Thoughts or Feelings about Tragic ROs

I’m kicking around the idea of creating a tragic RO in my story, and I’d like your thoughts on this. My initial thought is that the character is presented as one of multiple potential ROs. The character’s storyline is tragic regardless of whether the reader pursues a romantic relationship with them. But if they do :sob: This could then potentially open another romantic avenue with a different character that had been previously closed. What are your thoughts on me being so cruel to my readers?

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I do love me some tragic romances. Years ago, when Dragon Age: Inquisition first came out, I romanced the egg and got my heart broken (cracked, you could say - really scrambled with my head - completely turned me sunnyside up).

But I also knew going into it that it would hurt, so I was expecting it. Maybe you could include it in your description to let readers know? something like: “Romance one of X characters, including character 1, character 2, tragic character, and more!”

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I’d say it would depend on the person. You might want to post a warning with that character when you start a topic for the demo of the game you’re making.

Personally, I wouldn’t really be fond of it, because I never want to see a person I care about and have grown attached to meet a tragic end like that. Not to mention that the helplessness of not being able to help that person no matter what would also actively be triggering for me; irl I’ve already been put, several times, in a position where a friend was suffering and I could do nothing but watch as they self-destructed or got beat down by life. I never want to experience that again, especially not in fiction.

Putting in an option to be able to help that character, regardless of if you romance them or not, would fix a lot of the potential issues that could come with it imo. But if doing that goes against the story you want to tell, or the character’s story you want to tell, then at the very least you should put ample warnings–both in-game and on the game topic–about that character, so people know what they’re getting into.

Edit: Though it also depends on what you mean by “tragic”. Is it tragic because the RO themself get fucked over, or is it tragic because what they’ve experienced leads them down a path of villainy or something like that? Because I’m significantly more okay with the second than the first.

Edit 2: Though even in villainy there’s the very real potential for the person to be self-destructive… Idk. It’s complicated. I’d have to see the actual character arc to know for sure, but right now I’m leaning more towards not really being into it.

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It truly depends on the execution of all the various elements going into making the whole.

The story-arc of the tragedy and the romance being the two obvious things that need to be executed well, there are still others I see from your initial post.

For example:

This looks like, at first glance, a trope where the brother/sister becomes a romance option once the person you are romancing to begin with passes away from a terminal illness, like cancer.

All of this can be executed wonderfully, and your readers will love you as an author that can pull this stuff off, or they can end up disappointed or worse.

I feel that if you have the experience and the writing ability to write such a romance, you should. If not, then if you wish to write it, get help writing it.

Feedback and perhaps guidance would help a lot in “getting things right” as long as you utilize them as needed.

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I think it’s absolutely okay to portray any kind of story that you feel you can handle, and indeed it’s valuable to depict different kinds of stories and relationships, whether those be classic romances or ones that will end in tragedy.

And, well, stick to your guns, you know? Some of the best moments in fiction and IF are unavoidably gut wrenching. If that’s where the story leads for that character, then let it lead there.

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Then initial thought I had was that the RO would get themselves ‘fucked over’ or in other words…dead. But, then thinking about it further it kind of takes the agency of the medium out of the reader’s hands, which isn’t what I want to do. So, while they could end up dead, I think I’m now leaning toward a story arc where with the MC’s intervention, they could survive their ordeal. I think that would make for a more satisfying storyline. But, the option to really tear out the reader’s heart if they make the wrong decisions really appeals to me. :smiling_imp:

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If it’s choice-dependent then I’m a lot more okay with it then, yeah.

Like I said, the helplessness and frustration of not being to change anything at all, ever, no matter what I do, is what would get to me. But if the game allows me to go back and aim for a better outcome–and actually allows me to achieve said better outcome–then it’s just a lot more comfortable for me overall, and it allows me to actually enjoy and appreciate the angst and the tragic aspects of the RO without toeing the line of being triggered. Because funny enough, I do actually really like tragic storylines and romances when they’re not railroaded into forced helplessness.

Like I said though, this is ultimately your storyline and character. So do what you want to do best, even if not everyone agrees with it, because that’ll make for a better story overall.

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Overall this would work. Giving player a choice is always the best option.
Just one minor thing:

As long as this decision isn’t some obscure and illogical like 90s adventure games liked to make.

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Any in particular come to mind? I’ve played many of them and it might jog my memory what to avoid.

I personally really like tragic characters like that (if executed well, of course, but that goes for all types of characters), but still it may be better to err on the side of caution to provide some kind of heads-up even if that takes away some of the punch of the tragedy.

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I don’t know if I would explicitly warn the readers that the character’s storyline is tragic beyond typical narrative foreshadowing. My goal with my story is to be more subtle, except when the choices come in. I hope the narrative and the choice wording are clear. But, by explicitly warning the reader early on that if they choose to enter a romantic relationship with this character, they should be aware and watch out for bad things to happen in the future. I agree with you completely. That dampens the impact quite a lot.

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I was thinking less of an obvious content warning and more obvious foreshadowing in the story, yeah. But the difficulty of writing a tragic, doomed character and warning the reader is that there may be very strong reactions if they aren’t expecting it, and that the punch of the tragedy won’t exist if it’s obvious exactly what’s happening. There is a balance to be struck there.

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Personally, I would not be happy. IF is meant to be entertaining, not sad.

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I think making it a choice could be more impactful, especially if you add additional states like ‘almost there’ (for if MC almost saved the RO but the victory was snatched) or have MC give something up to save the RO. Don’t skimp out on achievements :rofl: Not sure what tone you are going for it, I’m guessing from the opening post it’s emotional?

For some reason, I want to recommend you Steins Gate even though it deals with time travel, but the feeling of desperately trying to save a character might be helpful. Or Breach, for Mouse on the undercover agent.
It depends on how big you want to make it, because you can do a lot with it by making it a result of MC’s choices IMO. You can squeeze a lot more emotion out of preventable tragedy.

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Do it! You’ve got to write for yourself first, you’ll never please everyone but if you write for yourself you’ll attract like minded readers. I for one dig it, so long as it fits with the overall tone of the piece.

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I love it, rip our hearts out!

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If you want to make it a no happy ending deal then I’d put that kind of warning near the start of their route or the game - you don’t need to spoil if they die or something but surprising readers like that rarely goes well. Some people may be okay with it, but there’ll be plenty who are turned off enough it could ruin the RO or even the entire game for them.

Personally, I like the option of having the outcome influenced through player actions. I’m a sucker for a happy ending after all, or even a bittersweet one where you have to sacrifice a lot for that little sliver of happiness with your lover. The only problem with this is (and one I’m struggling with for my own WIP), if the tragic storyline happens in every timeline and you can only prevent it through romancing them or doing very specific steps, it’ll “lock” players who love that character out from some content because they don’t want them to die.

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That’s a good point! I hadn’t thought of that.

Similar to what Eiwynn said, but more in my own words, you want to make sure that the tragic RO’s story is well-written and impactful, so it doesn’t come off as a mere plot device, you want to elevate the tragic RO so that they will leave a lasting impact, even in their absence. Their story will resonate with readers, making the potential new romance feel like a natural progression rather than a cheap replacement.

I wish you luck.

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Some of the most enduring love stories in pop culture are tragedies! Romeo & Juliet, Titanic, A Star is Born, etc… I love a good romantic tragedy, even if I don’t love it in the moment that it’s happening. Of course, as mentioned above by others, there would need to be a careful balance between giving the readers a fair warning whilst also not spoiling anything about the route.

I think something to keep in mind is what does the player character learn or gain from the tragedy. Does it motivate them in a way that propels them closer to their goal? Does it change the way they think about love and companionship? I find that the best romantic tragedies tend to teach the main character something important about themself, life, love, and the likes.

Looking forward to see what you come up with. :slight_smile:

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