11.36: The Elemental Relationship

In elemental relationship stories the primary page-turning driver is the relationship between two or three characters ¹. In this episode we discuss ways in which we can write character relationships—parent/child, buddy-cop, romance, and more—to be compelling.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

¹We’re differentiating “Relationship” from “Ensemble” because in our elemental genre model the elemental ensemble story is quite a bit different from the elemental relationship.


Grab a romantic comedy of some kind. Watch it, and take notes of the things that define their relationship, and how it progresses.

8 thoughts on “11.36: The Elemental Relationship”

  1. Could we get the Dan and Mary talk about why/why not the Locke and Sabetha relationship is good/interesting? I would love that!

  2. Braiding roses, a media naranja (aka half-orange?), the idiot plot, and how to break your reader’s heart… It’s all in the relationship! The trio may not give poor Dan all the support he needs, but you can give your characters the support they need. Just like Han, coming back in the nick of time when it really counts!

    And, of course, the transcript you’ve been looking for is now available in the archives, and over here:


    Go read all about it. Then get those thorns, gaps, and holes ready, and make your relationship stories ring!

  3. Fantastic job on this one, guys! Relationships (and character in general) is, I think, one of the best parts of writing.

    Any thoughts on the currently overused “love triangle”?

  4. Excellent autopsy (plot-opsy?) of the denial-reluctance-exploration-acceptance model. I would be really tempted to write a reversal story, the one which starts with acceptance (love from a first sight), goes through exploration (sexual or platonic), progresses to reluctance (internal conflict–s/he is not what I thought s/he is–or external–we cannot be together, because–insert-a-cause) and ends with denial/end of relationship (break-up or death–or both) were I not already working on one* :)
    *It is NOT called Romeo and Juliet.

  5. QUESTION: How would you write a romantic relationship with two characters who are shy when it comes to dating? Would it even work? Is it best to have an Extrovert/Introvert relationship in writing?

    I love the ‘buddy-cop’ concept. It’s funny how I have been using that without even knowing! Most of the time my buddy-cop characters are the most fun scenes to write with their endless banter.
    Thank you guys for using this subject. You guys help me out so much.

    1. Put them in situations that force them to interact. It doesn’t have to be dating. They can be trying to save the world, but if they are forced to work together to do it, that can help them progress toward a relationship despite their shyness.

  6. I was going to post this in the Relationship as a Sub-Genre thread since that’s when I thought of this, but I think here’s a better choice.

    My (one) story I had in my mind revolved around one image/scene and primarily became a relationship story with a backdrop of a crime drama. While it started out as romance, I purposefully changed it to be more about how all the characters interact while the crime was being solved. All characters have their lives and their own opinions, therefore it was fun to explore how that all changed. It’s like the old Real World motto: “Watch what happens when people stop being polite and start being real.”

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