One of the things I love most about Calligraphy Guild is the variety of character relationships, so today I thought I’d highlight some of the relationships I enjoyed most and relationships I would love to see more of in fiction–including a couple that don’t appear in Calligraphy Guild (though I have plans to use all of these at some point. ;) )
I’m the oldest of five siblings, so I love reading about sibling characters who nag at each other a bit, tease one another, but ultimately love and appreciate one another and make up after disagreements. Duyên is also an oldest sister, though she only has two siblings: Sakura and Sinh. Her relationship with Sakura was actually inspired by my relationship with my oldest sister, and her relationship with Sinh was somewhat informed by my relationship with my own brother. It was really neat to be able to weave in pieces of my own family and highlight them that way.
The other set of siblings is Tora and her older brother Makio. (They have another older brother, Tuan, but he doesn’t play as significant a role in this book.) Tora and Makio are a little bit idealized (a consequence of Makio being a lot of what I’d want in an older brother, lol), but their relationship is so sweet and I loved writing their scenes together.
Healthy Parent-Child Relationships
Y’all, this is especially a problem in YA fiction. Where are all the healthy parent-child relationships?? I’m so tired of all the dead or abusive parents in fiction. Who’s with me in writing more of what parents should be? While a good number of the characters in Calligraphy Guild are adults no longer near their parents (and a couple of characters do have dead or negligent parents), Duyên and her siblings have healthy relationships with their parents based on the relationships I’ve experienced and seen around me. Ryuu, too, is close with his parents, though there’s not much opportunity to see it in Calligraphy Guild. And a few of the characters–Chaska, Mika, and Diem in particular–are parents who have good relationships with their children.
Arranged Marriages/Marriages of Convenience That Work
I cannot tell you how tired I am of the “forbidden love” trope when one of the characters is already betrothed. That’s just plain ol’ cheating and I cannot stand it. I think that trope is a consequence of the hate on arranged marriages in general and the idea of working at a relationship instead of just “falling in love” and everything being happy-go-lucky. Arranged marriages have so much potential for revealing commitment, putting effort into a relationship, and taking one’s responsibilities seriously, but instead we so often see them as only an obstacle in the MC’s way. If you’re going to write a betrothal that doesn’t work out, at least have it end diplomatically and with adult conversation involved. (Livia Blackburne did the dissolved betrothal well in Daughter of Dusk.)
There are no arranged marriages or marriages of convenience in Calligraphy Guild, but this is a character relationship that I would love to see done well more often and I look forward to writing arranged marriages along these lines in future works.
Sort of related to the previous point, I’d love to see more generally strong marriages in fiction. Marriages where the couple likes each other, works well together, works out their differences, is appropriately affectionate, etc. This is another of those character relationships I think gets the short end of the stick in YA due to the need for the young characters to have autonomy and therefore the obvious need to eliminate parents (read with sarcasm), but I think there’s also a trend of bickering, unhappy couples that I’d just like to see go. (As a note… bickering old couples can be fun so long as it’s obvious that they still like and love each other and they’re not just grumpy all the time.)
Duyên’s parents and Ryuu’s parents are both examples of happy marriages in Calligraphy Guild. Raiden’s parents, as well as Chaska and her husband, are more off-screen examples.
Close Same-Gender Character Relationships
This one is probably better-represented than some of the others on the list. Lots of MCs have their tag-along best friend that they’ve known for years and are really close to. Now, those character relationships can have the pitfall of the best friend’s presence doing nothing but supporting the MC, in which case it’s not really a close and realistic friendship but rather a lopsided one. But in general, close friendships between guys or between girls are probably the easiest character relationships to find off this list.
Still, I really enjoyed writing these relationships in Calligraphy Guild. Duyên and Tora, Duyên and Jie, Tora and Sairsha, and Zen and Raiden are all examples of this character relationship in action in Calligraphy Guild.
Close (purely platonic) Opposite-Gender Character Relationships
This is perhaps one of the rarest character relationships on this list, since so many people want to see these relationships turn romantic or at least have romantic potential. Unfortunately, this is a trap I can sometimes fall into as well. But I love seeing fully platonic relationships between guys and girls, where there’s just genuine support and camaraderie there and no need or desire for anything more.
Duyên and Makio are my favorite example in Calligraphy Guild because they take this a step further and their friendship is almost like a sibling relationship, but Zen’s friendships with Tora and Sairsha also fall into this category.
Romantic Relationships Acknowledged to Not Work
This is another casualty of a hyper-romanticized culture, I think. It’s rare to find a fictional relationship in which the characters want to be together but decide they’re better off refraining from pursuing a romantic relationship. The one example I can think of off the top of my head would be Jo and Laurie in Little Women. I would love to see a greater variety of romantic plot line outcomes that explore the discernment and wisdom that must be applied to relationships and the complexities of real love.
I can’t share the Calligraphy Guild example of this relationship because it spoils the book, but this is a featured character relationship and it’s one I have every intention of exploring in future books as well.
Adopted Families/Foster Families
I don’t have a whole lot of personal experience with adoption or fostering, but my grandparents were foster parents and I would like to adopt one day. I would love to see quality representations of these types of relationships that don’t downplay the difficulties or the love involved. In a lot of cases I’ve seen, adoption is more of a plot point than a real piece of the character and their story, and while that can also be done well, I’d love to see more holistic representations of adopted families and foster families.
This is another relationship that didn’t fit into Calligraphy Guild, but it is a piece of my current work-in-progress as well as a few of my other pending stories.
Respectful Mentor/Student Character Relationships
This is another one that’s easier to find, at least depending on how respectful you want your mentor/student relationship to be. Mentors are a common archetype, so it’s fairly easy to find mentors and main characters who appreciate them; but a lot of student characters disregard their mentors a significant percentage of the time, or respect their knowledge of a skill but not their wisdom as a person, or else the mentor looks down on the student’s youth and inexperience, or the mentor dies and leaves the student on their own without a new mentor.
The mentor/student relationships in Calligraphy Guild aren’t perfect (in none of these categories do I think these character relationships should be perfect, but rather examples of characters aiming for the ideal), but there’s always a great deal of respect present. The students respect the wisdom and experience of their elders, and the mentors don’t talk down to the students but bear with their struggles and inexperience. Dai is my favorite of the mentors in Calligraphy Guild, with both Duyên and Tora, but Zen and Raiden are both great mentors to Ryuu as well.
Want to read more?
If these are character relationships you’re excited about, too, check out Calligraphy Guild when it releases on June 17th! If you sign up to my mailing list, you can read the first chapter for free here on my website.
Your turn! Are these relationships you’d like to see more in fiction, as well? What are some relationships you’d like to see that didn’t make my list? Comment down below!
And don’t forget to check out the Calligraphy Guild blog tour! There have been some awesome posts so far and there are even more yet to come!