My friend Robert told me about Downton Abbey when I was visiting California in January and I finally started watching it about 3 weeks ago. Since that time I have been repeatedly sneaking off to watch, sometimes in bits as short as ten minutes. My favorite characters are Mrs. Hughes, Violet Grantham, Lord Grantham, who plays the “straight man” amidst the chaos, and of course Thomas.
But I’m not “wasting time watching TV,” I’m enjoying myself while developing my fiction skills. The writer of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, has developed some interesting dramatic twists to drive the story’s plot forward, and aspiring writers can benefit from watching it all unfold. In particular, the roadblocks hit by the show’s romances are many and varied, a regular laundry list of potential complications for literary lovers:
- a man who’s married to an insane woman wants to marry again but can’t get a divorce.
- a woman has a secret past which no one can know
- political differences
- family dislikes/disapproval
- money problems
- interlopers who get tied up with characters who don’t really love them but can’t seem to say so
- mismatch related to gender/sexuality.
- people who won’t take no for an answer
- fear of failure
- poor character/lack of self control — as in the dinner guest who just says awful things again and again
- self doubt/fear of the relationship failing
- parental consent
- religious differences
- differences of social class
- health problems
- tragic, untimely death
So many types of complications for romances. In my own WIP, I am dealing with a struggling romance of my own: will Gemela honor her objections to dating Carl, who was the boyfriend of her best friend but is now free since the BFF has been killed in a car accident, or will Gemela yield to her attraction, despite his alcoholism?
A writer must concoct setbacks and delays for those characters who, the writer already knows, belong together (in fact, characters who belong together seem to me to be much more common in fiction than in real life, but that that’s another story). After all, if romance happens quickly and naturally in real life, it’s magical. But in fiction, it’s boring.