Relationships Resolved

Relationships are fun to read about when we have lots of questions.  Will Scarlett and Rhett Butler ever get together?  Questions lead to tension, and tension especially drives a mystery.

But…what happens when the questions get answered?  Does “resolved” mean the end of a series?

Here are a few classic examples that come to mind:

  • Should Perry Mason and Della Street marry?
  • Should James Bond ever take Miss Moneypenny out to dinner?
  • Should Archie Goodwin quit, frustrated that Nero Wolfe always keeps him in the dark?
  • Should Ellery Queen grow up and move out of his father’s house?
  • Should (the original) Dan-o ever assert himself and tell McGarrett “book-em yourself!”?
  • Should Watson abandon Holmes, disgusted by his torment with drugs?

One unresolved question that I’m working on now is my fourth Nell Letterly mystery.  Nell is a menopausal single mom who becomes a karate teacher to support her teenage daughter.  She would love to resolve her issues with her jerky, almost-ex husband Max, who ran out on her with some sexy honey and all their joint savings.  But I haven’t decided yet if I will let her have that scene, because it could drain the tension that drives her forward.  It could mean the end of the series.

Personally, I like the mystery of unresolved questions.

But I’d love to know what you think.  I learn so much from other mystery readers and writers!

Do you like to see your fictional characters resolve their relationships with significant others?  

Do you have a favorite fictional couple in mysteries today, and what do you like about their relationship?  

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11 thoughts on “Relationships Resolved”

  1. I know what you mean! It’s so hard to strike the right balance between keeping the tension alive and offering resolution.

  2. When Sam and Diane got together on Cheers, it was the death knell of the show. And on Downton Abby, when Lady Mary finally married Matthew, there was nothing to do but kill him off. I vote: no resolution.

  3. I think there’s a fine line here. If you go on with the “will she/won’t she” question too long, readers get frustrated. And yet, if you resolve that tension without replacing it with something else, readers get bored.

    I’m not exactly being helpful here, am I?

  4. Sam and Liz: exactly!!

    Keenan: great examples! (head slap) Of course that explains the wreck in the trees.

  5. Liz, I think you’re exactly right. The trick is to replace it with something equally ‘tensiony’ and organic to the story/character.

    Trying to think of contemporary fictional couples… need more coffee.

  6. Ooh, great questions, Sue!! I like to see relationships progress since there can be tension at every point, not just the beginning. I think this can be done when, like in mysteries, the romance isn’t front and center. Miss Fisher and Jack Robinson are one of my fave fictional couples–can’t wait until next season when they *fingers crossed* finally get together after that steamy kiss!

  7. Miss Fisher! Good one, Kate, I just thinking about them. Wait?! Is there going to be a new season?

  8. Tricky question. It can go either way and all too often it goes the way of the death knell. At least for me, and this could well be a personal problem.

    Rita Mae Brown pulled it off. She had to do something with Harry and Fair. The tension was going to kill the readers and to drag the two-step of the relationship on any longer would have made it, well, fictional. So, she married them off, but they remained Harry and Fair. The resolution of their marriage question presented a new set of questions and a new dynamic to the story.

    Elizabeth George also pulled it off. although Helen did involve herself in the sleuthing, it was within the bounds of her profession. The same profession she had before she met Lynley. She didn’t try to run his investigations. It worked. Their marriage presented a new dynamic and a new set of questions to resolve, and ultimately the dynamic rounded back on itself and caused a story upheaval that was in the context of the story and believable.

    It seems where the relationships continue to grow and change unresolved questions can and should be resolved as the series progresses as long as new, valid, questions are presented. The resolution has to present a new dynamic that grows organically from the old dynamic.

  9. Relationships change when fictional characters (books, TV, movies, etc.) “hook up.” As a reader, I want my characters to grow and mature, but somehow characters seem to change for the worse when they become couples. In many cases, especially on TV, when a “team” becomes a “couple” the series DIES. I think it really has to do with the role each character plays. Somehow when they become a couple, the roles shift and there is really only one “character” and one “supporter.” Unfortunately, it usually means that the female character somehow is relegated to the supporter role, and her actions, feelings, and contributions are no longer valued as much. I see this happening over and over again on TV. It is a RARE series that can survive main characters becoming a couple. They can survive if one already plays a “smaller” role, but two strong characters are hard to maintain unless they were a “couple” from the start.

    In books, however, I just hate it when two people just “exist” side by side with romance implied but never advanced. I just don’t think that in real life, people would “date” for years without giving up or moving on. I want people to grow, and that kind of side-by-side existence for a couple just isn’t real. I think it is much easier for two people in a book to have complimentary and supportive roles without because one probably had a supporting role to begin with.

    I don’t think Mason, Street, Bond, and Moneypenny should become “couples,” but I do think that as part of ongoing maturity, conflict, and development, Watson Dan-o, and Queen could move on and contribute to the story lines rather than destroying them.

  10. Great examples, and such thoughtful comments. I really appreciate that. Yes, new dynamics are the way. And very interesting differences between TV and books. Much to think about. Thanks!

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