to establish an attraction, but not let it come to fruition and not let it dominate the story. That's been my choice in my standalone thrillers too. If feels more realistic to me. Thanks for an interesting post.

  2. I actually think that's a great choice, LJ. Sexual tension can often be more effective than an actual connection. I've also done this in one of my novels.

  3. I found your post very interesting, Drew. Particularly because the one comment I receive more than any other is , "When are Sabre and JP going to hook up?" (Or some version thereof.) Many of my readers, both men and women, want them to get together.

    One of the problems I have is that I don't think the relationship will work in the long run, but maybe...we'll have to wait and see if they even get together.

  4. I've had readers who want more romance in my books, but I don't write romance, not even romantic suspense.

    Like you've kind of suggested, it isn't that there is no romance, or attraction, or sexual tension, in my books, it's just that they don't overpower the real story.

    I've been reading a very good author who has switched from writing erotica to writing suspense. The thing is, I think she's trying to transition her readers from one to the other and at times, the story gets lost in the sex.

    Good post!


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