A handful of years ago (okay, more than a handful, but I don’t want to think about that) there was a little show on TV called Dawson’s Creek. For those not familiar with the iconic show, it centers around four fifteen years olds in the fictional town of Capeside. With Dawson Leery being the central character. It also features his two best friends, Pacey and Joey, and newcomer to town Jen. The show follows the characters’ trials in love, life, and everything in between. I was fifteen when the show aired, the same age as these characters. It made an impression, unrealistic dialogue, and sappy storylines and all. This is probably why I love this so as much as I do.

But there is another, and that reason is Joey and Pacey.

Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you don’t want to know what happens. 

This was, in the end, the relationship that defined the show. The final six episodes of Season 3 are still as emotionally satisfying now as they were all those years ago.

Why the emotional payoff is so strong with Pacey and Joey:

  1. Pacey loves Joey for who she is.
  2. Pacey challenges Joey to confront her fears.
  3. Pacey encourages Joey to chase her dreams.
  4. Pacey is willing to let Joey go for the sake of her happiness.

How does this relate to your writing? When we are reading, we want to feel connected to our characters. We want to laugh with them, cry with them, cringe with them, and we want them to succeed. As a writer, you want to create this. You want to create characters that live long in the memories of your readers.

How do you do this? One way is through pacing. In Dawson’s Creek, we had an entire season that showed Pacey’s growing feelings for Joey, with her totally unaware. Then when the truth finally came out, the writers gave their audience something to tune into each week. We go to see Pacey, slowly and lovingly show Joey how much he loved her and how much he knew her. These two were connected. We felt what they felt. Over six episodes, we were totally invested in the outcome of this love triangle. The writers took the time to draw out the conflict and romance. They made sure we cared about the outcome of these two characters.

And the other way to keep your characters in the memory of your readers is by giving them something they could not do at the beginning, but they can do at the end. In this case, it was Joey choosing Pacey over Dawson. It was Joey being brave enough to jump into a future with Pacey. Joey was scared. She had never done this before, but she also felt excited and free. Still, watching her run to the dock to find Pacey before he gets on the boat makes me cheer for her. Joey grew as a character. She changed in a good way and we loved it.

Ask yourself characters questions about their fears, what they want to achieve, and then ask them what they can’t do, and what they want to do. Then take them on the journey of change and growth. Your readers will thank you for it!

What’s your favorite TV show?