So I’m reading a book with a female protagonist. The book clearly sets her up for having a crush on a male character whom she ends up adventuring with, and with whom she has been slightly acquainted all her life. In a village. Where everybody knows everything about everybody else.
So the story goes along, and the writer is clearly setting things up for some romance and conflict. The male lead clearly likes the female lead but thinks of her almost as a sister. Then it turns out that another male character is destined to protect her, and there’s a jealousy setup (or at least a “figuring out that the female lead has other options” setup). And there’s another female character, who might or might not be attracted to one or both guys.
So clearly we’re set up for characters trying to figure out their lives and loves, right?
No. No, that’s not where it’s going.
See, the female character walks in on her male buddy, and discovers him in the embrace of her other male buddy.
Suddenly it turns out that both male characters are gay. AND that they suddenly are sleeping with each other. AND they suddenly start talking like 21st century flaming gay guys from America. Because that makes a lot of sense.
But here’s the really unrealistic thing.
After a hundred or so pages of the female main character semi-pining after the one guy, and after everyone being well aware that female main character has a temper and is stupidly persistent in some ways, she decides that the whole situation is fine in about five paragraphs. No passive-aggressive reaction, no aggressive-aggressive reaction. Um. No. Very few people would react like this, even if they had been building upon nothing for almost no time. After many months living and working with each other all the time, that is just weird and unbelievable. Nor is the situation presented as a learning experience. It’s just a non-event.
Also, nothing to tell you about the culture’s attitude toward gay guys, either to explain them hiding their relationship or to explain why it’s a non-issue for the female lead.
Also, even though the other female character is supposedly her new bestest friend and also has a lot of issues with not being told things, the female main character doesn’t tell her about this, even though romantic ties are fairly important info for people who work together. Nor does she insist that they need to tell the other person, because it’s stupid to try to keep it a secret.
Honestly? It seemed to me like the writer suddenly decided that he/she did not want to go to the trouble of writing honest stuff about relationships, and also didn’t want to kill off any characters to prevent the need to write conflict. So instead, he just did a Jedi handwave and told you that the previous situation didn’t exist, and that he had no intention of dealing realistically with the new situation, either.
Now, it is possible in this universe that all of this is the result of mind control. At least that would make some sense, although obviously the realistic results would become even worse and more difficult to write.
If you have to do stuff like this as a writer, it would be better to go back and remove character development, replacing it with more shallowness, then to have a failure of nerve like this. Or you could put in foreshadowing that is more complicated, so that one could understand the characters reacting the way they do. (Even though it pretty much requires mind control, and/or twenty-first century Americans invading this other world.)
But of course, it makes more sense to face the mildly unpleasant writing task and conquer it, allowing your characters to be themselves and not some weird stereotype joke, because that is what art demands.
UPDATE: So of course the writer got rid of the other potential romantic conflict in a single line; and then later, also killed off the secondary female character, in a situation where one could easily picture various other ways for the party of adventurers to survive. And probably she will show up later as a villain or a zombie or something, for equally stupid reasons. Sigh.
I can understand when someone just doesn’t know how to write. I find it stupid when someone obviously has the skills to do a story right, and refuses to put in the work.
UPDATE: So I finished because it was free. And of course the second female character came back. It turned out she was working for the good guys, and the main characters were working for the bad guys, but the good guys couldn’t come right out and tell them what was going on, for reasons, and mostly because the second female character was hurt that the main female character didn’t update her on everything immediately (when second female character was barely talking to anyone).
And the moral of the story was that you should tell your friends everything and not keep any secrets. (Except the gay guys, because that totally had no impact on the plot and it wasn’t their fault at all. Or except for all the secret powers that helped the main character crush the baddies, because that’s all right too.) Ugh ugh ugh ugh. I would have respected the drawing of a distinction between “privacy is okay” and “secrets that can get your friends killed are not okay,” but sheesh.
Literally none of the other relationship hints and setups in the book for any of the main characters came to anything. There was literally one (1) heterosexual relationship in the book where the characters weren’t dead or split up, and that was between a man and a monster.
As Tolkien points out in “On Fairy Stories,” you really do need morality in fantasy, because it’s a strong building block as well as part of the “magic” that makes it interesting. Traditional morality is not only right, but is much more artistically congruent. (As one would expect in a world created and run on God’s ideas.) If the gay couple had been a heterosexual couple, or two staunch male friends, the story would have avoided a lot of its plot pitfalls as well as working better.
I really really need a palate cleanser, especially since the stupid bits were so obvious and unforced. Fortunately I have one incoming, as you can see in the comments below!