Inevitably in my line of work characters can and often will get their groove on and start falling in love. Sometimes those characters are destined to be together from the start. They’re made to be together. Other times the romance might be concocted for the sole purpose of being doomed whilst sometimes it can begin with two separate characters before the story then suddenly dictates they fall in love. And I’m starting to feel that I’m become rather good at this romance writing malarkey. Over the eleven+ years the Morfaverse has been around there have been a fair few romances knocking around; some that worked well and others that didn’t work that well. They’re varied, a little bit different from the norm and for some reason offer up a few intriguing ideas about how to actually write a romance. So here, if you happen to be looking for inspiration or a bit of advice, is a guide to some of the couples of the Morfaverse and their relationships:
FRANK, JEZZEBELLE & CECIL- ‘The Triangle Of Deceit’ (Under the Fuhrer’s Control, Charlie Fuller)
The earliest of my romances, unsurprisingly, was in the first of the Morfaverse books to be written, way back when I was thirteen and still thought love was only true in fairy tales. In this first version Frank was bitter about being left at the altar and being used by Jezzebelle as some kind of pawn in her silly games of love. What she actually did was weird although it was probably not beneath a few of the girls I have known. She was actually in love with someone else but rather than do the sensible thing and admit the truth she not only agreed to the proposal but in order to get out of it she A) Seduced another man entirely, B) left a note saying she had ran off with this other man, and then C) ran off with the person she was in love with in the first place. There wasn’t much romancing going on to be honest with you, it was more a string of ideas held together with poor quality sellotape. But beneath it all there was a good bedrock of irrationality, hatred, deceit and betrayal that actually worked.
And that is why the idea of Frank and Jezzebelle has survived into the heavilly reworked reboot of that book, Charlie Fuller. It’s a bit more normal this time though. There is no third wheel involved. Instead you have a triangle of lies, at the peak of which is Jezzebelle herself; a naive young girl (under the surface) who falls hopelessly in love with the rich, pretentious and aristocratic Cecil Barrington-Sholto, ward of the Baron Penrhyn. Unbeknownst to Jezzebelle, Barrington-Sholto is using her to extort money, pretending he needs it for his political ambitions. This is quickly exposed and Barrington-Sholto is ordered to tell the truth, he gives everybody the finger and continues leading her on in secret. Meanwhile Jezzebelle is introduced to Frank, a young business man from America who likes what he sees, although Jezzebelle only has eyes for Barrington-Sholto. But when the truth about Barrington-Sholto is revealed to her she flies to Frank and in her grief makes the foolish mistake of accepting his marriage proposal. But, not being in love, she jilts him at the altar and runs away, which then in turn leads to Frank’s bitterness and irrationality over the ‘bitch’ Jezzebelle.
This is far more believable than the original version at least. I think it really could happen. People, sadly, do get defrauded by the likes of Barrington-Sholto and they do end up turning to the wrong people sometimes. It is rather like the stuff of melodrama, but it actually works and that’s the main thing. It is in no way a romantic relationship. It is based around attraction, and not even mutual attraction. And for that, what builds between the three of them is prickly and fragile and just ripe for the plucking whenever I choose to come back to it. For this triangle of deceit shall have severe consequences and it shall show that when you cheat the lady Venus she doesn’t take too kindly…
CHARLIE & VIOLET- ‘Childhood Sweethearts’- (Dead Danube, Charlie Fuller)
In the original version, Violet (then Violet Benson) was someone whom Charlie met onboard an overnight train bound for Vienna. Theirs was a very speedy romance… After getting off the train they got married, had sex (which was interrupted by someone entering the room, although they inexplicably just carried on as though it were normal) and then went their separate ways a few pages later. To put it mildly, it was awful.
So when it came to reworking the characters for Charlie Fuller the chance was there to make this a true, proper romance. And in contrast to the first it is definitely a slow burner. Charlie and Violet (now Violet Brushwood) meet as seven year olds in an isolated churchyard and they very soon strike up a secret friendship. When they end up at grammar school together (at age eleven) they come out into the open and actually start what might be considered a proper relationship, although it takes until the following Christmas for them to actually get around to kissing. And even then, things are taken very slowly. Nothing major starts to happen until they’re sixteen and decide to be a bit naughty and sleep together. As in the original they get caught in bed together but unlike the original being caught actually has a consequence. In this version they are caught by Charlie’s drunk mother (who hates him and can’t stand the idea of him being happy) and she screams, runs out of the room and falls down stairs before staggering out into the street and telling the whole town what she has seen (before collapsing into a fever and then dieing some weeks later.) The scandal that erupts forces Charlie to make good his wicked, sinful ways. He and Violet end up getting married and eventually they have a child, Sebastian. Their happiness ends when Charlie goes off to civil war era Spain in order to hunt for his former best friend, Jeremy. The whole thing is very sweet and (mostly) innocent. I like how they treat their friendship as something secretive and special to begin with and I rather like how they don’t rush things. And better still, we get to see it all; from their first meeting at five years old to them going to school together, meeting each others parents, going on dates to the dance hall, sharing their first kiss, getting caught in bed, marriage, Sebastian… And even their parting has a romantic, sweet ring to it. It fits with that era; a young man going off to war and leaving his childhood sweetheart behind, never to return. How many others like Charlie and Violet were there I wonder? We shall probably never know. In all though, Charlie and Violet get to be a proper couple and this makes them (by a small margin) one of the most realistic pairings in the Morfaverse. I know the rest of the book (at least in the first half) is basically Acid with Rosie but that doesn’t really matter when in the midst of it you have this rather sweet, rather charming romance.
OTTO & CLAIRE– ‘Casual Fling Turned Lifetime Partnership’ (The Rebels, The Dark Legend Dossier (mentioned))
Otto and Claire’s romance is quite a bit different from any other I’ve written about because of the simple fact that the whole plot of ‘The Rebels’ was concieved around them. It is in no way a sweet or conventional romance… In fact it’s rather brutal in some places. They are, really, just a pair of punk kids who see each other across a crowded rave and decide they each quite fancy the other. So they dance, they kiss (they don’t even talk) then Otto gets smacked in the face by another drugged up punk before he whisks Claire away to his ancient family seat somewhere outside Bethesda with the sole intention of bedding her and then saying goodbye forever. But it doesn’t turn out like that… They don’t say goodbye, as it happens, and they very quickly become infatuated with each other, much to the annoyance of Otto’s dad Harry. Harry tries to forcefully split the pair up in an almost permanent fashion. Otto finds out, goes off the rails and, with the aid of a fair bit of law breaking, crosses the Atlantic in a rusty old fishing trawler just so he can be with the girl he loves once again. That sounds insane but trust me when I say that it actually works.
In some people’s eyes Otto’s actions are actually quite romantic… Just think, here’s a girl he barely knows and yet, just to see her again, he goes half way around the world just so they can be together. There probably aren’t many guys who would do such a thing (but if you’ve got one he’s definitely worth holding onto.) And, throughout the book, their relationship turns from a fling into a something that lasts the rest of their lives, which is why I think the whole story works so well. Time and again things obstacles drop in their way. First there is Harry’s obvious disapproval but Otto doesn’t take notice. He could have easily dumped Claire because of it but as obedience was never his forte he doesn’t. And then when he finds she’s not where she should be he doesn’t give up and move onto someone else, he sets out to find her. He goes all the way to New York to do it. Then she gets kidnapped and once again, rather than moping, he rescues her and takes down a villainous slum landlord in the process (with some help from a repentant Harry of course.) And even when it transpires she can’t have kids he sticks with her and promises that if there is a way for them to have a child then they will find it… Time and again they stick together. Otto never gives up on Claire and she never gives up on him. On his way to finding her he commits a number of crimes (including arson, assault and perjury) but she doesn’t care. She forgives him and even when it looks like he might go to prison she is still willing to wait for him. With Otto and Claire you have the stuff that a lot of true life romances are made from. The pair don’t start out thinking they will spend their whole lives together, they see each other as a bit of fun and that is how an awful lot of romances start. But as the storms come in they prove themselves to be a bit more than that. They discover they really do love each other and as such they end up spending their lives together. There is no one moment where this happens, it dawns on them gradually as they face trials which would end lesser relationships. And they at least get to spend the eighties in blissful harmony before Claire dies of shock whilst giving birth to Will on the dining room table (with Otto dieing in mysterious circumstances a couple of weeks later). Theirs is a romance that may be a little more extreme than reality but the fact that it plays out in such a plausible way (in terms of the actual romance, not what happens to them) puts them amongst the best couples I have written so far, maybe even one of the best couples in literature if you want to argue for that point.
SIMON & ANNA- ‘Breakfast at H.Samuels’ (DS Proctor)
By the time we meet Simon Proctor he’s been divorced for fifteen years and has spent most of that time single handedly raising his son, Corwen, whilst also holding down a job as detective sergeant for Chester city police. Anna only appears towards the end of the book but in the meantime we get hints of the kind of relationship the pair had. They met on a beach in Cornwall when he was a fresh faced young copper and she a dazzling beauty lying on the sand. He was infatuated and not least because she looked a bit like Audrey Hepburn. Unfortunately she thought she was Audrey Hepburn (and still to this day, thinks she’s Audrey Hepburn… Her entrance in the final chapter comes with a cocktail dress, wide brimmed hat and a loud cry of ‘DARLING!’). Likewise, she must have seen something in his practical, no nonsense attitude to life. But by the time their infatuation wore off they were married and living in Newport, which is not the kind of place for a lady who thinks that she’s Audrey Hepburn, and this means the pair meet an all too familiar end. They attempted to work through their problems but the inevitable divorce happened and Simon moved to Chester with Corwen whilst Anna moved to Rome in order to live out her Audrey Hepburn fantasies. They’re still friends though and they still spend evenings sipping wine by the Dee and talking of old times. Their relationship mirrors that of a lot of couples in the modern world, two people who meet and get married, thinking they love each other but then realize that things aren’t working as well as they hoped. It dawns on them that they were better off just staying friends rather than going down the relationship and marriage and having a baby together route as they did. As with the other couples we have seen there is a taste of reality there, only this time the relationship reflects the other side of the coin, the side that says that sometimes relationships don’t work out after all.
WILL & ELIZA- ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (The Dark Legend Dossier)
(CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!!!)
To say that Will and Eliza have a complicated relationship is a severe understatement. They aren’t exactly compatible to begin with, what with having different opinions on how to deal with the Graffe infestation and what constitutes acceptable behaviour in public. They’re instantly attracted to one another but both have serious baggage to contend with. Eliza has spent the last few years trying to reclaim her first love and as such has developed a reputation as a man eater whilst Will, when they meet, is still getting over the murder of his own first love. And then he acts like a complete twat to her, leading her on and then pushing her away, saying things like ‘sorry, i’m spoken for’ or ‘it’s too soon.’ Eliza is understandably quite infuriated by him and he by her but this doesn’t stop them being attracted to each other. In fact it fuels them. The more they wind each other up the more attracted they become. It gets so bad that as soon as Eliza gets the chance to bed Will she jumps at it (despite both of them seeing other people, Alison and Dan, at the time and it being done in a seriously immoral way). The fallout results in two broken relationships and Eliza on community service. But even after all that there is still a lust and a deep attraction between the two of them, as is evidenced when Will stumbles into her home after discovering the circumstances of his birth and seeing one of his heroes get ripped to shreds before his eyes. The pair finally give into their desires and have a hot, dirty shag on Eliza’s couch. Doug and Joe, Will’s best friends, soon work out what happened and they push Will into dealing with the consequences. His solution is to talk through the issues with Eliza and at the end of it they actually start a proper relationship, even though it means Will explaining to Dan about how he’s dating the woman who temporarily cost him his virility (don’t ask). But it wouldn’t be much fun if it ended there… The whole ‘Will being a twat’ thing comes back to bite him on the arse as it eventually turns out that Eliza was feeding information to his nemesis, Harris, as revenge for his earlier behaviour. After seeing the error of her ways Eliza and Will part company as friends.
As with Simon and Anna this is a romance built on infatuation but one that never quite gets far enough for that to be an issue. It struggles to get off the ground under the weight of everything that is going on. Will and Eliza don’t agree on everything like sappy love birds, they have different values and beliefs and for a long time they have difficulty reconciling their views and putting their differences behind them like any other good couple would do. Instead they both let their sexual tension build up and up until it eventually erupts. The thing is that beneath it all they know all too well that they aren’t compatible. They know it will never work out between them but they both willfully ignore this and go for it anyway. On the plus side they at least give a half hearted attempt of working at it, even if everything does still end in disaster. And in the short time they’re actually together or just flirting there is a lot of chemistry between them. Eliza brings out Will’s caring, paternal side. Before the final revelations he looks after her and he protects her when she’s vulnerable. As for what Will does for Eliza… She becomes a little nicer and a little less frosty. In a way he also tames her and absolves her of her past sins, making her a better person overall. He gives her something else to live for besides sleeping around. Although as to which is Beauty and which the Beast… I’ll leave that for you to decide.
WILL & HAILEY- ‘Lovers In All But Name’ (The Dark Legend Dossier, Stop The Cavalry)
Will probably gets through more women than any other character in the Morfaverse. In the course of the Dark Legend cycle, over a four year period, he has six girlfriends, beds a brothel full of whores, offers a one night stand to half the girls of Beiderbecke, has a one night stand with countless more and then accidentally creates a new mutant hybrid by not washing his hands before deploying his fingers in a sexual manner. He also snogs Dan whilst stark naked and off his face in Amsterdam. Even he has no idea why. Experimenting perhaps? Will is, basically, a massive manwhore. But after everything that happens with Eliza Will decides that he’s going to be a good little boy and not so much of a player as he has been. By the time he meets Hailey he’s not been near any sex or romance for about ten months. And just when he’s not looking it comes and kicks him down a flight of stairs… Literally. They meet when some bright spark decides to send a group of catholic schoolgirls to Beiderbecke and Hailey is, of course, among them but not wanting to be one of them. She detaches herself from them and Will, who was supposed to be conducting a small group around the grounds, follows. She admits to wanting to fight in the army and he laughs at her. So she kicks his butt down the stairs. Impressed, he lets her join his elite squad of soldiers and I would love to say that love very quickly blossoms between them but it doesn’t. It’s obvious from the start that they’re falling in love but neither of them see it. Although the signs are still there. To start with Doug confides in Will that he finds her attractive and that she reminds him of his previous (dead) girlfreind, Amanda. But Will, rather than be a supportive friend, warns him off and tells him he shouldn’t be so hasty to jump in and should wait a bit to see if he still feels the same. But he’s really just getting rid of a potential rival. Then there are their sleeping arrangements. Due to a lack of space Will and Hailey end up sharing a bed. Will, as everybody is quick to point out, isn’t the easiest of sleepers and true to form, first night they share a bed, he starts getting restless. Then in the middle of the night he puts his arms around Hailey (in his sleep) and for some reason it soothes him. And so this continues… They sleep in each others arms and get quite comfortable doing it. Most people would be a little hesitant and awkward about this but not Will and Hailey. They don’t see it as anything but two friends, sharing a bed. They’re very quick to dismiss it as nothing but their willingness to go through with it so soon after meeting is certainly an early demonstration of something stirring between them. But it takes a while for anything to develop. For a long time Hailey is a little unsure of Will. She thinks he looks a bit weird for one thing, especially around the eyes. Will on the other hand starts off just being a good friend and making her feel welcome, despite the fact that he immediately begins putting her through a brutal three day training regime and then takes her on a suicide mission to Runcorn. He hardly notices that she’s attractive until the middle of the suicide mission and he sees her fighting the Graffe but still he doesn’t admit to himself or anyone that he loves her. By the end of Stop the Cavalry he does realize he has fallen in love and Hailey too, after Doug asks her out, admits she fancies him. And Doug tells Will… And Joe (who has seen everything play out so far) tells Hailey that Will fancies her. So what occurs is a situation where both know they’re in love with each other and both know the other knows. So do they run to each others arms? No. They pussyfoot around for ages refusing to admit their feelings. Hailey decides she’ll wait for Will to make the first move but because he’s a bit hung up about his previous relationships being a disaster zone he refuses to do anything about his feelings. This provides the setting for a very different kind of relationship… Two people who know they’re in love with each other but refuse to even acknowledge their feelings. But unlike with Will and Eliza where there was a great deal of sexual tension there is none of that with Will and Hailey. This is mostly because once they know they’re in love with each other they start acting like a couple, even though they aren’t and they don’t do anything more sexual than cuddle at night. In other words it is a relationship in all but name. I rather like this idea and I like the drama it adds to the story. You never know for certain that they’ll ever end up together and you can see the pain it brings them both as the story progresses. And the best part is that it works. It sets Will and Hailey apart and makes their love story memorable. Most love stories are stories of lust or the stories of the early days of a relationship or of people falling in love. Yes, we see them both falling in love but after that it becomes a little more unique and different than other relationships. It makes it somewhat beautiful.
DAST & ALEX- ‘Tainted Love’ (The Dark Legend Dossier)
(MAY BE SPOILERS)
The first thing we ever learn about Dast is that he killed his previous boyfriend. There was a reason, he was infected. But the act haunts him and it has a strong impact on his later relationship with Alex. The pair connect instantly… They have a lot in common. They’ve both scrounged around in the remnants of society for one thing. And better still they’re attracted to each other so something happening between them seems inevitable. And indeed, it is inevitable. It isn’t long before Alex and Dast are stealing a kiss and getting together… Though in public they keep it a secret (although Will knows because Will knows everything… And Hailey knows because Dast also confides in her.) Largely this is due to Alex not wanting to harm his reputation as a ‘cool apocalyptic survivor’ and Dast not wanting to give Joe any fuel with which to bully him with, especially after Joe’s unhealthy relationship with Lydia comes crashing down around his ears. So on the outside they appear as two good friends but they are actually, in private, carrying on with one another. But there is still the huge murderous albatross hovering above them. Every touch, every kiss and every hint of affection is painful for Dast. Everything serves to remind him of his former lover and what happens and it not only drives him mad but Alex too. It strains them as it means they’re not only keeping their relationship to themselves but also because, even when they’re alone, they have difficulty actually being a couple. Of course, Alex wants to help Dast overcome his problems but his motivations aren’t entirely unselfish. And Dast isn’t stupid so he knows why Alex is trying to help him and that makes things between them tense. And with only two people to turn to (one of whom is Alex’s brother!) things aren’t exactly a bed of roses and bliss. What comes out of it all is a very complex relationship involving two people who quite evidently love each other but have difficulties owing to their excess baggage. Again, it is a very different sort of relationship to all the others and once again it isn’t built around lust. It is different because there is very little that is remarkable about it. There’s nothing special that brings them together, they come together like hundreds of other people do every day and the only thing that makes their relationship any different from any other is that they struggle to get around Alex’s late predecessor. This makes it more of a quiet, subtle affair and although there is tension between them they don’t bicker or argue (much). They try their best to work through it. It is a more characterful relationship, one centred around personality. It may not be the most ground breaking or most exciting idea in the history of literature but what it provides is a subtle commentary on how, every once in a while, the events of a previous relationship can be damaging to your current one.
Now I could go on… I could talk of the tragic story of Harry and Jane, the unhealthy attachment of Joe and Lydia or of Doug and Amanda’s fuck- buddying turned serious…but I think I’ve gone on long enough. If we’ve learnt anything from this exercise it is that the key thing when writing romance is not to overdo it. Too complex and involving too many people and it becomes ridiculous and unbelievable. Keep things as simple as you dare, though too simple and what you end up with is something resembling a cold fish. And there is no need to make all relationships the same either. Think of all the thousands of rehashed Mills and Boon style romance books out there, trotting through the same tired old stories of rural country girls falling in love with rugged docker types against their parents wishes. Every relationship in the world is different. It is different because all the people involved have different backgrounds and different ideas and different ways of doing things. So there is no reason for going towards the tired old, Mills and Boon cliches. Instead, use your characters, who they are on their own and what they’ve been through, to construct the relationship and make it unique to them. I can’t remember who said it but there is a quote from someone somewhere that claims’ Watching two people fall in love is entertaining… Watching two people in love is boring.” I would personally counter this by saying that the story of two people in love can be equally exciting, if done in the right way. It doesn’t even have to be romantic… Sometimes the best romances are the ones that have absolutely nothing romantic about them at all. Just remember to add a bit of unique spice, add drama and to find the heart of that relationship… Then exploit it for all that heart is worth and you can’t go far wrong.
The Rebels & The Dark Legend Dossier (volumes 1 and 2 + Stop the Cavalry) are available now through the Amazon Kindle Store. D.S Proctor & Stop is available sometime in 2015. Charlie Fuller will be out one day but god only knows when. Also… If anybody wishes to send fan art of these couples I’ll put the best ones in a little gallery section (tweet them to @JPCrocks).