I’m still working my way through Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, when something occurred to me:
I ship Vin and Elend pretty hard. The character interaction is great. Despite his being from aristocracy and her being from poverty, their conversations are natural, their concern for each other endearing.
The question: WHY?
I’ve said time and time again that I don’t like reading romance stories. If I had the choice between Anna and the French Kiss and Ender’s Game, I’d probably pick Ender’s Game. I’ll Give You The Sun versus Ready Player One? I’d pick Ready Player One. Eleanor and Park or Leviathan? Definitely picking the steampunk WWI.
But if I had to choose between Percy Jackson and The Lunar Chronicles, we start to have a serious problem. Both are action packed, both have great stories and fantastic writing, and are adaptations of classic fairytales/mythology.
Ask me to choose between Percy and Annabeth versus Cress and Thorne and we have an even bigger problem.
But why? The point of these stories were never about solely the romantic relationships, and yet, I find myself really focusing on Petra and Bean, Wade and Samantha, Deryn and Alek, Percy and Annabeth, Cress and Thorne. I’m ridiculously happy when they have their cutesy moments. I’m anxious if it looks like they aren’t going to end up together. When one of them is heartbroken, I sympathize so much more than when St Clair ran from Anna in the park, or when Park mourns Eleanor’s departure.
It really bugged me, because in Mistborn, there’s a rebellion, there’s death, there’s politics, and some serious magic going on. And I swear, some of the coolest fight scenes are the result of the awesome magic system. But oh my gosh, Vin of course you’re going to save Elend from assassination because you freaking love him!
Why, when such serious storytelling is going on, do I focus on the fact the protagonist has a love interest? Why focus on the relationship, when a war is going on?
Because it means they have something to fight for.
Protagonists are always fighting to save the world, to make a change, to bring justice. And yeah, while that is definitely something worth fighting for, it isn’t necessarily real.
True, people can be that brave. People can be that righteous.
But people are also want something personal to protect. Harry lets go of Ginny in book 6 because he doesn’t want her to get hurt. Percy falls into Tartarus for Annabeth. So it’s no surprise that protagonists tend to have a love interest. Even better, when the two are in a mutual relationship, and have each others back.
I ended up finding my answer in—would you believe it—The Hunger Games.
Katniss, as we all know, ends up with Peeta, happily and boringly in District 12.
That’s what we want for our beloved protagonists. Once all the drama and action is over, we want our protags to have a happy ending that they deserve. Usually, this means settled down with someone they love and in a world that no longer needs saving. It’s boring. It’s happy. It’s what they deserve.
And what better way for that happy ending to occur than with someone who completely understands the trauma you’ve been through? Someone who worked through it with you and can understand your pain. Someone who you naturally feel like supporting and will support you too.
And I think that’s why I like looking for that pairing that will end up together in the fantasy, sci-fi, and action books that I read. When all the drama is over, I want to know that the protagonist has someone who they can just be with. I like to know that they will be happy.
You know, after all the heartbreaking deaths and mind numbing battles and life changing trauma.