Monday, January 14, 2013

7 Ways to Grow Your Characters' Relationships

by Stephanie Morrill

A writer emailed me to ask about how to grow a relationship between two characters over the course of a book. This is an excellent question, and a big challenge whether you're talking about a romantic relationship or a friendship.



I had to do this with a romantic relationship in the first Skylar Hoyt book, Me, Just Different, where my main character, Skylar. met a new guy, Connor, who would eventually become her boyfriend. And a great example of growing a friendship can be found in the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Harry meets his future best friend, Ron.

Here are some techniques you can use for your own characters:

Create a reason for them to spend regular time together.

In Harry Potter, Harry meets Ron at the train station, and they spend a long time in each other's company right away. Once he gets to school, he then is in the same classes, house, and bedroom as Ron. These guys are together all the time, even when they don't like.

In Me, Just Different, Skylar and Connor have a couple classes together, but they're also manipulated into carpooling twice a day.

When you've done this, you can easily

Allude to time spent together

We don't need to be with Ron and Harry every time they walk to class together to know that they do it a lot. This means that when the author says something about two weeks going by, the reader's brain makes the automatic jump to, "These characters have been together a lot during that passage of time."

Entwine Their Lives

In Me, Just Different Skylar's life becomes entwined with Connor's even when she resists. Even if she decides to avoid Connor, she can't change that their moms are friends, Connor's dating her best friend, and his brother has a crush on her sister.

Give them a Common Enemy

Even two characters who don't get along can bond quickly over a common enemy. In the first Harry Potter book, Harry and Ron bond over a mutual dislike for Draco Malfoy and a general dislike of all Slytherins.

Put them in a Stressful Situation

This is what J.K. Rowling uses to seal the friendship between the boys and Hermione. They're rather annoyed with Hermione until about halfway through the book when the three of them fight for their lives against a troll. After that, they're all friends.

Other stressful situations could be a death, a secret they must protect (in Me, Just Different Skylar and Connor are protecting Abbie's pregnancy), or even something as simple as a hard class both characters need to pass.

Getting a Glimpse into the Other Person's World

In the first season of Gilmore Girls, when Rory is at a new high school, a girl in her class, Paris, seems like the devil in a pleated skirt ... until we see her mom being horribly critical in a public setting. Suddenly Paris makes much more sense to us and to Rory. A friendship begins to grow between the girls.

In Me, Just Different Connor's heart softens for Skylar once he gets to know her family and sees how differently she's been raised than him.

And in the Harry Potter books, nothing hurts my heart more than when Ron is ashamed of how poor his family is, and it hurts Harry's heart too.

Surprising Commonalities

This is when two characters who thought they had absolutely nothing in common, maybe who even work against each other most of the time, find common ground. This is done so effectively in later Harry Potter books when Harry sees glimpses of his character and childhood in Voldemort and Snape.

Do you have characters in your manuscript who need to grow closer? Is there something on this list that will help, or do you have another technique you can add to our list?




35 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks Stephanie! This is exactly what I needed for my characters.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a really helpful post! I do have one question though. In my WIP I have a guy that I want to fall in love with my FMC without her falling in love with him. (Yes, it is a romance) Do I follow the same guidelines about building relationships, and just have her "thaw" slower? Or do I have to try something different?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie-Anne, I think you're on the right track - you can follow the same guidelines (forcing them to spend time together, entwining their lives, etc.) with her slowly thawing. And then maybe use something like a common enemy or a glimpse of his world to soften her all the way.

      Delete
  3. WOO! This is helpful!!! I certainly am going to be using these techniques.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad, Amanda! Let us know how it goes :)

      Delete
  4. Thanks so much! I was literally just wondering about this last night! I have two characters that need to bond, I'll see if I can fit any of those into my book. :D So far all I have is shared circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew you'd like this post. I think of you anytime I talk about Harry on here :)

      Delete
  5. Great post. I think I can use two of these techniques in my WIP. I need to develop a friendship without letting the tension level drop, so common enemies and stressful situations might work beautifully. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. OMW, this is EXACTLY what I've been wondering lately! As I get older (I'm only 13) I seem to be writing more and more romantic friendship stories... :) Thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I definitely needed this post!! I've been working on an idea for a friendship with a slight bud of romance in my head and now I'm going to take notes on this post and get to work with it :) I definitely think the whole "stressful situation" part will work well. I've already got a secreted that will soon be shared between them. Thank you so much Ms.Stephanie :) Sierra
    Keep growing beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like you're on the right track, Sierra!

      Delete
  8. Awesome post. ^ ^ Very helpful.:D

    ReplyDelete
  9. THIS IS INCREDIBLE! I definitely needed this! For my two MC's, I've created a reason for them to spend time together, gave them a common enemy, and put them in stressful situations, but. . . they still hate each other. I'm working on it, though. ;D haha! Thanks so much for the post!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh wow. Thank you! I needed this. I've been having so much trouble making my relationships seem real. Hopefully this will help. We'll see. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post! I need to do some of these things. . . .

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you Stephanie! You rock. This is totally the advice I needed.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Perfect post! Thanks Stephanie. I've often thought about the change in character's relationships and how to do that, and this is just what I needed to hear. Definitely referring back to this post!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post Stephanie! I was just thinking about this the other day...my FMC needs to bond with my MMC (and they're already forced to spend A LOT of time together) and the different ways they want to deal with their common enemy is actually splitting them apart. I'll definitely keep this in mind! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks so much Stephanie!!!
    I'm trying to tie in a love relationship in my book and it's my first time doing it so I was never really sure if I was doing it right but now I see!
    Thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ah this is just what I needed! I was wondering if I was making the relationship between my two characters believable. This helped a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is perfect! Thanks so much for this post! I've already been doing this somewhat organically, but this will help me pinpoint it more. Right now in my WIP, I have time spent together, alluding to it (maybe), stressful situations, and seeing it from the other person's perspective. Especially as I refine my second draft, making my relationships and conflicts (and everything) better, this will definitely help. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This was incredibly helpful! It's exactly what i needed right now for my novel. Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for this! Very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great list, Stephanie. I can see this playing out in books, movies, and TV shows. :) (Like Downton. I have Downton on the brain tonight, for good reason.)

    Any tips for sequels? It seems to me a common pattern is that the guy and girl who have fallen in love in Book One are separated for a chunk of Book Two. What do you suggest to someone who kinda-sorta thinks there needs to be a separation (at least a physical-location one) in the sequel she's plotting, but isn't quite sure how to go about it without making it seem like 1) the relationship is perfect and suffers no ill effects or 2) everything falls into tatters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is definitely tricky Rachelle. I agree that there needs to be a separation of some sort. Distance of the heart can work well too. I did this some in Out With the In Crowd where Skylar is distracted by helping Abbie and Connor is trying to help Jodi, and it leads to an emotional distance between them despite both of them being committed to the relationship.

      Delete
    2. Ooooo, the "there-but-not-there" aspect. I could definitely use that, Stephanie. Thank you!

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is great! Really helpful! I have a question, though. In the first chapter of my novel, my main character's best friend reveals that he's in love with her, but she only sees him as a brother. She is actually in love with a different guy who already has a girlfriend. How can I slowly dim her love for the other guy and bring her to love her friend?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hey, I just found this blog the other day and it is fantastic. I am currently writing a novel (which is part of a series) and I need to bring out a relationship between my main character and her brother. They are very close mainly because their mom died and their dad is a Lord so he doesn't have much time for them. When the book starts they already have a really strong friendship and rely on each other for support.I really want to stress the strength of their relationship so that when Aaron (my main character's brother) dies it is more impactful and her reactions justifiable. Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete

Disagreement is welcome but rudeness is not. We ask that you please be considerate of each other. If we find your comment mean-spirited or inconsiderate, we reserve the right to remove it from our website.