Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when I am sleepless, I have lively internet discussions (some may call them arguments) with people who share my interests. For example, I have been slapping around anyone with the notion that the next JJ Abrams abomination titled Star Trek won't stupidly suck as much as the first one. My evidence? They want to try to do Wrath of Khan. The problem with that? Well, to have a wrath of Khan, there has to an initial encounter with Khan. Then, there has to be a perceived betrayal of Khan and a couple decades for the bitterness and hatred to grow. I suppose Khan could go back in time to exact his vengeance on the young and unsuspecting Kirk. Wait, wasn't that the first re-boot film? And if he were going to go back in time, wouldn't he just go back far enough that he was never overthrown? If that hack is going to keep sucking the life from the original series, do The Doomsday Machine , for pity's sake. Arguments like that rage on in the wee small hours of the morning. And as much as I enjoy maligning the current Trek time line, that isn't the argument that interests me most.
It's an old argument amongst fans of any television series no matter the genre. Should the main characters change over the course of the series or should they remain the same? If they remain the same, the adventures of these characters can continue indefinitely. I was going to say that my show references are really old as I'm ancient, but Jon pointed out that they are running on Imdb.com, hulu.com or have aired recently on Syfy. One show is running in LA six nights a week on KDOC, home of obscure shows. Then, I remembered that I have a friend younger than my nephew that speaks fluent Dark Shadows. At any rate, the current series television that I'm attracted to has characters that change over time. I understand the preference for the other type. I really do. There is something comforting in knowing Starsky and Hutch would always have each other's backs and that fascinating unrequited tension. I often wish that Blair Sandburg never finished that dissertation in the Sentinel and that they acted on that unrequited tension. But they were only on three seasons. I love me some original Hawaii 5-O, but twelve seasons of the same McGarrett and Danno gets really tiresome. I think Blair's hair would have been really annoying by around season seven (don't send me hate mail, I won't read it). And I can't see a 40 something year old Starsky sliding over many car hoods. However, even in episodic television that has mostly stand alone episodes, I like the characters to have an arc. It makes sense that the highly dramatic events the characters endure week after week would have some impact on their personalities and their outlooks on life. Naturally, I loved the re-boot of Battlestar Galactica for that. However, there are shows like The Closer where the cast has definite arcs. Eureka is delightful in part because it has a steady arc for its characters aside from obvious things like changes to the time line. But, I watch the CSIs, you say. Well, all three shows have character arcs. They are all dopey, but they have them. CSI: Miami's team has evolved into a death squad. More on that show later. Really, there may be a zombie this year!
Whether the characters should or shouldn't have an arc is not actually the argument I'm having online in the middle of the night. The intense debate is about whether shows that have arcs should be allowed to end. I believe that when the arc is based on whether a relationship will survive or not, at some point, the couple has earned their happiness or at least peace of some sort. I found that unfairness maddening about soap operas. That's why I drifted away from them. No one could have a happily ever after or at least be left in peace. The torment was never ending. Fans of this short run (two seasons) anime series I enjoyed (the title is irrelevant. To see it takes a lot of effort online. And it's too odd for most of my readers. Write me privately, if you really need to know.) desperately wanted a third season or more. I vehemently disagreed. The series was essentially a light hearted romance about a miss matched pair whose families, friends and co-workers disapprove. Somehow, through great effort, they find a happily ever after. They go through a lot of self doubt and some angst and really have to fight for a relationship that shouldn't work but somehow does. In order to do another season, the writer would have to try to tear them apart as a couple. The stakes would have to be higher and the drama darker. Aside from the fact that the author never gets that dark in any of her series, it just wouldn't be fair to make this wonderful couple suffer further. And it's not that I don't appreciate intense drama or even very dark drama. I can really get behind darkness in a series where it's appropriate. In this case, it wasn't. If you love them, let them go! They will live on in your mind, and in some cases, fanfiction.
These arguments do influence how I write my couples driven fiction. A way to get around this problem of the arc that is built around the development of the relationship is to solve the relationship and make the developing stories center around characters or situations around the couple. While the couples do evolve and grow over time, the relationship remains solid – it even grows more so. Whether it's set in the far flung future or in a fantasy past, my issue isn't whether the couple will get together and stay together. I solve their issues as a couple fairly quickly. It's their world that's trying to kill them – literally, in some cases. Niku and Sarianna figure out their relationship quickly in The Gift of Surrender. It's the breaking of the family that's the jeopardy. In the sequel, they are solid as a couple but must face death at the hands of evil while saving the life and soul of Niku's estranged brother. Rik and Vincent are solved as a couple in A Soldier's Choice very early in the book. By the end of A Soldier's Fate they aren't still working through relationship problems, they are trying to survive being enveloped by a death ray. In the current book, they are battling their own kind on several fronts, but never do they battle each other. With Ensnared, the couple takes longer than my norm to solidify the relationship. They have to get their societies to accept an extreme bending of the rules for them to remain together. Beyond those obstacles, there are still forces beyond that that want to kill them. No matter the threats or turmoil around them, my couples always have a refuge of happiness and peace with each other.