I've got this other blog entry over yonder about relationship drama and some good ways to do it without it being stupid. Anyway I had a whole bunch more ways to do relationship drama without it being stupid and that blog entry got way too long so I'm going to go ahead and continue from here because I apparently have a lot to say about this.
Strap in, nerdlets.
Straight Up Wicked
One character is doing some bad things. The other character knows they are better than this and is trying to save them from their own toxic behavior.
Dear god this can be done poorly so if you decide to go this route please handle with care. There are so many pitfalls. First of all, Character B cannot at any point force Character A to change and if you're going for an arc that's basic moral is "you CAN change him" please escort yourself to the nearest toilet and give yourself a swirly.
No. I don't mean Character A is hitting Character B and being a dick to them specifically. I mean Character A is making some dangerous choices and hanging out with the wrong crowd and Character B pulls them aside and is like "I really care about you and I am so worried are you okay".
Super important things: This only works if neither character is, at any point, blatantly abusing the other. Any behavior in which one party does not give the other any room to say no is blatantly abusive. And no, it is not room to say no if one of them is like "I'll hurt myself if you do this", that's just manipulative and awful. This is good when it's "I acknowledge that this is your decision but I care about you and also have feelings on the matter".
For Whatever Reason, They Can't Touch
So I know you're probably picturing Rogue and Gambit right now and you're not wrong. But also, one of them is a ghost. Or they're in separate timelines and communicating some other way. Or they're online friends and not in the same physical space.
I love this one particularly because it puts all the burden of showing the romance directly on these character's personalities and how they are with each other. There is no short cut kissing to show 'hey they're in a relationship now', it has to be more nuanced than that.
One of Them is Dead and the Other is Trying to Bring Them Back to Life
I am such a sucker for "I will defy the laws of nature, such is the strength of my love for you". There is just something fucking great about that moment a character sees fate trying to take someone they care for from them, looks fate in the eyes and spits.
It's an unrealistic expectation, of course, but it's so good.
You defy nature, girl. Slay.
One of them Is In an Arranged Marriage
This way you get all the drama of one character not being available and being torn about that but none of the skeeviness of them having actively chosen this person or made their own commitments to them.
Honestly? I'd like to see the arranged partner win sometimes, too. This was an arranged pairing that didn't choose each other is a hot bed for conflict and I love that. I love the idea of two people being thrust into a situation like this and then having to navigate it together and eventually come to care for one another even if it's never exactly the passionate torrential affair they had hoped for.
One Character Has Convictions that the Other Exists in Opposition To
Character A is really passionate about her vegan diet and saving the dolphins. Character B is a corporate executive whose company just started some massive ocean-intrusive building project that is endangering a lot of dolphins. It's complicated because so many human livelihoods depend on this building project and these characters have legitimate chemistry and the potential to be very in love if it weren't for this one thing.
How dare she not care about these people that are going to be on the streets if they don't have this work?
How dare he just not care that he's driving these dolphins out of their home into shark infested waters where they will surely perish?
The trick here is to make sure both characters have a valid point. Now go nuts.
One Character's Drama Puts the Other In Danger and There Has to be a Rescue
Or the drama puts the character causing it in danger, I am not picky. The point is, one of them is responsible for it, one of them is in trouble about it, and as much as they try and deal with it themselves (and they have to try! No fair having them go potato as soon as they get kidnapped that's cheating!) they need help.
This has wonderful potential to bring these characters closer together.
One Character is an Unmitigated Jerk and the Other Has a Backbone and Won't Be Pushed Around
I know that looks stupid obvious.
Okay listen, these big douchey guy characters are so popular, especially in YA, but it's like "why would you ever date that guy he's human trash". Well, it can work. But only if the other character doesn't just sit there and take it or quail when he starts. This other character has got to take no shit.
And the jerk character has to eventually stop being a jerk, it's not fun if there's no character growth. Not only do they have to stop being a jerk but they have to make up for being a jerk at some point and take accountability for their bad behavior. This is the ingredient most of these bad ships are missing, you are welcome.
One Character is Hung Up on Their Ex
They're gone now. Dead or just away. But Character A has the shadow of this other character between them and this new love interest and it's just taking them time to get over it. If this character in question was a long dead spouse even better, give me more older characters in new relationships please.
Mind you, it is not Character B's job to fix this for Character A. Character A has to come around on their own. Character B can accept it, and go along with it, but this is really mostly about Character A working through their baggage.
Different Natural Life Spans
I am such a sucker for immortal angst, please. One character sticking by the other as they age and start to deteriorate and then they carry them in their heart for years afterward. Nothing says real love to me like knowing you can't keep someone forever and daring to love them anyway.
Anyway I've got bad romantic conflicts and guilty pleasure ones coming up eventually, as well, but that'll be the end of the good ones at least for now. I might do another one if I think of more, but consider this a big chunk of a list of romantic conflicts that don't rely on character A stupidly not telling character B something.
Megan R. Miller