Marriage is a huge change in a person’s life. In reality, and in fiction. When two characters tie the knot, the possibilities of what can come out of that union are endless. When it doesn’t work, or fit into your narrative, a marriage could ruin your series or novel.
I recently finished (again) Patricia Brigg’s River Marked, which focuses on the adventures that her main character, Mercy, and her new husband, the werewolf Alpha, Adam, have together on their honeymoon.
The Mercy Thompson series is an urban fantasy series. While the book centers around their honeymoon, the book is urban fantasy in genre, not romance. Yes, there are shifts in Mercy and Adam’s relationship, and moments of romance, but there’s also a multi-verse crossing monster that could potentially be a danger to anyone and everyone they love. And Mercy finds out more about herself, her heritage, and how she fits into Adam’s life and his pack.
What’s my point? My point is that the marriage and romance of Adam and Mercy doesn’t take away from the promise of the Mercy Thompson series. From the first book, the expectation is of urban fantasy mysteries, featuring werewolves, coyote shifters, vampires, and the fey. Mysteries that are action-packed and interesting.
I’ve seen so many series’ or even stand-alone-novels, of all genres, where the marriage of the character takes over the entire plot, or even takes something from them, like their freedom to solve mysteries, or go into battle, or something that was integral to the character and the plot before the marriage took place.
I also see the interest, or the intensity of the romance, dying down. It’s no longer interesting, and reader’s find themselves wondering where the bulk of the lure of the series went.
River Marked is not the last book in the series, not by a long shot, and Mercy continues to get into paranormal scrapes and mysteries as Adam’s wife just as much as she did when she was single, or even before they fell in love.
It is important to note, that Adam, more than being just her sidekick, is integral to the series in his own right. He has to learn to accept Mercy’s penchant for catching the eye of paranormal villains as his wife, but this was something he knew and loved about her before they even started dating.
If you are a writer, and you would like an example of how to treat your characters as a couple, I would highly suggest reading the Mercy Thompson series.
Sometimes the marriage happens in the first book, like with Outlander. In fact, if not for their marriage, Jamie and Claire might have never grown the love and relationship they had that has set off the now nine book series that has also spawned the TV show. Outlander is a great example of a romance between two characters being the spark that sets off many other and different plot lines. Many people might be inclined to label Outlander as just a romance, but I would put forth the opinion that it is more of an historical epic that is driven by the relationship of it’s two main characters.
Another example of two characters in a marriage being partners within the larger plot is Amelia and Emerson from the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. In the first book, Amelia and Emerson are at odds, arguing at his dig in Egypt as he attempts to continue his work as an archaeologist, while Amelia, who does love Egyptology, is convinced they are in danger from an ever more ominous mystery brewing around them.
Naturally, Amelia and Emerson fall in love, and while they gamely pursue Egyptology together, with Amelia going with to every dig, and Emerson treating her as his intellectual equal (which, for the time period, late Victorian, is unusual), mystery follows them at every step. So, while the series is mystery in terms of genre, the romance and strong marriage between Amelia and Emerson are what makes them such great crime-solving partners.
To list a few more examples: Toby and Tybalt from Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, Kate and Curran from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, and Emily and Colin from Tasha Alexander’s Victorian era mystery series.
One of the things that each of these series’, and marriages, have in common is that whatever drives the main character, whether it be Claire, Mercy, Kate, Toby, Emily, or Amelia, their respective husbands and partners are great supporters of them.
To have a successful marriage between your characters, the spouse must, in some way, be supportive and integral to the larger plot and drive of the character. Otherwise, the plot can be in danger of being taken over by a romance, which could dilute the original promise of the book, or the relationship itself can become a burden on the larger plot. As an author, you could find yourself scrambling to figure out how to fit this marriage into the narrative that you have worked so hard to build.
On the other hand, sometimes a character being with the wrong person can be an interesting plot point. The wrong person at the wrong time, or even the right person at the wrong time, can be a new, interesting layer to a plot. In some genres, this might not work, but then, there are also really no rules. If your mystery also features your main character struggling with a personal relationship, sometimes that can add that extra layer of intensity that could make your mystery stand out. Especially if there’s a possibility of it being connected with the mystery.
No matter in what direction the marriage is to go, your characters getting married are huge event in your novel. Sometimes, it can even make or break your novel. In the end, knowing who your characters are, who their lover is, and how this will effect your novel or series plot, will go a long way in helping to avoid the marriage become the sour note in your otherwise delectable novel or book series.