A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#1
How do I make an actually good harem story....

Ok, let the hate flow! Go on! I can see you whipping out that syringe of cyanide you've been hiding underneath the desk just by seeing this, go ahead! You have a sledgehammer at your side just waiting for you to pick it up and smash your computer? Go ahead and do it! 

You don't like the genre because its annoying and cancerous? I respect that, but don't take it out on me especially not here when I want advice and am not forcing it onto you. 

So back to the topic. How do I make a harem a non-cliché, non-cancerous, piece of fan service? After taking this element of my story into account I became more worried that I might end up writing another cliché harem that would ruin the entirety of the story. Of course there are some tropes and clichés that are unavoidable, what I want to avoid are the one's that screw up storyline.

And also of course I know Ecchi is just for laughs and sometimes to further plot and relationships to a certain extent and should not be abused as to not label as fan service. I want to avoid that, I'm not writing a hentai here, I want a genuine story.

I'm sure equal screen time between girls, separate POV's, and a good romantic resolution are apart of it and which I have already taken note of from various sources. There are also people who say that it just depends, which is understandable, but my god does that get me worried.

What do you guys think?

Again if you hate this genre I'm asking you to express your hatred on some other site, I don't want this advice thread to turn into a debate between realists, weebs and neutrals just to make people get a certain point.

I await your responses.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#2
I hate harems mostly cause they aren't interesting and are taking too much time from the main plot and action. I don't hate the idea of many girls although it seems mostly unrealistic. Also you need to define what exactly you mean by "harem".

As I see harem it's mostly surrounding mc with many beautiful girls that are fighting over his attention and have some love interest in him. It's the whole " what if?" idea. With whom the guy will end up with?

If poligamy is normal in the country that characters are from then that idea is much weaker. Much easier to deal with between the girls. But it still doesn't mean you couldn't use it. Lets say that guy is in an official relationship with two girls. Those girls are close with each other - they became good friends because of that guy. Now lets say that his relationship with one of them is getting bad - a lot of bad blood and he finally broke up with her. But only with her. A hella of a plot twist.

There is also the idea of the guy flirting with many girls at the same time in monogamic society. But lets be honest - it's more about flirting, kissing, dating than love. Unless between this all you will give "the one and only girl" that the guy will strongly fall in love.

What is exactly that you want to do? I think it's even possible to combine a good action story and harem if you make it right. I think the worst thing you can do in that case is to choose only one mc. If you want to make it a serious action story you will need to make all girls mc and the guy probably too. You must clearly tell readers that girls aren't the dead weight but interesting part of the story.
If you want to make normal non-fighting emotional drama then you shouldn't add too much comedy. Don't make characters schematic - you must well think about their personalities - their problems, complexes, ambitions, family, dreams and fears.

I think that the nost common purpose of harems however is dating, flirting and erotic. I think that tragedy and love are the only thing to go about harems. Strong psychologic story. Ahh... I hope one day on RRs someone will write "The Ugly Harem" - four ugly, fat girls chasing after a guy... I don't really read harems but THAT one I would read.

To the point. You can make it good on many ways. If you want some advices give me some specifics. There are diffetent solutions depending what direction you are taking. But I think the most annoying things are:
-Usless to the plot girls
-Too simplistic personalities of girls
-Irrational reasons for a harem, why so many girls are around the guy? 
-Irrational comedic-erotic behavior of girls
That's for me at least. I hate harems but I respect writers and different tastes. I might get overboard but mostly when I'm disappointed that the story is being taken over by your typical harem. It simply aint no cup of tea of mine.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#4
Good romance: Does it exist? Because a harem is basically a story with a separate romance plot for each girl/guy, and interaction effects. If an author can pull it off there's a good harem, probably. Tough, but not impossible... In theory, at least.

Most of the time, the problem with harems is that the author goes for the quantity (of girls/guys) and neglects the quality (of relationships in the plot). It's kinda natural since writing five or six romance plots at the same time is a lot to juggle, but the story still suffers. If pulled off properly, a harem could make a fascinating story. It'd require one Hell of a writer, though.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#6
A good harem story is any story with harem elements in it that the reader enjoys. That is literally the only way for it to be a good harem story. It's true for any story, really.

Some people won't like a 'harem' story under any circumstances. It could be the 'harem' equivalent to the most popular stories ever told in history, and they would still think it is trash.

Some folks will openly complain about how the harem steals from the plot, even when the harem dynamics are the actual plot and that other stuff that the reader wishes was the important bit is just what the harem members are going through while dealing with each other.

There is also an incredibly loose definition of what 'harem' is supposed to be. Some people think any story where more than one person shows interest in a character is a harem story. They will claim the 'All Harem is Trash because it isn't realistic' concept is in effect, simply because of that factor. Yet, there are MANY instances of people in the real world who have more than one girlfriend/boyfriend and those 'friends' know about each other.

The concept of 'open relationships' while less common, do exist. Spouses date outside of their marriage and there are even people who bring their boyfriends/girlfriends home and introduce them to their spouse! There are even bisexual people who WANT their spouse to bring someone of the opposite sex home so they can vet that individual and they can share.

If you want your harem story to be good there just needs to be a good story attached to it, and reasons for why characters act a certain way. Even if it's 'abnormal' for a guy to run across a bisexual girl who's a 'free spirit' and wants to have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend, those people exist. There are people in first world countries who are part of polygamous relationships that have nothing to do with religion. Why? They love each other, can share the family work load, and they can pool resources so they can have MORE.

It'll be pretty humorous 20 years from now in America, if all the polygamist movements have their way and it is finally legalized in secular life. I recall a news special once on a man who had a legal wife and a second wife who was not 'legal.' As such the second wife was not actually married to him by law. The wives lived in two separate houses that were side-by-side. The husband spent time in both places, and everyone shared work responsibilities for money making, housework responsibilities, child-rearing responsibilities, and everything else.

Harem-life is 'abnormal' by modern first world standards, but it is hardly abnormal historically and it does exist both as a religious practice and as a secular one. Some people just want large families where multiple partners pool resources and everyone is better off for it.

Even so, there will be some people who will take a steaming dump all over your story regardless of reality, or even if the story is supposed to be a parody. The same thing happens with stories that include homosexual romances, and even stories that involve magic in general such as the 'Harry Potter is Satanic.' business.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#7
The only 'Good Harem' without a bad end for any girl was from an Anime called Amagami. The theory is that the story is divided into arc's and each arc contains a heroine's segment. For example,in one arc the MC starts a route for a girl,conquer's her,then in the next arc for another girl there is no relationship between the perivous two,it's like when the next arc starts there has no connection to the pervios arc,call it as individual story with the same MC,same setting but different girl. That means in that arc the story between the MC and that particular girl is over. And in the next arc he starts another route for a different girl. So no heart of any girl is broken when the MC chooses a particular girl,and that's what I like about that story.
Hope that this helped you

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#8
You're asking for advice on a debate forum?

Not a pro writer nor I dislike harem but there a few things that irk me and I'm just giving my 2 cents.

What so special about this dull and indecisive MC?
He's not rich or impressive and have no ambitions. He's just nice and dense. Lots of people can be nice, but he just happened to be at the right place, at the right time to decide to help you.

I think there are good harem stories in my opinion: clannad, the world god only knows, ouran high school club, Seitokai no Ichizon

You can't stop people from hating harems. And there may be some people that like cardboard cut-out characters.

I think whats makes a good harem was make the the MC and the love interests likable, relatable, and sincere. Put them in a nice plot and premise to get the ball moving. Then end in satisfying conclusion/resolution. Plus epilogue, I love them.

Don't make these girls being strung along by the MC while he fools around being dumb and everyone being vague about their feelings. Maybe the girls had reasons for being vague. They're young, they don't know what they are feeling, they know other girls felt the same way for this dense guy, maybe they're scared to be rejected.

If you're going for the harem route or polygamy, I hoped there was a good setting or reason to have this. I don't think in a modern society polygamy is acceptable. Unless the population decreased so much and the 99% of population are female.

Then again this is fiction, write whatever you want. Write from start to finish and see what needed to change to fit your ideals.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#10
I soooo wanted to write about this topic earlier (and so other controversial ones), but if I just wrote it as a new thread, it would probably just be seen as one long rant by a lot of people.
As a general rule of thumb I would usually recommend to not included harem in your stories, for a lot of reasons. The 2 main ones are:
1) It is a bad choice in terms of risk vs reward - a lot of your potential readers would likely hate it, and those that do not will on average only like the story a bit more.
2) Most of the works including harem ends up with implementing the harem poorly. Furthermore the people that want to include

With that out of the way, we can look closer at what it would take for the harem to not end up being implemented poorly. There are so many pitfalls and ways to step on peoples tasts, that we should probably refere to the harem element as a minefield, and I have no idea myself where all those mines lie; I can only point a few of them out.

The first mine we have to deal with, is that of the difference between a harem story, and a story with harem content. A harem story is a story which concern itself primarily with harem content, in such a way that the entire plot will be about the harem, and the goals the mc has are connected to the harem. These stories will often be considered as "teenage wet dreams", and they are certainly not for everyone at all times. While not inheirently bad, a lot of people might tends to consider them as bad taste.
A story with harem content is different. It is simply a story, where the relationship structure happens to be classified as harem. This may come in many different forms (both the general story and harem form), but the main thing here is that the readers are not readering the story for its harem, but for its other characteristics, such as plot or humor.
The mine is then when people expect that a story is a story that contains harem content, but ends up reading a harem story. This creates a situation where you have an audience who wants something differently than what they get; one can easily image the negativity that entails. This situation is more likely to occur on sites like this, if there are significant amount of content before harem is introduced. It therefor ends up becoming a rather bad idea to change a story to a harem story, as it will piss of a lot of the readers, which were attracted by something else. Therefor, if one does not wish for the story to be a harem story from start to finish, then one should stay inside the boundary of only included harem as a subcontent, and thereby bend to the plot to revolve around the harem. Do note that it is still fine for things related to the harem to be important plot elements - protecting a loved one is a rather strong and effective motivator.

The next thing to point out, is that harem can be considered as an advanced form of romance - in terms of writing difficulty (for most of the types of harem typically seen). It takes the "simple" romantic formular for a one to one relationship (with all the love triangles, drama and so on) and multiply the amount by some large number, and then add further complications that can only happen when you have a one to many relationship.
It should be easy to understand how hard it is to write a piece of fiction, when the difficulty of a already not so easy element as romance gets the equivalent step of going from jugling one ball to five balls at the same time. A lot of new writers overlook this, and ends up fumbling around with harems, with obviously subpar results from it. I would therefor advice to ensure that you can write a good romance of the type you want before tackling the additional difficulty of turning it into a harem version. This could be done in the same piece of fiction, by only starting a harem after one have build up sufficient skill when working on the first relatinship.

These problems combined makes for a new mine: the harem content taking over the story, because a lot of harem romance content was necessary to implement it well. The problem here is that it may bring the story to close to being a harem story, and/or just cost to much of the time compared to the other things the readers was reading the story for. This is a difficult balancing act, which is one of those extra complications that increases the difficulty of writing such a story.
I can only see 2 paths to deal with this problem. The first is to take it slow, and spread the harem content over a longer amount of the story, such that it does not end up dominating the story too much. The second is to "simply" become good enough at romance, that one can write a satisfactory harem style romance in short enough amount of story space, that leaves plenty of story space for the main elements of the story to do their magic.

We next consider which type of harem we are looking at. There are several types, such as historical ("a sultans harem"), multiple people with interest in the main character (or vise versa), and the main character being in romantic relationships with several people at the same time.
The first of these are somewhat rare in fiction, so I am not too knowledgable about them, but they tend to not necessarily contain the normal kind of romance, so we will therefor pass them over here.
The second type is often fairly innocent as harems goes, and they are best served as harem content for stories with other main focuses, and the romantic interests can then serve as reliefe for the other content. If one wishes to experiment with harems as a writing without writing a full on harem story, or being romance master, then this is the category I would recommend. One still needs to build realistic relationships, but since they dont end up as full on relationships, then many of the true complications and problems of harem would either not need to be addressed or at least not as throughly.
The third type can be considered full on harem. This is where any realistic relationship of this kind would be fairly complicated, and therefor also much harder to portray well in writing. It is very easy to overlook some aspect here, or not make sufficient effort to make the relationship seem realistic, and this will in turn make people dissosiate with the relationship and suspend disbelief, which then causes them to look at the situation and often make them start to be disgusted by what they see. If you are engaging in a full on harem story, then unrealistic relationships are less likely to suspend disbelief, and more unnatural relationships can be accepted - as the entire point is to revel in abnormal relationships (we are dealing with some kind of wish-fullfilment so they can decidedly not be normal). If the reader is not reading it as a harem story, but as a story with harem elements, then one should take great care and put much effort into making the relationships seem as realistic as possible (they dont need to be truely realistic, they just need to look sufficiently so).
There is also the case where the target of the harem is not the main character (and the main character is not part of the harem either). If this mean that we do not end up exploring any romantic sides of the harem, then it simply becomes a part of the setting, and not very problematic.

There are a lot more things to it, but a lot of it comes down to taking it seriously as a piece of romance, and recognizing how to avoid imposing it on people that were not really looking for it, even if it is good. Remember: if the customers are buying your good chocolate cake, then dont suddenly switch it out with a good beaf. It might be good but it is not what they wanted and they will be very unhappy.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#11
I never cared for harem stories, as others have said, the harems generally take away time the readers would have preferred was spent on developing the plot. Add that to the fact that the majority of harems tend to be very one dimensional, extremely cliche personalities that never get fleshed out or contribute to the story.

I can't speak to how stories in which the interactions among the harem is the primary plot, since I don't find romance novel's particularly interesting. (I don't go and downvote them, or bitch about how boring they are I just don't read them.)

Finally, a solid example of a book that included a harem that I enjoyed is the Daniel Black series. (starts with Fimbulwinter) I won't spoil the story for those that haven't read it, but each of the girls it introduces is powerful in their own way and contributes to the relationship, with the MC being powerful on his own instead of the standard in that scenario where the guy is a useless idiot. It feels a lot more like an equal partnership than a typical harem.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#14
This forum is rarely very active, so 4 months isnt all that old for a thread here. It would still have been smack in the middle of the frontpage of threads. Heck, the last active thread havent been touched for half a month, while the last new thread is more like around a month ago.
PS. Note that I am not the one that performed the necromancy, I am just voicing the opinion that it does not seem as too much of necromancy given the activity level on this forum.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#16
Well I'm not an expert but in my opinion these are the main problems:

1. Girls just jump on Mc like in heat after knowing him for a week or so. That makes them look like dumb bitches.

2. Mc isn't that attractive. In most cases he is just strong and that's it.

3. Characters are just stereotypes, because there is no time to learn about their personality, they are just pretty faces.

4. It's just idiotic how many girls can be in some harems. You look away for a second and honestly can't even remember who is who.

5. The relationship isn't serious. In most stories Mc doesn't even marry the girls, if they are slaves he would just keep them in a closed.

6. In most cases Mc is also a dull and nice stereotype, it's just another topic all together.

I recall only one novel where it worked.

Mushoku Tensei

Mc marries three times, he knew each girl for years and each has their own story arc. I honestly didn't mind harem in this one at all.

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#17
I think harem plots almost always detract from a story when used as a subplot. Most adventure/scifi/fantasy/wuxia novels barely have the space to make one romantic line intriguing, let alone three+. In general, as far as romance goes, I prefer authors who write borderline asexual MCs (e.g. Library of Heavens Path) or solve the issue early on by getting the MC married (e.g.  Coiling Dragon, except without the whole using the wife as constant bad guy bait) - but I'm a bit pedantic about my lovelines.

As far as main plots go, though, I do think there's a lot of untapped potential in the harem genre. It's not something I've ever thought about myself, but I feel like an author seeking to improve upon the typical Japanese-inspired harem story would benefit from studying popular female-orientated romance stories - Korean romcom dramas (e.g. Goblin, Reply 1997), western romcoms (e.g. 50 first dates),  supernatural romance (e.g. Twilight), and Japanese celebrity-centric stories (e.g. Skip Beat). Being dedicated to romance and interhuman drama for decades, these genres have refined an elaborate toolkit of tropes dedicated to making a romance story more complex and intense. You've got things like status discrepancies between characters, long lost lovers, playing with proximity and near misses, timeskips, family feuds, misunderstandings, flashbacks, terminal diseases, amnesia, evil siblings, etc etc.

Of course, one wouldn't want to throw all of these in, as a male-audience will have different tastes and a different ideal of romance, but by using one or two every now and then, an author should be able to create a far more fascinating story. In fact, I think if you look at a lot of the most popular harem stories, its is, I would argue, their novel introduction of one or more of these elements that makes them stand out at the time (Love Hina - separated childhood crush + amnesia; Clannad - time skips + psychodrama).

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#18
Brian Randal's Haruhi fanfic "Kyon: Big Damn Hero" is the only story I've read so far where I really liked the harem elements, instead of simply tolerating them. The MC is not a pushover, and the harem is not accidental - but at the same time, he's not a selfish brat or player, either.

The reason it works for me, I think, is because the harem makes sense in world, it's planned by one of the girls, there's a good reason for it, (they aren't exactly ordinary girls,) and there are problems and conflicts that they need to work out to make it happen. It deals with some of the things that would need to happen if a harem was to happen IRL, so it all feels a lot more realistic and earned.

Well, it doesn't hurt that the action/adventure in the story is top-notch, too. If timetraveling loops and intrigue between four or more factions wasn't enough, the set-piece battles and alien invasion would have grabbed me.

Anyways, it's the best example of 'a good harem story' I've ever read. Tragically, it'll go unfinished; the author commited suicide. Sad

RE: A good harem story. Does it exist? Is it possible to make?

#19
The best harem story I have read is To Be a Virtuous Wife (look it up on novelupdates). It's a historical / political novel where feelings of love and romance don't appear until the very end. What makes this novel so powerful is that the author studied real life ancient harems, understood the rationales behind their existence, knew how and why they functioned, and explored in depth the psychology of the different household members.

Now, I understand these things are not strictly relevent to a modern harem story, but reading TBAVW can still be educational if you intend to create the sort of world setting where harems are the norm.

On the other hand, there are, as others here have pointed out, stories where the male lead has several romantic relationships at once. The most important piece in these stories is the male lead. What kind of person is capable of causing multiple women to fall in love with him? It boils down to a specific personality type. The male lead has to be a (handsome) romantic and a dreamer, someone who loves the process of falling in love. His experience with each woman is unique, and when he is with them, he genuinely believes that his feelings are true. This sincerity convinces the women to reciprocate his love to the extent that even when they discover the presence of the other women, they stubbornly cling to the mentality that only-I-know-the-real-MC.

For an example of the latter kind of story... Oh god. There is a terrible, TERRIBLE movie called "Chasing Papi" with Sophia Vergara and a former Ms. Puerto Rico beauty pageant winner in it. The only reason I know of its existence is because my mom + alcohol. DON'T WATCH IT. You have been warned.