Monday, October 14, 2013

5 Ways to Make the Most Of Your Character's Best Friend

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Your main character's best friend is a very important character, one who I often overlooked in my early writing days. I think many books under utilize the best friend. Here are some thoughts on how to make the most of this character:




1. The best friend can show us a different side of the world.

This is done beautifully in the Harry Potter series with Harry and Ron. Ron's upbringing and family life are totally different than Harry's. Where Harry is ignorant of the magical world, Ron is from an old wizard family. Harry is rich and Ron is poor. Harry is famous and Ron hasn't made a name for himself yet. This creates a depth to the storyworld.

Another great example is Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is relatively young and beautiful whereas Charlotte, at age 27, is an old maid. At best, Charlotte is described as being plain. Even though the modern reader might not fully grasp how brave Elizabeth is in turning down the proposal of Mr. Collins, we applaud her choice and we're proud of her. But when Jane Austen then has Charlotte accept Mr. Collins's proposal, she forces her reader to consider the situation from another angle. Because in the society Charlotte lives in, this is her only chance she has to move on with her life.

2. The best friend can balance out your main character's strong personality.

Over the weekend, I finished Dark Halo by Shannon Dittemore. It's a beautifully written and creative book. The main character, Brielle, is up against very heavy, dark forces and the book could have easily had a heavy, dark feel to it. But Shannon balances this with Brielle's best friend, Kaylee. Kaylee is tough, but she's also funny, quirky, and cheerful. She helps to give the reader a break from the intense storyline.

3. The best friend is someone who can be taken away.

The best friend is one more way that the antagonist can eat away at your main character's resolve. I love how in the BBC TV show Sherlock, all it takes is the hint that someone might harm John and stoic Sherlock comes unglued.

4. The best friend is most effective when he or she takes a strong position - either for or against the main character.

Your main character's best friend shouldn't always agree with what the main character is doing. I love in Anne of Green Gables how when Anne decides she'll ignore Gilbert Blythe forever, Diana is all like, "Oh, Anne, don't be like that." She's not taking Anne to task on it, but Diana sees what's really going on - Gilbert likes Anne but has an unfortunate way of showing it. Diana wishes her best friend wouldn't be so rude to him.

5. The best friend is in a unique position for speaking truth.

Sometimes our main characters need to be smacked upside the head with the truth. In the TV show Veronica Mars there's a scene where Veronica's best friend, Wallace, points out that he's always doing favors for her. To the point that he's starting to feel used. And at that point in the story, it's true and Veronica needed to hear it. It has a lot more impact coming from Wallace, though, than it would if her dad was like, "Hey, you're asking a lot of Wallace and not giving much in return."

The best friend is often in the position where their truths (or their betrayals) slice the deepest.

Did this give you any ideas for how to amp up your character's best friend? Who are your favorite best friends in literature? 

37 comments:

  1. Ooh! I totally adore this post, in my book the best friend inspires my mc. which totally makes me wish that all bffs did that. ;) But I also see the point Diana has with Anne, and I totally love her for it! XD

    great post as always, Stephanie! :)

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    1. Actually, as I look over my comment above, let me correct something...

      in ALL of my novel thus far (this is towards the ones with friends at all), the best friend encourages and inspires the mc. :)

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  2. I don't think I've ever overlooked my MC's best friend in my novels. It could be because I suck at writing romance, so the 'best friendship' naturally steps into place. ;)

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  3. Thanks for the post! This is really going to help me with my novel.
    In my last novel, the MC's best friend begins to feel left out of most things since the MC is always with the new girl who came on board the ship. The best friend gets a little angry at the MC, but both of them realize they still need each other.
    Hmmm....favorite best friend.... I'm going to have to say Gabe from Jill's Mission League books.

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  4. I think I still need to strengthen my MC's best friend. He's there, but not fully up to capability of what he could be. He comes into place with step 3, though with his bad luck he's literally taken away by the Antagonist

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  5. I love this post! Thanks for it, Stephanie.

    ~Sarah

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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  6. . . .
    I just realized that very few of my characters actually have best friends. Woops.

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    1. Maybe you can use that. It might make them more insecure or something to add depth to the story

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  7. Hmmm. I have too many former best friends in my books, I think. xD My new MCs don't have any best friends (*cough* I'm working on that) and the one in the story I'm editing has one that could use maybe a bit of work. So thanks. :)

    Favorite best friend in literature? I...honestly have no clue. :P

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  8. Best friends are very important to my storyline because that is the main way I make my character grow either through the death of said character or through truths (or lies) they speak. In most cases both my character and his/her friendship is much stronger. I really like Will and Horace in the Ranger's Apprentice Series and Sherlock and Watson are also two of my favorites. Annabeth and Percy are good too....maybe I don't have a favorite.

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    1. Love this article, and it really helps! My MC's relationship with his best friend is going to be really important to the story and resolution. I suppose some of my favorite bffs are Frodo and Sam and Sherlock and Watson, though i've only watched a couple of the BBC episodes, i love them in the books!

      starsandwriting.blogspot.com

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  10. Great ideas! Thanks so much for the wonderful blog post. There are so many best friends, it's hard to choose!

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  11. I love this post. :) I hope to make my MC's best friend as great as all that. :P\
    Hands down, my favourite literary best friends are Frodo and Sam.

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  12. Oh my gosh.

    I have some serious editing to do now. My MC's best friend is almost useless, now that I think of it. She could be used for much more. Thanks, Stephanie!

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  13. Yes it did give me an idea! In fact, in the second book that I hope to begin for nanowrimo, I'm snatching the best friend away and throwing her in a dungeon. mwuahahaha xD

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  14. When I saw the title of the post, I thought "Killing them off!" I wish point 3 had touched on this more.

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    1. I'm glad you brought that up, Jonathan! Yes, that can certainly be something the best friend contributes to the story.

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  15. Yes, the killing them off is a big thing. That's going to happen in my story, and it's going to introduce much more conflict past just the best friend dying. I'm so mean to my characters. :)

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    1. in the novel i am writing there's a three way friendship and one dies early on. i did it just as a way of saying "Hey. Everything has been relatively light and mischievous but now things get critical and super intense." Plus my protagonist matures a lot from it.

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  16. Yay I love the Shelock series! Hmm, my Mc's BFF could definitely use some work. So far I have only TOLD that they are best friends and not actually SHOWN it. Thanks Stephanie.

    HP

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  17. In my last story one of her good friends shows her that not everything is as it seem, but in my new story the best friend is going to move away... no death. :( (for her anyway. :)) I used to be really bad with characters, just adding them in to have more people in the story, but all being...worthless.....:)

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  18. This post was excellent; I've sort of recently noticed my best friends are well....blah. They all have the same, happy, everything-is-okay attitude. Now it's time to spice it up a little and give my protagonist's BF some personality. :)

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  19. I used to be a lot better with my MC's best friends, but in my current WIP, I have come to realise that the best friend is just there.
    Clearly that needs improving xD

    My favourite best friends would have to be Anne and Diana, from Anne of Green Gables, or Kat and W.W. Hale from the Heist Society by Ally Carter.

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  20. Great post! I've got two MC that are nothing like each other but get thrown into something they can't help and work through it. One's a Christian and strong in her beliefs while the other one has never heard of God, is rude, hard, mean, and uncaring. The story is told from the second MC's POV but the first character balances out her extreme thoughts on life. By the last book, the two characters have kind of switched places, which I think was a fun twist.

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  21. I adore reading about best friends, and enjoy writing them too. And I often combine a brother/sister combo with the best friends deal since I'm best friends with my brother. This post got me to thinking about ways to make my story friends more different from one another. I believe that could be helpful in my WIP.

    As for best friends in literature, the list could go on and on. Devin and Mikkel in "The Viking Quest" series. Sara and Ermengard in "A Little Princess". Marco and The Rat in "The Lost Prince of Samavia". Hue and Denny in "Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince". And on and on and on.

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    1. I love Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince! Do you read Lamplighter books?

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  22. This is just what I needed, thankyou! I've been musing over my two best friend characters for a while. Now I've got a breakthrough. :D
    Ada

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  23. You know what, I was considering, and realized . . . my MC doesn't really have a best friend for most of my book. Well, okay, maybe that's not strictly true. . . .

    I love Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins's relationship. Sam would do anything for Frodo.

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  24. Crazily, my story would probably never have happened without my MC's best friend. When she meets him, her life changes and he shows her so much. She still has her own problems without him, but regardless, he's not useless. Great post though!! I loved the Sherlock reference.

    I was thinking of the Doctor and Rose the entire time...their relationship fits this post so perfectly; they have the best relationship. I cried at the end of season 2...

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  25. Oh, I like this. Sets my brain to spinning--especially that bit about the ability to be taken away...

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  26. Best best friend? Gale, the hunter boy.

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  27. This was very helpful, thank you so much!! Gave me some food for thought! I definitely want to strengthen my best friend characters!

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  28. This is amazing. It will be a load of help as I edit and rewrite a story I started a few years ago and never finished.

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  29. I love this!! This gave me some amazing ideas on how to develop best friends for my characters.

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  30. Wow! You mentioned Sherlock!

    Favorites, like you guys, Frodo and Sam, Sherlock and John, and the company of St. Anne's in 'That Hideous Strength'.

    ~ Gracelyn

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