My very own Claire and November in Stories of the Early Days.
When you read the title of this post, you probably thought my message was simply “don’t write creepy relationships.” I mean, the title does imply I have a problem with them. Why then, would I write one myself? And why would I admit—straight up state without excuses—that I wrote one?
It all comes down to one very simple reason. I don’t have a problem with a creepy relationship that’s supposed to come across as creepy.
I do have problems with the other kind. The creepy, sometimes blatantly abusive relationship that readers are supposed to find romantic. Oh, he watches her sleep? So sweet! Oh, he’s following her around, checking her phone, stalking her facebook? That’s not messed up at all, he just really, really cares about her and wants to know what she’s up to at all times. Normal.
People say Bella’s a terrible role model for girls. Then people argue back and say “she doesn’t have to be a role model that would be soo boring if all protagonists were perfect straight-A street-smart health-conscious mentally stable kind-hearted confident role models!”
Yes. Yes, that would get boring. We need characters to have flaws. The fact that Bella isn’t a “role model” isn’t her problem, it’s that she has no substance at all, and yet everyone (inside the story) adores her. Inside the story, she is a role model. Having no substance is apparently a good thing.
Then we have Claire and November. November rescues Claire, saves her life, and returns her to the mansion. Then he wants to return home, but Claire won’t let him. She says she needs him. She abuses and manipulates him to keep him by her side. She uses their daughter against him. Cuts him off from others. It’s all very messed up.
But I don’t write them as a happy, romantic couple. They’re not supposed to be. This is an abusive relationship. Claire is an insane queen, mad with grief and power. She’s no role model for girls, and it's very clear she's not seen that way, in or outside the story.
I’m not here to tell you not to write that creepy relationship. In fact, go right ahead and do it. But before you begin, promise me this:
Promise me you'll make it crystal clear that it’s not healthy or romantic. Call out the creep. Do not romanticize the abuse. Treat things as what they are. Your characters don’t have to be role models to be good characters.