Writing great friendships


Some of the best chemistry/relationships in fiction exist between characters who are/become friends. Here are some tips for making friendships come alive on the page:

1. Banter

  • One of the most interesting aspects of fictional friendships is the way the characters interact with each other whilst important plot points are occurring.
  • If your characters have easy banter, teasing one another without missing a beat and managing to bounce off each other even in the toughest circumstances, it will be clear to the reader that these two are/should be good friends.
  • Friends know each other well. They know the other’s character so well that they can easily find something to tease each other over. However, this also means knowing which topics are off-limits.
  • If you want to write a good, healthy friendship, your characters shouldn’t use humour/sarcasm as a way to hurt the other. It should be good-natured and understood as such from both sides.
  • Different friendships will have different types of chemistry. Some friends may tease each other with facial expressions. Others may already anticipate a snarky remark and counter it before it’s been spoken. Others will have physical ways of goofing around. 
  • Some friends might not tease each other at all. Banter isn’t necessary; it’s just a good way to make your characters come alive and make their friendship one that is loved by readers.
  • What’s important is chemistry – the way they automatically react to each other.
  • Think Sam and Dean in Supernatural or Juliette and Kenji in the Shatter Me series.

2. Mutual support 

  • Unless you purposefully want to write an unhealthy/toxic friendship, your characters should both be supportive of the other. 
  • This means that, even if one is the MC and the other the side-kick, both should be cognisant of the other’s feelings and problems, and should be considerate in this regard.
  • Few things will make your MC as likable as remembering to check in and be there for their best friend even when they are in the thick of a crisis.
  • You need to show your characters being vulnerable in front of each other and being supportive in ways that are tailored to the needs of each friend.
  • So, if one of the characters really responds to physical comfort, the other should know to give hugs/rub their back when they’re not feeling well. Similarly, if one of them doesn’t like being touched and responds to material comfort, have the other bring them ice cream and join them for a movie marathon. Whatever works for your characters.
  • What gets me every time is when a character is falling apart and won’t listen to/be consoled by anyone but their best friend (but this is just personal preference).

3. Knowing the other’s past/family life

  • This really only applies to characters who have been friends for quite a while.
  • Good friends know each other’s backstory – the highs and lows and mundane details. They know they layout of their family home and they probably know their family members well.
  • Friends will often talk about these things, only having to mention a few words for the other to know what they’re talking about i.e. “The ‘09 Thanksgiving disaster” or “You know how Uncle Fred is”
  • This will instantly make it clear that your characters are close and have come a long way together. 
  • Perhaps there are issues at home/trauma from the past that the other character will immediately understand. So, if one character appears with a black eye, their friend might know that the father was probably drunk the night before and got violent. Or if the character has a nightmare, the friend might know that it was about childhood abuse etc.
  • This can also apply to good things i.e. if one of the characters gets a nice note in their lunchbox, the other might know that their grandma is in town.
  • Whatever works for your story should be used to indicate the level of unspoken understanding the friends have.

4. Being protective

  • Few things will make your readers love a friendship more than the friends being fiercely protective of each other (in a healthy, non-territorial way).
  • Has someone hurt one of the characters? The other should be furious and want to exact revenge. Does someone say something demeaning to one of the friends? The other should defend them immediately and vehemently.
  • This can also take on a humorous twist if one of the characters starts dating someone. The friend can make extra sure that said date is sincere and promise to exact vengeance if their friend is hurt.
  • This can also be a great plot device, since it could explain why the MC’s best friend joins the quest/goes along on the journey. Perhaps this is the main plot point: a character seeking to protect/avenge their friend.
  • If you want to go in a toxic direction, this can be taken too far i.e. a friend who never lets the other spend time with anyone else/stalks the other/is patronising etc.

5.  Common interest(s)

  • Even if the two characters are vastly different, there should be something that keeps them together besides loyalty.
  • This is especially important for characters who become friends throughout the course of the novel.
  • This doesn’t have to mean that both of them go hiking every weekend or want to become pilots one day. It could be something small, like a love of cheesy movies or a shared taste in music. Maybe they both enjoy silence/don’t like other people. Maybe they are both social justice warriors, but for different causes. 
  • This could also be common characteristics instead of interests. Perhaps both are very ambitious/funny/social.
  • There should just be some factor that ignited the friendship and brings the two of them together.
  • This doesn’t necessarily have to be a big part of your story, but you should at least have it mentioned to make the friendship appear more authentic.

Reblog if you found these tips useful. Comment if you would like a Part 2. Follow me for similar content.

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