Today I want to talk about That Couple!
You know the one… Whether you’re an avid, loyal reader, or an author… You have a ‘That Couple’!
They’re the couple everyone wants more of.
They’re the couple no one can forget.
They’re the couple you get asked about years and years after they first burst onto the scene.
They’re the couple all the other couples from all other books are judged against.
They are the couple who can seemingly do no wrong.
As a reader, my That Couple is Tack and Tara from Kristen Ashley’s Motorcycle Man. I also really like John Matthew and Xhex from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. They’re the only two couples I really still think about long after their stories have been told. They are literally the only two couples I was left wanting MORE with. Not because their stories weren’t complete or totally fulfilling by the end, but because I loved their romance and interactions so much it was easy to crave more and more.
When you’re reading a book that has remarkable characters it’s so easy to form an attachment, a bond, a connection to the fictional folks who end up feeling so very real. And it is easy to love a love story that runs deep and faces many challenges. By the time we hit that precious Happy-Ever-After, it feels like we’ve worked just as hard for that happy ending as the characters have. These characters and That Couple ultimately end up feeling like they’re our friends and family. There is something inexplicably special about That Couple, making it very hard to say goodbye when the time comes. It can even end up being difficult to make room in a reader’s heart for another couple because That Couple is just so much larger than life and takes up all the space.For the author, it’s often That Couple who really blew up their career. Maybe it was the first book, like was the case for me. Or maybe it was the fifth or sixth book that finally caught the eye of the masses and turned the author’s career around. Whatever the scenario, the person behind the creation of That Couple also has a very hard time moving on when the time comes. And when they do, That Couple often follows them every step of the way. It’s always an honor and completely humbling to realize you’ve created something or someone who really had such a profound impact on someone. It is also very intimidating. There are days when I often wonder if anything else I write, if any other set of characters, will ever have as a significant impact as the first couple. Comparing yourself to others is already a bad habit and toxic to creativity. Trying to compare yourself to fictional beings you, yourself, pulled out of thin air is like a dog trying to chase its own tail… but I guarantee you, all authors do it. We are all trying to out-do That Couple and make our readers fall in love over and over again. It keeps us motivated I think and pushes us to tell better stories and create more complex, emotional characters. We are all forever grateful for That Couple and the opportunities they brought with them, but I would be willing to bet most of us are also forever trying to steal the throne right out from under That Couple. At least I know with each book that’s what I’m trying to do with each and every new release.
No king and queen should get too comfortable wearing their crowns. Someone is always plotting how to snatch them away! 🙂
It’s me. I’m the someone.
In my little author world, my ‘That Couple’ is Rule and Shaw from my very first book Rule.
They are beloved. No really. BELOVED. The book has been out for six years and it is still my number one best seller… globally… and they are still the couple I get asked about on a nearly daily basis. I get at least two to three emails a week from all over the world asking why and when I will write another book for these two. Regardless of the fact I’ve never written multiple books for the same characters, readers still hold out hope for another book or two about Rule and Shaw.
So, if readers are asking for it, and if I know it would be profitable to write more stories about That Couple, why don’t I do it?
I mean, I love my characters. Money is awesome. I want my readers to be happy. So why not write three or four books featuring That Couple?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you in all honesty after I’ve written, rewritten, edited, and then probably rewritten again… I am DONE with whichever book and whatever couple it is. So-so done. I’ve stared at the words for so long and lived inside their story so much, when I get to The End it is a feeling of relief. For a short period of time, I’m very much in the “I never want to see them again” phase of the process. I’m a writer who can only do justice to a story I am passionate about and wholly invested in. I could never dedicate the time or brain power to write a story just because, whatever those because reasons may be. As I said, I feel like I ran the marathon to love and happiness right alongside That Couple, so when their story is done, I know they are in the absolute best place they can be. For me, I know with 100% certainty I will never write a better ending than That Couple already has. But it is nice to know if I ever need a tattoo artist, or a doctor, or a police officer… I have all those characters and I am lucky enough to revisit time and time again. It’s never really goodbye, just see you soon. It is always lovely to catch up, be it as a reader or as the author.
The other big reason I personally don’t put out more books with That Couple is that of one little thing all good stories need… CONFLICT!
There has to be a conflict of some kind to move the story forward. Otherwise, you’d get an entire book with the main characters doing nothing but going to the grocery store, doing the dishes, and arguing about laundry. There has to be conflict, internal or external to engage and to build a story around. For me, That Couple already faced their conflict, they fought, battled and won the right to be together. I simply don’t have the stomach or the heart to rip them apart or to create unrealistic scenarios to breed conflict in a relationship that is solid and happy. I don’t want to break them up, just to get them back together. I don’t want to make their personalities totally different to justify a fracture in their union. People would riot if That Couple was messed with, or damaged and not repaired, which makes figuring out a way to make the relationship interesting very difficult. I’m actually on season three of this Thai boy-love drama, and they’ve decided to blow all the existing relationships to hell. There’s been infidelity (ugh, the cheating broke my heart!), a brutal revenge plot between characters who got along the previous seasons, and a personality one-eighty from one of the main characters. It is literally every single thing I fear when it comes to creating more content for characters who already have a happy ending. I’m having a hard time watching and tell myself each new episode they should’ve stopped at season two!
I think a good example of wanting more and getting smacked in the face by that bastard conflict is Jax and Tara from Sons of Anarchy. Sure they were great together, but man, there was not a moment of peace in that whole relationship. It was built around conflict, and the sweet romantic moments were few and far between.
And I know you’re all, but why can’t we just get happy and sweet times. We’d read/watch that!
Would you really though? I have my doubts.
There is no way anyone would watch a show that was nothing more than Jax dropping the kids off at school and Tara vacuuming the living room! (okay if Charlie Hunnam was shirtless during drop off I might watch, not gonna lie)
Readers say all the time they would read a book with no conflict just to touch base with That Couple they love so much, but the reality is, that isn’t a story. There is no plot, no development, no action… other than fighting over the toilet seat not being put down in the middle of the night, no challenge for the author. In theory, a book with nothing but sunshine and light after that hard-won HEA sounds nice, but the actuality is, like anything with too much sugar… it isn’t good for anyone and way too sweet. Honestly, this is a case of there being too damn much of a good thing!
I also think it’s important for the reader who is so attached to That Couple to get to envision their future and happiness in their own way. Kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure, but with romance. Each reader has an ideal way they picture their favorite couple in the future, and I like that once I write, The End, That Couple has a million different options moving forward based on each individual reader’s imaginations. I promise some of the suggestions I’ve heard over the years would have never ever occurred to me to write. So even if I did give readers more, it wouldn’t be half as good as the stuff you guys come up with! It’s a never-ending epilogue we sorta get to create together. That’s a connection to readers I love and don’t wish to sacrifice.
Again, I can only speak for myself and my reasoning behind the choices I make when it comes to my characters and stories.
So, I hope if you happen to read this you know that your love for That Couple literally changed an author’s very real life.
You opened doors.
You expanded horizons.
You inspired and encouraged.
You love is returned tenfold, I promise you that with everything I have in me.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here doing my best to write the next couple for you to fall in love with. Maybe, just maybe, this new couple will be able to knock That Couple out of the top spot.
No harm in setting those aspirations high!