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Even the one about Renko and Maribel beating up people? Well, either way...
Slice of Life and romance. Two very peculiar genres, these. How so? This is a simple question. Slice of Life and romance differ from most other genres wherein their main drive is concerned – as they are seldom story-driven, meaning their attraction has to come from elsewhere than the overarching plot, the adventure or the world building.
The main point of interest of SoL and romance are the characters and their interactions. Upon closer examination, you will find it is they who stand on the centre stage of most SoL or romance stories. They are the main supporting pillar here. Sometimes the only. While an adventure story might get off scot-free with weak characters by sheer merit of its overarching storyline, a SoL story will crumble if your characters aren’t strong and well-developed enough. After all, it is them the story is about, and if they aren’t enough interesting or intriguing to hold your readers’ attention, well... You got yourself a boring story.
So how do you make sure these characters are good enough to keep your story engaging? First of all, they must be interesting. This sounds trite, I know; but there is little else I can say of creating interesting characters. This is entirely up to you, the writer, to come up with characters you consider funny, quirky, lovable or amusing enough to put in a story. You have to remember – this story will be following these characters almost 100% of the time. They have to be good enough to withstand the constant pressure of the narration. A one-dimensional character whose entire existence leans on a single quirk will quickly grow tiresome to watch. Thus, before anything else, you would be well-advised to think over your characters and make them something more than a single-faceted plot device or tool for gags.
Second of all, all stories need conflict. Whilst most stories will rely on their general plot to provide the conflict (Marisa stole the precious thing, Eirin’s shady new drug, Yukari is fucking around again, Reimu’s gone bananas and wants to do Gensokyo in), your source of conflict will, again, be your characters – their relationships and interactions. One source of conflict in a romance story might be a classic triangle/rectangle/harem setup. This one doesn’t need much explaining. One character takes the role of the point of contention, while the other two act as rivals. Adjust numbers as appropriate, add protrusions on the outside of the main shape, and you’ve got yourself a soap opera of the genuine kind. This is a simple setup, but still a very effective one, as evidenced by the sheer volume of stories founded upon this very pattern written and/or filmed so far.
With a single-pair setup, things are a little more intricate. In TiTS, most of the down-time from the main story (Garion’s search for his “mother”) is spent on observing Satori and Garion interact. These moments are, I think, interesting due to the clashing personalities of the two. Satori is haughty, but at once afraid of offending others due to her loneliness, while Garion is stiff and openly blunt to the point of indelicacy. While angry with this, Satori nevertheless does her best to win some reaction out of Garion (against her easily annoyed nature), while the latter clings to his rigid life guidelines and rationalises her every advance (against his suppressed attraction). The conflict here is twofold: the characters wrangle with one another, but also with their own inner worlds. This provides room for not only development of their relationship, but also their own characters. Throughout the story, Satori begins to see the use of acting selfish around the man (who nonetheless does not mind it, his principles overruling petty grudges), and Garion loses some of his edge, forgetting his nastier habits and even going so far as bending some of his rules. At the same time their relationship is made more and more intimate by regular development. It’s not just two characters realising their love and forming a bond – it’s two characters changing and maturing while realising their love and forming a bond. Their relationship changes, but so as well do they. They aren’t the same people at the end of the story as they were at the start. This parallel progress is what leads to what I consider a successful romance story.
Slice of life. Slice of life differs from romance in that its type of interaction isn’t of the romantic sort. There’s still conflict of clashing characters – only its source comes from, well, everyday life situations, as opposed to ones involving a lot of hearts going doki-doki. Say you are writing of Chen’s first day at school. Chen is excited to be let out of the confines of the Yakumo house and make friends, while Ran is worried sick for the well-being of her protégé. Chen wants to be left alone, finding Ran’s overbearing care needless and annoying, while Ran is so blinded by her CHEEEEEEENstincts she isn’t above lurking up on the rafters of the school to make sure Chen doesn’t get into any trouble. Once again, the point of interest here are the conflicting interests of the characters, and their clashing actions.
Now, a word about direction. Not being story-centric doesn’t mean a SoL/romance story shouldn’t have direction. Sure, love and everyday life rarely follow some divine and unbendable timetable of things (unlike plot-driven stories, which tend to follow that), but to make your story attractive to your readers, you must create a sense of direction and progression all the same. So before embarking on writing a SoL/romance story, despite not having an overarching storyline, try to draw up the general series of events the story will treat of. Make it apparent that the story is going somewhere and that it is going there, instead of endlessly looping around meaningless little gags and immaterial scenes of boring everyday routines. Do not begin a romance story with the main couple shilly-shallying with one another, only to toss in an unexplained love rival some time later. Start the story with the rivalry already going strong. Have the central conflict be present from the very start of the story. If you aren’t sure how to present such a setup, start the story with a in medias res introduction, then flash back to the “present day.” This will draw the reader’s attention since they will quite automatically wonder how the situation came to pass, being interested in the events that led up to it. Meaning they will likely want to read your story.
So, to summarise. Come up with actually interesting characters, you manga-copying, Mary Sue-writing, waifu-loving fag.
>B-BUT I HAVE SO MANY QUESHTCHONS!
Then ask away, you silly Billy. It’s not like I’m reading motherfucking books all damn day.