Every story—whether movie, book, or graphic novel—is an opportunity to learn another facet of storytelling. Maybe continuity from that book or foreshadowing in the manga. Most recently, it was the treatment of the main characters’ love interests in Vampire Academy and Rurouni Kenshin.
Dimitri Belikov is the love interest of the main character, Rose Hathaway. The viewer meets him for the first time on a street in Portland, Oregon when he arrives to bring the main characters back to their school for vampires. He speaks in a Russian accent before easily taking them both into custody.
He’s bodyguard: professional, skilled, no-nonsense, and values duty above all else. List a bodyguard stereotype, and then check it off because he’s got it. More than once, the other characters refer to him as “a god” because of his skills.
Then there’s the fact he falls head over heels in love with Rose. Their flirting/adversarial relationship starts right away. He stands up for her when the school’s headmistress wants to kick her out and personally trains her to become a bodyguard. Plus he spends quite a few scenes staring at her with dreamy eyes.
Remove his romantic relationship from the equation, and Dimitri is just a Russian bodyguard. Viewers briefly see him in his bedroom wearing plaid pajama pants, reading a book, and listening to music. But there’s no personality beyond that. As a viewer, I can’t help but think he wouldn’t be a complete character without the romance.
Kamiya Kaoru is also the main character’s, Himura Kenshin’s, love interest, and her first appearance has her putting a wooden sword to Kenshin’s throat. She shows no fear when facing off against a man she believes to be a serial killer. Plus Kaoru manages to kick his butt when he doesn’t fight back.
She inherited her father’s dojo and position as the instructor of his swordsmanship style after his death. And that feeds her determination to capture the serial killer claiming to use her swordsmanship style. She even goes after the serial killer himself after seeing a police officer he just murdered.
The relationship between her and an orphan who wants to be a samurai shows her sisterly side. One minute she’s giving him a hard time and ordering him around because he missed fencing practice. The next, she’s ordering a gang to leave him alone when they try to take over her dojo.
Kaoru very obviously has a crush on Kenshin and gets jealous when another woman begins flirting with him. But the character isn’t only defined by that relationship. She’s devoted to her father’s legacy and cares for an orphan like he’s her younger brother. That’s not even getting into her standing in the community. Kaoru is a person who’d be just as whole without her crush as she is with it.
Dimitri and Kaoru are both the main characters’ love interests. But Kaoru has dimensions outside her relationship with Kenshin and Dimitri doesn’t. He’s not a whole character without Rose. So when I write a novel that features a romantic relationship, I’m going to make sure each character has their own identity outside the romance.
Have you learned any storytelling lessons from movies? What were they?