Nearly every book Iâ€™ve read has a protagonist. And all of those protagonists were surrounded by several, if not a great many, friends. Within my own stories, my protagonists have quite a few friends. Among those friends, there are usually one or two, maybe three, friends that the protagonist is especially close to. One of my all time favorite series, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, follows best friends Lissa and Rose, who act like sisters most of the time. While reading, itâ€™s clear that the two have known each other for a long while, see each other as their closest allies, and see their lives as them against the world. Itâ€™s obvious that theyâ€™re very close. The question is how does Mead accomplish this? How does any author establish these types of close friendships between characters without blatantly telling the reader?
If you think of your own close friendships, or your best friends, youâ€™ll probably recognize five or more of the following in your relationship with these particular friends â€“
Understand without speaking.
When youâ€™ve known someone a really long time, or have spent so much time together, you get to know the person so well that you pick up on their habits and quirks and body language. When they bite their lip, you know itâ€™s not that theyâ€™re confused, but that the water works are about to begin and itâ€™s time to get them out of there. You understand each other so well that no one needs to say anything.v You might not be able to read each othersâ€™ minds, but you understand each other well enough that neither of you needs to say anything. You just do.
Tease each other.
Thereâ€™s artificial teasing, thereâ€™s bully teasing, thereâ€™s flirting teasing. But among friends, itâ€™s the way we gently point out each othersâ€™ issues and faults without being cruel, itâ€™s how we remind each other of good times, itâ€™s how we connect and communicate. Between best friends, teasing is just another way we talk to each other. Thereâ€™s no malice, jealousy, anger, or bitterness behind it. Itâ€™s often light, fun, laughable, and in good humor. Itâ€™s a way to make your friend laugh when theyâ€™re on the verge of tears. Itâ€™s the way we build each other up when our plans fall through. Teasing is always there, but it never, ever becomes a way of putting each other down.
Rely on each other.
Through good times and bad, friends can always be relied upon to be there and help each other. There are no excuses, there is no distance, there are no events that could prevent two best buds from helping each other out in times of emotional and physical need, and friends rely on each other for that. But friends also rely on each other for comfort, for support, for encouragement, and for all the things it seems the world wants to take away from us.
Seek each otherâ€™s advice.
Perhaps more than our parents, teachers, advisors, and mentors, we seek advice from our friends first. This might be a perfectly faulty action, but because friends understand each other and rely on each other, itâ€™s natural that we seek advice from those we know, and who know us, best.
Feel comfortable around one another.
As with all of the above, friends are comfortable with each other enough to seek that advice, tease each other, and rely on one another. Even more than that, friends are comfortable with and around each other that they donâ€™t care if they do something stupid, or say something idiotic. Because theyâ€™re comfortable with each other, these things happen and no one cares, because these silly things hardly define us. Itâ€™s the same with crying, or showing how truly angry we are, or how hopeless we feel. Friends know each other so well that they be vulnerable and sensitive, and the friend wonâ€™t misuse them.
Miss each other when gone.
Probably the greatest understatement of all these, but best friends will miss each other. They might be separated for only a day, maybe one has moved away. But miss each other they will, just the same. The effect this has on each other is anyoneâ€™s guess, as everyone reacts differently to separation. Some might become depressed, others might lash out, and some might just have that aching sense of loneliness in their gut that seems like it canâ€™t ever be filled. There is most definitely a reaction, and missing each other is just the surface.
Have similar interests/hobbies/goals/pasts.
Whether they grew up together, or met at summer camp, or took the same art class, friends have similar interests. Thereâ€™s something that initially drew them together, and in writing a book you canâ€™t just put that aside. It will always be their foundation, and while the foundation can grow, thereâ€™s that one point, however small and insignificant in the present, that brought them together.
Grow together as individuals and as friends.
If any relationship is to last and get stronger, growth is a must. Trials, tragedy, celebration, joy; all these add to and change a person, their actions, and how they consider new situations, and this happens in a friendship as well. While going through similar occurrences, if friends cannot grow together, change. Make sure to show the friends, and their friendship, grow through the story.
Itâ€™s simple. Close friends, who understand, rely, advise, and help each other, just donâ€™t judge. Regardless of what one does, or what the other thinks about a topic, they donâ€™t judge. They accept that theyâ€™re individuals with different views and opinions on some things.
Donâ€™t try to change each other.
As I said, friends accept each other. They donâ€™t try to change one another, or mould each other into what their ideal would be, because that would be the farthest thing from acceptance. Friends understand, they donâ€™t judge, and they donâ€™t try to change their friendsâ€™ personalities, opinions, views, likes or dislikes, or their hopes and dreams. They accept everything about each other, and celebrate their differences.
Friends naturally want to talk with each other and discuss the things that happen in their lives, but best friends, as Iâ€™m sure you know, will talk about everything. They confide everything in each other without fear of being rejected or judged.
Fights sometimes happen, but making amends occurs quickly.
No friendship is perfect, and because there are two people involved, disagreements are bound to occur. But when fights begin, whatever the topic, close friends will try to move past the argument and come to a conclusion, generally in the form of an agreement or better understanding of one another. They wonâ€™t linger on their differing opinions, and will try to make amends as soon as they can. This leads to stronger friendships, and is a way that the friendship can grow and develop.
Canâ€™t imagine life without each other.
Perhaps more than anything else, best friends simply canâ€™t imagine what life would be like if they werenâ€™t together. Itâ€™s something they donâ€™t want to think about, and is the last thing theyâ€™ll focus on when confronted with the real possibility of lifelong separation. Theyâ€™ll come up with excuses, plans, arguments, anything that might be able to change the impending separation. They literally canâ€™t picture their life being apart, because their personalities and dreams and emotional selves are so connected.
These are just a basic few things that can comprise a close friendship. Use some, use none, but make sure you really look at the characters you have and focus on showing that closeness where itâ€™s supposed to exist. It offers greater development of both characters, adds to the realism of the plot, and helps with the overall story.
Good luck and good writing!
Most authors, of course, have personal eccentric writing practices. Fueled, no doubt by his or her personal muse. Agatha Christie munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plots, Flannery Oâ€™Connor crunched vanilla wafers, and Vladimir Nabokov fueled his â€œprefatory glowâ€ with molasses.
Then there was the color-coding of the muses: Alexandre Dumas, for decades, he penned all of his fiction on a particular shade of blue paper, his poetry on yellow, and his articles on pink; on one occasion, while traveling in Europe, he ran out of his precious blue paper and was forced to write on a cream-colored pad, which he was convinced made his fiction suffer. Charles Dickens was partial to blue ink, but not for superstitious reasons â€” because it dried faster than other colors, it allowed him to pen his fiction and letters without the drudgery of blotting. Virginia Woolf used different-colored inks in her pens â€” greens, blues, and purples. Purple was her favorite, reserved for letters (including her love letters to Vita Sackville-West, diary entries, and manuscript drafts. Lewis Carroll also preferred purple ink, but for much more pragmatic reasons: During his years teaching mathematics at Oxford, teachers were expected to use purple ink to correct studentsâ€™ work â€” a habit that carried over to Carrollâ€™s fiction.
So how do my little eccentric (or never before mentioned) writing practices measure up? Is my personal muse quirky, dull, or out of control?
Since my quirks are normal for me, I had to think about this for a bit.
â€¢ I always drink coffee that is part of my current â€˜settingâ€™. When my setting is New Orleans I mail order my coffee from my favorite spot.
CafÃ© du Monde. I have my cup and saucer, and a portable mug when I writing outdoors. I have a blue coffee pot and matching tin cup when I writing westerns (yes, the coffee is VERY strong and black). And of course, a Starbucks cup or a Disneyland mug when my novels take place in So.Cal.
â€¢ My music and my menu planning also is linked to my settings. All within the range of normal. Though I have more than my fair share of coffee mugs and cups.
â€¢ I listen to diction videos on YouTube so that I am not relying on my memory for the sound of a Cajun accent, Texanâ€™s drawl, etc.
â€¢ I visit areas on Google Earth and Zillow. Even if I have lived or vacationed there, I may have forgotten an interesting â€˜somethingâ€™ I can insert into dialogue, or find a way to describe a scene.
â€¢ I talk to myself. Or not simple little sentences. Iâ€™m talking about a two- way conversation: â€œDo you think that might work?â€ â€œNo. No one is that stupid!â€ â€œHow about. . .â€ This is the time my husband walks by to find out whoâ€™s on the phone, or if Iâ€™m asking him a question. The dog even pokes her head in to see whatâ€™s going on. Iâ€™m thinking this is a bit outside of the â€˜normalâ€™ range.
â€¢ When I write I have to make certain my work space in in perfect order. I have colored folders/pens/notebooks that match and are exclusive to the story Iâ€™m working on at the moment.
â€¢ I never enroll in an online class when Iâ€™m writingâ€”itâ€™s guaranteed writersâ€™ block. I never talk about my WIP because I mentally clock that as writing time and lose interest in the story before itâ€™s completed.
â€¢ Whatever story Iâ€™m am working on is my favorite.
â€¢ I survive on 3 hours sleep when I am deep in a story. I know I drink coffee, but seem to run the story in my mind when I sleep too.
â€¢ I also pick up the quirks of my heroines. I have several friends who are in theater and said itâ€™s a bit like â€˜method actingâ€™. Fortunately, Iâ€™m back to my state of normal a couple of weeks after typing THE END.
I think all of this part of a writerâ€™s voice. It is what we, as readers, look for in a story. Hopefully, it is what my readers, enjoy about the novels, short-stories and novellas that I write too.
Happy Reading and Writing!
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