So glad you came back! I left you in kind of a lurch last week. I saw how long it was getting and figured two posts was best. So! Let’s jump right back in where we left off.
If you missed last week, read it here, or take my one sentence summary (the blog post is better): We talked about how when you join a new friend group, you aren’t given the background, you’re dumped in, and it should be the same with your reader. NO BACKSTORY just a game of pick up.
I like to picture it this way: when your reader opens the book, they are dropped into some sort of chaotic scene where they hit the ground running. They have no idea what’s going on, but they’re running and looking around, trying to get an idea of what the heck they’ve gotten themselves into and they collect clues along the way, building a pretty good image of what’s going on.
Do that. Don’t tell your reader everything. Give them pieces as it’s relevant to the story and scene. If it doesn’t make sense for your characters to get a piece of info or know a piece of info at that moment, DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM. Let them and the reader be blind. It’s okay. It’s life. It’s real.
Also, trust your talent as a writer, that by the time you’re done writing and editing, you have the skills to get the story told between the lines and not in a dump on page one. Next, trust your reader. Trust that they’re smart enough to pick up on the subtleties that you’re paving your story with.
So, let’s bring this back around to building authentic friendships with word economy.
Your reader is dropped into your book and is sprinting along with the story that is already happening. They don’t get a chance to go backwards and see everything that has happened that led up to this exact moment, they only get to move forward and gain clues along the way. Your job, as the writer, is to deposit those clues in a way that is true to your story and your characters. So here are some ideas to consider getting that done.
Side comments by surrounding characters. They’re more likely to give your reader a different image of what is going on than they may tell others about.
The little things that friends will say and do around each other (and when they’re not around each other—that’s a big one). A lot of things go unsaid, especially if it’s an established friendship. They don’t exchange every thought. Responses are assumed, because, they’re established. This is both good and bad. It can lead to misunderstandings. It can lead to resentment. It can be thoughtful. Play with it and find out where your characters stand.
Inside jokes. Be careful with this one. Yes, there are inside jokes, but unless (and forgive me if this is being stereotypical, but that doesn’t take away from the validity of this comment) your characters are in middle school or junior high and probably boys, there aren’t’ going to be as many inside jokes as you think or write. There are exceptions to this rule, I remember a year in 7th grade that me and my girlfriends LIVED off of inside jokes. It was incredibly obnoxious to everyone around us, but we thought we were the COOLEST things on the earth, and we were the only ones who mattered that year.
Fighting. Every relationship has them. Friendships are no exception. And with girls….whoa boy, get back. I don’t know if you’ve seen some girl fights growing up (and I’m not talking physical), but they can be vicious. Girls are some of the cruelest creatures I know. It spikes around high school, but sometimes it’s early and sometimes it carries over to their adult years.
Making up. How do your characters make up? Do they sit down and talk it all out, set up new guidelines going forward? Do they ignore what happened, never talk about it, and just move on, leaving their circle of friends around them feeling extremely confused and awkward? Or does no one give it a second thought because, “that’s normal”?
How do they treat others outside of their friend circle? How do they feel or act when their best friend starts getting friendly with another person? How quickly do your characters bond with new friends?
Now, I’m talking from a female point of view. Male friendships (and I may sound stereotypical, here), tend to be much different, on the surface, from female friendships. They tend to be more superficial, don’t deal with the drama that female relationships have and a much more physical element to them.
Someone once told me that girls were like crockpots and boys were like microwaves, when it comes to fighting. Girls simmer and boys just get it over with and then they’re done. That’s pretty spot on.
Relationships between male and female need to be taken into account, as well. What does one side want out of the relationship? How does the other feel about it? I had a lot of mixed gender friendships when I was growing up, and I loved them. I really did. It taught me that I could be friends with guys and not have to have a crush on them. It also taught me that if I did have a crush on them, life sucks sometimes, and they weren’t always going to return the feeling.
Actually, they never returned the feeling. Haha *tears*
I always thought that I could live out that dream of being friend turned girlfriend role. They would see me for the awesome person I was and want to date me. Turns out, they saw my friends that way, and not me. Ce la vie.
So when you’re getting ready to write friendships and friend groups, make sure you are well versed in the following, take a notebook, and write them all down. When you know the friendship like the back of your hand, then it will come through organically in your writing and it will feel natural to your reader:
How did these two friends meet? What is their origin story?
What is the worst thing they’ve been through together and how did they handle it?
What is the best thing they’ve been through and how did they handle it?
What is a toxic cycle they have?
What is a healthy cycle?
How do they honestly feel about each other but will never say out loud?
What are annoyances that they overlook about each other?
How did they get their friend group?
What does the friend group think about their friendship?
What does it look like when they hang out alone together versus when they’re in a group? Or if they’re hanging out with someone else? How does it differ?
To outsiders, are they thought of as a unit or as individuals?
What is the one thing that could tear them a part for good?
What is the one thing that could glue them together forever?
How do they handle intense feelings towards each other? (jealousy, anger, love, etc)
How do they talk to each other? And not just the words that they use. Do they never really say what they’re feeling? Do they ask deep questions, or just superficial? Do they make decisions for each other because they feel they already know what the other will say?
Do they have inside jokes?
What matters most to them in their lives and in their friendship?
Ask the questions that are deeper than how long they’ve been friends for and the silly things they do together. When you know these answers, your characters and their friendships will be so much deeper. Look to your relationships, too. Write down the elements that stick out to you about it. Sit down and write out what you remember or noticed from a group activity or a private moment with your friend. You’ll get an idea of what to include in your writing.
Write real. The ugly and the beautiful. If you write real, then you’ll write good.
See you in the The Writer Community!