This month we are exploring the different relationships in our lives and how they crossover into our writing to make it more authentic. Last week we talked about Complex Families (here and here) and the week before that, the general importance of relationships in our individual lives and in our character’s lives (here).
This week, we’re going to talk about:
Now, this is a two-parter, because there is so much to unpack with friendships, so prepare to be inspired and amazed. I hope.
Friendships are different than the other kinds of relationships mentioned last week because:
We can often talk to them about things we can’t talk to our family or significant other about
Our friends often know us better than we know ourselves and can recognize things we may be ignoring
They can speak truth to us when we’re doing our best not to listen
They can also be our one man posse and help us kick some serious trash when needed. They usually always have our backs
They know our silly stupid jokes and join in with ease
They can also cast us aside for that new guy or a newer shiner friend.
Studies have shown that people who have close friendships when they’re teens have a lower rate of anxiety and depression later on
They’ve been linked to lower rates of heart disease
You have a support system and a community
They help us feel not alone, that we belong
Like all relationships, friendships aren’t all giving or all taking, it’s a healthy balance of each, and that doesn’t mean 50/50 all the time. it could be 90/10 or 40/60 but it averages out to a healthy give and take and that percentage split is always in flux.
Aristotle said there were 3 kinds of friendships:
Friendships of utility: these friendships are convenient to you in life. I often think of these as perhaps acquaintances, coworkers, etc.
Friendships of pleasure: These bring you joy and help you stay light-hearted and they stay casual. These are the friends that you typically do specific activities with and that’s the only real time that you interact with them. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t quality or substance there, they’re just categorized.
Friendships of the good: These are the rare, strong relationships. Best friendships. The ones that you can step away from for a bit (because, life) and come back like nothing happened. It’s that connection that sometimes can’t be contained by words.
Here’s an exercise: Write down all the main relationships in your life and categorize them into these three areas.
We all have a selection of all of them, with FOG having the lowest numbers. Your characters should have a good variety as well. Perhaps we only see them interacting with one group, that’s fine, but YOU KNOW they have more, and you build their personality around that, and that’s what matters.
The big question: How do you write realistic, complex, authentic friendships in your book?
I mean, you only have so many words and so many pages to get everything across. There could be a lot of history between your characters, and how do you get that in with everything else you’re supposed to write (Plot, anyone)?
The answer is: word economy.
That’s actually the answer to a lot of writing problems, as far as craft goes. You choose your words so that they have the biggest punch. A really simplistic version: He ran really fast versus He sprinted. You know what I’m talking about.
When you have to get a lot of relationship or history into your book, but don’t have the word count to build up to it and you don’t want to put your poor reader through all that info dumping, you use word economy.
Think of it this way: When you are put into a new environment or a new circle of friends, do they sit you down with a bag of popcorn and say, “It all started back in the summer of 1992 when we were in kindergarten…”
You get no introduction from the characters. You may get a side comment in passing from another member, “They’ve been friends since they could crawl.” How does that person say it? Are they indifferent, bitter, happy? That tells you a lot about the relationship dynamic there, as well (word economy is our friend).
You are dumped in the middle of whatever it is that’s happening and you learn along the way. It should be no different for your characters.
But, this is where we have to part for today. I know, I’m sad, too. But No one is going to read a four page blog post. I wouldn’t. I don’t expect you to. So, come back on Thursday and check out the rest of this amazing post.
I’m going to give you a checklist. And we all know how much I like a good outline or checklist to help keep me focused while writing or brainstorming or outlining.
So, while you wait for Thursday to come, take what I’ve given you and perhaps write the background down for you (not the reader) and create how they met. How long they’ve been together and what their current friend group and hierarchy looks like. Be prepared for homework next week!
See you in The Writer Community!