I think everyone knows, whether it be in real life or in a book, that one couple you think is completely unshakable. They’ve been through hell and back, and they still seem made for each other. It’s Buttercup and Westley’s story: “This is true love – you think this happens every day?” It’s what Romeo and Juliet thought their relationship was. (Thought is still the operative word, but…) It’s the happily ever after you dream of, and have to marvel when you see it in reality.
Maybe that relationship has even inspired some of your own writing. After all, how could you not? It’s what we’ve all hoped, it’s the dream. Your characters will be just as happy and forever as your friends, or those others written down by the rest of the world.
But nothing is forever.
Two friends of mine were in a relationship with each other, probably for a few years now. (I can’t recall specifically when they started dating.) They’d been friends for years before that, and at least on one side, there had always been a pull in their heart for the other. Previous relationships fell flat, they both found themselves single, and they finally found each other. We were all thrilled for them. They were perfect.
And honestly, at least from my perspective, I hadn’t been surprised. The two fit together amazingly well. The fact that they were dating now didn’t change anything in my eyes; they were still this lovely little duo, dancing through life together.
I don’t doubt there were problems. We’re all human; there are going to be issues. But the concept that they could ever fall apart from each other seemed so utterly foreign to me, it never crossed my mind. When I was writing my NaNo project have in 2014, I used them as a template for another couple in my story. B and K were the same perfectly matched, opposites attract kind of perfection that my friends were. Writing the characters always made me smile, because in the back of my mind, it always reminded me of my friends.
A few days ago, I found out that last month, my friends had broken up.
I’ve never been the type to be shattered by relationships breaking up. I don’t care about celebrities much, and for the most part, when a friend’s relationship dies, I’ve often seen it coming. Things change, people shift, and it becomes apparent to everyone else first–like so many other things can be. (Too much I speak from experience.) But this…these two…I couldn’t have seen it coming. I spent most of the day rattled because I didn’t know what happened. To be fair, it’s not my business what happened. That’s something between my friends and no one else. The one I’d found out from didn’t want to talk about it, and I respected their wishes.
The next day, I finally managed to make contact with the other friend and found out a few more details. The reasoning makes it all make a bit more sense, but there’s still a profound sadness in my heart for the break. (I can only imagine how much worse it is for them.) My friends are hurting, each in their own way and for their own reasons, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to help, aside from assure them that I am here for them if they need me.
But looking at my story now…I’m not sure what to do.
True, B and K aren’t perfect mirrors of my friends. (Knowing the book they’re in, it’s rather impossible for them to be.) Only one or two people even know the connection between them, so it’s not like in the event of the story’s publication, everyone will point and say “Oh, that must have been before…” because they don’t know. (Even so, I’ve truncated the names, just in case.) So it doesn’t stand to reason that somehow, I now have to change my characters because those who inspired them have changed. They are separate.
But there’s still a piece of me that will feel odd continuing to write them, happy and carefree, and knowing that their inspiration has broken.
In the end, I think I’ll choose to view it as an homage. The fact that they were together, and when I saw them they were happy as can be, hasn’t changed. The past can’t be altered. And so B and K will live on in memory of my friends–and maybe I’ll be the only person who knows. Maybe it’s better that way.
I’d love to hear what you all think. Do you change something written because the inspiration for it has changed? Even beyond relationships, say a restaurant has closed in the city you live in, but you’ve made your characters go to it in a story. Do you change the restaurant, or do you let it live on and just date the work back? I’m curious.