Unlikely Character Friendships Strengthen Story

There’s something about unlikely friendships that hook our attention. It’s a fascination that seems to be fairly universal, because you see it virtually everywhere. Why?

The tension that emerges from the combination of the unexpected certainly creates compelling interactions between characters, but I think there’s more going on than that.

Unlikely friendships are an embodiment of the way the world can delight and surprise us. There’s something inherently hopeful in unlikely friendships that speaks to our ability to connect.

In a narrative, these unlikely companionships can do some heavy lifting, both soothe and threaten their situations, and provide a relief from the darkness of the lives of the characters. But it does more than that. It can highlight the depth and complexity of the characters for the reader.

By forcing these characters to really see each other, the reader is forced to look beneath the surface, too. They are able to see the ways the characters are different, but also the ways they are the same. Through that juxtaposition you allow the characters to be vulnerable.

That’s the power of unexpected friendships: their ability to take the reader by surprise, and force them into the story.

To write convincing fiction you need to know your characters inside out. You don’t need to let the reader know every detail, but I believe you need to know it.

This requires a fair bit of honesty, compassion and research. Reach within yourself, find the emotional truth, then dig deeper. Let your characters see and respond to each other. You can’t create a believable friendship, if you don’t know who your characters are.

What is it they hide from each other? What is it they see in each other that no one else does? How do they show care or frustration to the other? What rubs them the wrong way? What threatens them? What makes them laugh? What does this friendship give them? When and how do they feel this? How do their interactions change them?

Show the reader these aspects and you allow the reader to see your characters in a new way. This can be used not just to drive the narrative and to deepen the reader’s understanding of the story, but also to add light and shade to the emotional tide of the narrative.

Writing about an unlikely friendship, like unlikely friendships themselves, really has no rules, but I think the key thing to keep in mind is its power lies in its ability to surprise and delight the reader.

Keep this in mind when you write, and see if you don’t surprise yourself, too.

5 Responses to “Unlikely Character Friendships Strengthen Story”

  1. anthonyambrogio Says:

    You write very well and thoughtfully about this topic, Ron.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob Wonnacott Says:

    Hi Ron. Thank you for this helpful post regarding writing fiction. I find knowing my characters inside out is difficult if you are developing them as you write. I have to think this through to see how I can do this better.

    Liked by 1 person

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