A little while ago, I shared a couple of my favourite secrets to writing character relationships but one blog post just wasn’t enough to get it all down, so today I want to give you a couple more tips on the topic. The way characters interact with each other is a major factor in their believability, so I really feel like I can’t say enough on the topic.
When you have created a relationship that is perfectly balanced and flows well, you will be tempted to keep it that way. It was probably tough enough to create that air of mutual affection, sexual tension or outright blind hatred between your characters, so why would you want to wipe the slate clean and do something else when it’s all going so well?
If your story has a compelling plot, it’s likely that your characters are going to experience events which will change them as people, and how can their relationship stay stuck in time while the rest of their life moves forward? You may not go so far as turning best friends into enemies, but you do need to develop their relationships over the course of the story. Perhaps they will come to understand and love one another more deeply, or they may realise that their friend’s experiences have changed them into a person they can no longer be close to.
And if you decide to completely overhaul a relationship, I recommend that you plan this from very early on. It will make the transition flow more smoothly and it will also be a little less heart-breaking if you happen to be attached to the characters’ original dynamic.
For me, one of the hardest relationship changes to write is betrayal. The reason this is so challenging is that the original relationship between the traitor and the other characters must be believable enough at the start of the story that it isn’t obvious from a mile away that this is going to happen. But the traitor also shouldn’t be too perfect or the audience will be unable to accept them as a villain later on. I suggest throwing in some red flags such as subtle lies and conflicts of interest between them and the other characters.
Not all Friends are Equal
The amount of attention your characters pay to one another must make sense compared to how close of a relationship they have. Even if it is convenient to your story, your protagonist is not going to ignore the advice of her best friend in favour of the mysterious stranger and this applies to other aspects of your story beyond what the characters directly say and do to one another. A character will not risk her life for the sake of someone they have only just met no matter how heroic they are and there are even limits to what someone would do for someone they are very close with.
As the author, you probably have a couple of favourite characters who you want to give more page-time to but you must try to see it from a more neutral perspective. Do your characters value this individual as much as you do and if not, does it make sense for them to play such a central role? You may have to make sacrifices here and there by handing over scenes to a character that you find less exciting personally, but for who those scenes make the most sense. If you really can’t bare to do this and you believe that your favourite character will be the most interesting to your audience too, you are going to need to tweak the relationships or the situation so that it makes sense for them to be so heavily featured. Don’t give in to temptation and throw them in for no reason.
So there you have it. Two more methods for keeping your character relationships believable. I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you enjoyed it, please click like and follow and join me again next week when I will be talking about the pros and cons of writing about your native culture.