Late-night sleepovers gossiping about boys and watching rom coms; fist bumps, heated debates, and Mario Kart competitions; giggling over iced macchiatos and catching up on life. In honor of National Friendship Day on August 4th, we wanted to delve into how to write captivating friendships in books. Friendships come in many stages and each one is entirely unique. They each involve their own eccentricities, habits, and even inside jokes that make them cry from laughter. In order to make friendships feel real in your writing, it involves a lot of very specific detailing and in-depth character work. Here are some tips on how to write iconic book friendships:
Examine the friendships in your own life
Writing friendships that feel real is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It’s very easy for them to feel too perfect or basic or manufactured and then they won’t be an important factor in your story. One way to begin to figure out how to make those relationships feel real is to examine your own friendships. Make a list of all of your closest friends- what’re each of their qualities that make them unique? What do they give you as a friend? What do you feel that you give them? How did you meet/decide to become friends? What are some inside jokes you have? What do each of your friends do that maybe gets on your nerves from time to time? Looking at this list will allow you to examine some very real friendships and you can pull some of these details or similar ones into your own story to make it feel more realistic.
Create the characters as individuals first
You may already know that you want these two or more characters to be best friends, but you need to work on figuring out who they are as individuals first. If you work backwards and focus on their friendship first, you risk making them too much of a perfect pair to be believable. Their characteristics shouldn’t feel perfectly catered to one another’s personalities because that’s not how life or friendship really works. It’s about two completely different people with different lives meeting and building a friendship from there. So focus on the character work first, figure out where each of these characters are from, how they grew up, what their relationships with their families are like and what their views are on the world, people, and themselves.
Establish the relationship
Now, this can go one of two ways. Either the friendship you’re establishing is a large part of the plot of the book in which case you’ll likely be introducing them to each other on the page or it’ll be an already established friendship. If you’re going with the former option, go back and look at your list of friends and your meetings. You don’t have to create this perfect meet-cute moment for the friendship to be established, simply think about how you became friends with some of your friends and create a scene that feels real and establishes their separate personalities.
If you’re going with the second option, this scenario may not even make it into your book. But write it anyways. In order to truly make the relationship feel real and established, you need to know what age they were when they met, how they became friends, and how their friendship has evolved over time up until the point where your book begins.
Give the relationship layers
What are their inside jokes? Favorite things to do together? What are their favorite qualities in one another? What do each of them do that annoys the other? Friendships are imperfect and incredibly specific things and in order for this one to feel real you need to establish all of the eccentricities that make it unique.
What is at stake for their friendship in your story?
Even if the friendship is sort of a side plot to your story, there needs to be something at stake in order for the friendship to feel purposeful and necessary to the story. You can’t just add a friend character in order to be supportive and to relay information to us about the protagonist because then the character will feel completely unnecessary. You likely already know what your story’s protagonist wants/desires throughout the story, but also think about their friend’s needs. Do they want different things? Do they want the same thing, but want to go about it differently? Are they competing for the same thing? How does this affect their friendship?