Salvaging the Power of Friendship/Love

Yesterday, I went into a big long rant about the Power of Love and/or Friendship and what under what circumstances it annoyed me. But it’s just not right to do a post about how something can go wrong without a follow-up on how it can be done right, so here are some ways to make the Powers of Love and/or Friendship into something other than a weaponized diabetes plothole monster.

  1. Make sure they are actually in love and/or friends. This is not the power of UST, Cliquishness, Conformity, or These Were Our Volunteers. If there isn’t friendship or love, it doesn’t have any power to draw from. And please, when establishing this relationship, show and don’t tell. If I had a nickel for every non-convincing couple that managed to show Love Winning Out despite not even seeming to like each other outside of what the author told me, I could fund my library’s DVD acquisitions for a year.
  2. Team it up with good old solid effort. Heaven helps those who help themselves, and I’ll take panicked resuscitation attempts over just sitting there and crying pure, sweet tears any day. Besides, I find that a victory is a lot more satisfying when it feels like the character earned it, whether I’m playing the character or just reading her—I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure this is a common opinion—and Doing Something seems a lot more like earning it than begging the world for a bailout.
  3. Don’t make it a constant fallback, particularly not if the metaphysics don’t allow for it. Chemical bonds only store so much energy. Why would interpersonal bonds be any different? (More importantly, regular use cheapens the power of friendship/love as a narrative device, even more than it’s been cheapened already.)
  4. Keep the effects focused on things that directly tie to the connection between the characters. Resisting calumnies against one’s friend or lover through the strength of the bond between the two? Sure, that makes sense. Heating food with the temperature of one’s passion? Silly, unless your laws of metaphysics leave heavy leeway for literal metaphors. Breaking the control on a friend’s mind through one’s loyalty seeking out the ‘real’ person in there? Still metaphysically probable. Bringing someone back from the dead by loving them too much to see them go? …tell you what, you take a look at the kind of possessiveness or selfishness, not just love, that could be responsible for such a situation, and its consequences, and I’ll look the other way on the Defibrillator of Interpersonal Relations.
  5. Whether or not you agree with free love, free energy is a bit more improbable. Most power has a price; this one should as well. Giving up something for the relationship, giving up the relationship for the life of the other person in the relationship, the whole point is that stories are a lot more interesting when there is no such thing as a free lunch.
  6. For extra credit, try to put it as the capstone of a character arc. Most people already realize this, but it’s worth repeating. Connections like this really aren’t worth that much when they’re taken for granted, but if you’ve seen that loyalty build and the people change through the connection, even when they won’t quite admit what it is or one of them had had to learn to believe in whichever concept you’re using—that’s a lot nicer.
  7. And speaking of taking for granted, never, EVER take its efficacy for granted. There should always be doubt at the very least (if nothing else, to increase the drama before the Power does indeed resolve the situation). I find the best Power of Whichever situations are ones that are based on true desperation; having tried everything, the one utilizing it throws all caution, common sense, tact and whatever else is handy to the winds and tries it because the only other option is giving up. But that might just be my bias.
  8. And please. Take those soulmates somewhere else, unless you’re willing to deal with the more dubious ramifications of that sort of connection.

Love is not dead; friendship is not obsolete. But treating these as forces in their own right is still risky. Know what you’re doing before you start!

1 comment

  1. Jeff Preston says:

    Very nice! I think emotional entanglements are awesome food for a story. Often it becomes just another hook to sink in to a protagonist. “I love you” means “oooh, he’s dead!”. While I think it’s a useful hook to sink in I hesitate to use it as something to beat the characters over the head with. It’ll come in to play, be important, and may or may not be the cornerstone of a crisis.

    It kind of loses its usefulness when it becomes the standard set up for a fall.

Leave a Reply