The 10 Worst Couples in Fiction

There are some pairings that just shouldn’t happen. Sometimes the pairing is so bad that it’s good. And sometimes it’s just… horrible.

  1. Dexter and Rita, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (the book, not the show): In the books, Dexter is a much darker, but also more comedic character. He’s heavily influenced by his Dark Passenger, a force that encourages him to kill, and that isn’t satisfied when Dexter has periods where he doesn’t. In the books, Rita is a mere convenience for him so that he can appear normal. He likes her kids though, because for some reason, he can connect with children. In the first book, he says he picked her because she was damaged, so that they could pretend to be normal together. It added something wonderful to the books, and though he was using her, it also felt like she was getting stability and comfort out of the relationship too.
  2. Archie and Gretchen, Heartsick: He’s a detective, she’s a murderer. When he falls in love with her, she also falls in love with him, in her sick and twisted way. For 10 days she tortures him, leaving him addicted to pain pills. Then she turns herself in. But even prison doesn’t release her hold on him…
  3. Cathy and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights: Show of hands… who hates this book? In Twilight, this is Bella Swan’s favorite book, and she said she loves it because”I think it’s something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart — not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…” I’m sorry, but selfishness and evil is not a romantic pairing in my mind. He wasn’t even an interesting kind of evil…
  4. Romeo and Juliet: Teen suicide is not romantic. Especially because most teens already think everything is forever and dramatic. I’m not saying it’s not a good play, because it is. But to have their names become synonymous with romance? No.
  5. Clarice and Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal: Spoiler alert if you haven’t read Hannibal. The movie ending is waaaay different from the book. (The book was 100 million billion times better.) Okay, I warned you. It was obvious there was some chemistry in Silence of the Lambs. Not necessarily sexual, but a definite connection. In Hannibal, it’s years later, Clarice has had an unremarkable career at the FBI, and Hannibal Lecter escaped. He starts sending her love notes and gifts, talking about how unappreciated she is. And at the end, he captures her and brainwashes her into loving him and traveling with him. It’s creepy, but ultimately powerful. She was drawn to him, and the brainwashing can’t explain all of their connection. I loved this ending. Maybe it’s not love… but it’s definitely something.
  6. Bella and Edward, Twilight, etc.: I really enjoyed Twilight. Honest. I thought it was a fantastic read. I don’t think it was a fantastic book; that’s a different story. Their relationship is everything I warn couples about. Possessive? Check. Controlling? Check. Follows you around? Check. Secretive? Check. Might snap and want to kill you to drain you of your delicious blood? Check. So why do bad couples make for such fun love stories? (Sometimes.)
  7.  Skylar and Walt, Breaking Bad: I hated Skylar. Detested her. Wanted her to go very far away. I think that reason is that she couldn’t make up her mind about anything and blamed everyone else. If she had left Walt when she found out he was cooking meth, I would have totally been on her side. If she went all badass and decided to become his partner, but hadn’t whined and bitched about it, I would have loved it. But she did whine and bitch and jump in a pool in a creepy, quasi-suicidal way, and I hated her for it. Many times, I figure that bad characters are good for a show, but she served no purpose in my mind. In other news, I loved the on again off again bromance between Walt and Jesse, and was sad when they became estranged and never really made up.
  8. Mickey and Mallory, Natural Born Killers: I’m pretty sure that murdering your way across the country and wanting to be famous for it falls under the heading of “toxic relationships.” Yet it was interesting, because like Clarice and Lecter, their relationship was founded in some legit chemistry. It was a fantastic movie, and everything about their relationship was so bad that it was good.
  9. Anakin and Padme, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars: Usually I pretend these movies don’t exist, so I hesitated even including them, but the list couldn’t possibly be complete without them. Speaking of chemistry, they had none. There was nothing believable about this paring. I love Natalie Portman, so it probably wasn’t her fault, but everything about this was terrible. Anakin was not a believable pre-Darth Vadar. I never really wondered what happened to Luke & Leia’s mother, and after these movies, I’m still pretending that I don’t know. If, by some miracle, you’ve never watched these, don’t. Don’t do that to yourself.
  10. Rick and Lori, The Walking Dead (the graphic novel & the show): Ah, Lori. Another universally hated character. She had no idea what she wanted. And I realize that many of us don’t, and that could be a way of connecting to her as a character, but it didn’t work. Because she was all over the place. She yelled at Rick that he had to get rid of Shane, and then when he did, she acted like he’d done something wrong. I really don’t begrudge her affair with Shane because I believe she thought Rick was dead. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse, it’s understandable that you’d want to connect with someone else. But that was the last thing she did that I understood. She was always letting her young son run off in the middle of the apocalypse and saying the wrong thing to everyone. And it wasn’t like she was just awkward and said the wrong thing the way most of us sometimes do; no, she just had a complete lack of empathy toward everyone because she was a self-centered person. Okay… rant over. (I could go on and on. If you hate Lori and want to talk about how much you hate Lori, email me.)

I know there are bad couples out there that I’m totally missing. Tell me what couples you hate or love to hate!


What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

Photo credit: Doree Weller

Photo credit: Doree Weller

I joined NaNoWriMo about 4 years ago, and I’ve never “won.”

For those of you who don’t know it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it challenges writers to complete a novel in the month of November.  It calls a novel 50,000 words, which is 1,667 words a day.

In the past four years, my commitment has varied, but I’ve tried to do it, and each time I’ve failed.

This year, I went into it determined to just get words on paper.  I wasn’t going to worry about whether or not they were good, but just go for quantity.  Some writers encourage this practice because just writing can be a key to creativity, and they say that it can override the self-consciousness that holds some writers back.

In past years, I haven’t been able to finish because I struggled over what to write.

You see, I have a problem with middles.  I do beginnings great, and endings well, but the middle gets me stuck.  I’m not the only writer with that problem.  I remember back when I attended a writer’s conference, they called it “Muddle in the Middle.”

I had written 15,000 words of this novel, and it wasn’t working.  I knew it was bad, and I didn’t like where the plot was going, but I decided to go with it, because the idea was just to get 50,000 words on paper in November.  It didn’t feel right to me, but I wanted to try it.

Then I went to a meeting of my writer’s group.  Another group member, who did not know I was doing NaNoWriMo mentioned that he was going to start submitting his finished novel to agents in December, because in reading agents’ blogs, they were inundated with garbage novels after NaNoWriMo.  The other group member made some disparaging comments about NaNoWriMo.

I heard other things that night that made me doubt myself.  Other group members had criticisms that hurt me personally.  Usually, I can take criticism without taking it personally (it took a LOT of practice, believe me), but on this particular night, I couldn’t separate it from myself.

I was sad that following week, and did a lot of soul searching.  I stopped working on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I even thought about giving up writing completely; it all felt kind of pointless.

But when I got over feeling sorry for myself, I started to look at some things with myself and my writing.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m not disciplined or organized in any aspect of my life, and I’ve used the excuse that “I’m creative” to get out of considering to do things differently.

I read a bunch of writer’s blogs and information from various sources.  I took notes on what I read and really thought about it.  I realized that I haven’t treated this process as if I’m serious about it.  I’ve done some of the work, but not enough.

NaNoWriMo is great for people struggling with self-doubt, who need to get practice getting words on paper.  I’ve read that you need 10,000 hours of practice to “master” anything.  NaNoWriMo can be helpful at getting some of those hours.

I’ve written 3 novels completely.  The first one wasn’t good.  The second was better.  The third will be publishable once it’s edited heavily.  I have seven unfinished novels.  When I counted them up and really thought about that number, I realized that there’s something wrong with my process.  I like the ideas of each of those novels, so why haven’t I finished them?  What happens is that I get an idea and get excited about it, then put words on paper without any clear idea of how I’m going to get from A to Z.  It’s less exciting when I need to get down to figuring out how the dots connect, so I move on to a different project.

One of my favorite quotes is:

“Amateurs wait for inspiration.  The rest of us just get up and go to work.”  -Chuck Close

I’ve been quoting that for years, but I’m not sure I ever really thought about what it meant.  Once I did that soul searching, I realized that my lack of discipline is a serious problem.  I saw myself waking up one day 10 years from now and looking at my dozens of unfinished novels, wondering why I’m no further along in my writing career than I was when I was 8 years old.

Something had to change.

As I said, I started reading, because that’s what writers do when stuck; they read.  And I journaled.  And talked to a friend.  Doing those three things helped me realize that I’ve been a lazy writer.  Because I’m good at it, I didn’t feel like I had to do any work on it.  And if I started novels and didn’t finish them, I just hadn’t found the right idea, right?


My major problem is that I don’t map out stories before I start.  I get an idea and I start them with no clear idea of where I’m going.  I like to let the characters lead, but letting the characters lead doesn’t mean that I don’t have to know what the path looks like and the destination.  Knowing the path doesn’t mean they can’t take the scenic route or choose the fork in the road; it just means that I have to have an idea of the direction they’re going in.

The question I had to ask myself was, “Why do I write?”  First and foremost, I write for myself.  I write because I love it, because I have stories to tell, and I want to tell them.  I want to know what happens next.  But I also would like to be published, mostly because I want to share my stories.  If I live until 100 and never get anything published, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll probably still write.  I don’t know if I could stop if I tried.  🙂

I’ve always been a fan of Query Shark, as the query letter is my nemesis.  One of the things she says is that every word must be the right word.  Dean Koontz says something similar.  His writing process is to polish every page and examine every word until he moves on in the story.  I’ve been reading those two pieces of information for years, and I don’t think I ever really understood them.  As a writer, it is my responsibility to make sure the work says what I want it to say.

That disappointing week was difficult for me, but I’m proud of myself, that I was able to really look at what hurt me and learn from it.  When my first novel is finally being published, I know that I’m going to look back on that week and realize that was a turning point for me, and my taking a hard look at myself will be what makes it possible.

I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, but I won something much more valuable.

Revising, Critiquing, Passive Voice… Oh my!


Jerome, AZ… Photo credit Doree Weller

I know passive voice slows down the pace of the story.  I know it.  I watch for the dreaded “was.”  But I swear that a word thief who wants all the good verbs for himself sneaks into my writing and puts them there.  Unlikely?  Yes.  But all good conspiracies are built from unlikely beginnings.

I used to use Reviewfuse for critiques, and I met a lot of good people there.  Many of my works I put up for critique ended up getting published, so I’m a huge fan of writers helping writers.  I’m not into the whole meeting people in person thing.  I’d be expected to socialize and have manners, and if I can avoid those things, I prefer to.

Anyway, toward the end, I wasn’t getting much valuable feedback off Reviewfuse anymore, and after “good job” one too many times, I drifted away.  I recently found Scribophile, and so far, it seems really good.  I’ve gotten three quality reviews on a novel first chapter, which I used to mercilessly revise it, cutting parts I’d grown to love.  They needed to go, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love them.

Scribophile works on “karma points,” so the more you review, the more you can submit your work for review.  One thing I like is that I can pick and choose what works I want to review.  That way, I can read stuff I’m actually interested in, instead of getting stuck critiquing a memoir I hate just because, as a rule, I don’t like non-fiction.  The user interface isn’t as easy and intuitive on Scribophile as it was on Reviewfuse, but that’s a little thing, since I’m getting good, constructive reviews.

If you’re an author, check it out.

Bad Endings

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

We’ve all seem movies or read books with bad endings.  I still haven’t forgiven Lionsgate for the original Saw.  Great movie, no ending.  Don’t even get me started on Hannibal.  Thomas Harris wrote a great book, but they ruined the ending for moviegoing audiences.

I’ve just heard that they re-filmed that last 4o minutes of World War Z after it got bad reviews from test audiences.  Is this really how Hollywood does things?  They take a book that people enjoyed, and make it into a movie because they have a built-in audience, but change the ending because now, suddenly, people didn’t like it?

Sometimes we have to take risks.  As authors (and presumably readers), we know what feels right as far as endings.  I’ve read books and watched movies that seemed to have discordant endings at first, but on further reflection, were just right.  I love it when I have to think it through.

That being said, I don’t want to have to think about things when I’m reading or watching things I consider “junk food” for the brain.  I love romance novels, but they’re not exactly cerebral, and I don’t want them to be.  If I’m reading a romance novel, it’s because I want a sexy, strong hero, a stubborn, strong woman, and a happily ever after ending.  If I’m reading a horror novel or watching a horror movie, I don’t mind as everyone dies, as long as it fits.  And my biggest pet peeve is that I want it to end!  Not everything has to be tied up neatly for me, but the ending has to feel purposeful, not lazy, and not as if they’re gratuitously leaving it open-ended so that it it’s popular, there can be a sequel.

Personally, I think endings are just about the most important part of the book/ movie.  Because if I dislike the ending, even if I loved every other bit of the story, I write off the whole thing.