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.
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?