I’ll say it now to get it out of the way: ‘Luke, I am your father! Let us be the standard of this overused tradition!’ Best if you imagine Darth Vader saying that. Still, the surprise parent thing happens a lot. Gets really weird when you read a story where a mother is surprised that someone is their child. If anything, I would think a mother would be the parent to remember such an event.
Let me define what I mean. There are two types of connections you can have between characters. At least for the sake of this post. One is the story-developed ones that occur within the confines of the story. For example, two characters have a child in a series or they go through the same traumatic event. The other is a pre-existing connection that was around prior to the story beginning. This is useful more in later books of a series or later chapters of a book. The uses for this are that new characters can be integrated into the group with more ease or there is a thicker plot between hero and villain.
I do find it interesting when there is a connection between characters and not just blood relations. You can have former students, former friends, neighbors, and a ton of threads to weave. I’ve been thinking about this lately ever since I realized one of my heroes shares an unexpected thread with one of the villains. I’m playing with it and it makes sense that strings are being pulled a lot more. That’s for my story, but it can still be handy outside of a series where destiny vs free will is a subplot. In fact, I tend to prefer a connection beyond ‘me villain, you hero, we fight’.
You tend to find character connections in a lot of what you read. Trying to find a non-spoiler example that isn’t in my line of sight is tough. Anyway, it might not even be between heroes and villains. One of the connections in my series is that Nyx and Sari were childhood friends for a year or so. It’s a bridge that helps me fit Sari into the group dynamic and can bring some of young Nyx into the older one. Their former relationship continuing as adults will be a catalyst for change. It doesn’t even have to be this solid. Two characters can bond over learning from the same teacher or enjoying the same beer.
So, what do you think of characters having a history together? Do you enjoy it? Is it cliche? Do you use it yourself?