1. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    Developing Unusual Character Relationships

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Malo Beto, Oct 17, 2013.

    I'm planning out this story and I've realized that for a certain character's arc to really work he needs to become friends with another character who happens to be female. The first thing I'm worried about is making it feel like either is romantically interested in the other. It sounds kind of silly but I've noticed a lot of people just assume that if an important male character and an important female character are good friends then it means at least one of them is romantically interested in the other. So my first question is how should I handle this to avoid giving that impression.

    My second question has more to do with developing the relationship. I feel I understand both of the character rather well, but I'm still unsure on how their friendship should develop. I was wondering if anyone knows or has heard of any good exercises or worksheets for developing character relationships. I've seen quite a few character building exercises, and worksheets but I haven't seen any for character relationships.
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    One of my novels has an older male and younger female who, over the course of the novel, become good friends. I never even hinted at the possibility of romance. I believe that as long as you don't show the, doing stuff that a crush would normally do (avoid eye contact, be nervous, etc.) you have no problem.

    As for seeing how friendships develop, look at the people around you. Look at the people around your neighbourhood; ask your friends and family how they met people and what they thought of each other the first time they met. Also, draw upon your own experiences. How did you feel when you met someone new? Was it awkward? Whatever it felt like, remember those conversations and mimick them in your novel, or whatever.
     
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  3. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    Because of the existing stereotypes involving male + female interaction (at least in the United States), the first thing people are going to assume if a boy and a girl are spending time together is that at least one of them is attracted to the other.

    That being said, I would consider this more from your character's perspectives. As the one who writes the story, you already know who likes who and which characters are thinking what about it. It doesn't really matter if the readers think the two are dating / would make a good couple / don't work together. Regardless of what their opinions will be, the story is the story. Write it how it happened.

    However, if you really want readers to know that there is nothing going on between these two characters, then there are several ways to go about it. If they are good friends, they wouldn't have any issues being honest with each other. They might have dialogue like "you would make a terrible wife" or "and that's why I could never date someone like you." People will let up a bit if you show that either one or both of these characters are in a relationship with someone else. Better yet, nothing says friend zone more than asking one another for relationship advice. If this is written in first person, you could have the narrator comment in a way that would show they are not interested in this person. "They've always been a dependable friend, but I can't help but wonder if they'll ever find a partner with a face like that."
     
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  4. SarahD
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    SarahD Member

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    This is something I did in one of my novels where a guy and a girl become best friends but they met because another character was attracted to her. From their point of view theirs was never going to be a romantic relationship and fairly early on they even have that conversation between one another to clearly state where their friendship lies. They have conversations where they talk about issues with the girl's relationship with her boyfriend. In my novel though, I used the fact that people would misinterpret their relationship, particularly the boyfriend so become jealous but you could still use similar methods without going down that route.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I fail to grasp what was the unusual thing here?

    Sometimes people just don't hit it off on that level. Simple as that. You look at some person and see them sister- or brotherlike (sometimes these feelings can change). My husband -- before we met -- actually went on a date with the woman who's now one of my best friends, who was also my maid-of-honor, but apparently they just never hit it off, just talked about other people they'd like to date, UNLESS I'VE BEEN HORRIBLY LIED TO.

    Likewise I had several male friends in high school, and with a few I was really quite certain they saw me as platonically as I saw them -- sibling-like. You just hang out, talk about things you have in common, drink, joke, gossip about the people you'd like to boink, or who you've slept with, and you can be yourself, burp and fart, no need to try to make a good impression per se cos you aren't trying to get in their pants. And when you are in physical contact with them, like hug them or dance with them, you don't feel any sparks or pull, you don't really care to linger in physical contact, and the idea of feeling them up just feels wrong.
    It'd feel unnatural to start hitting on that person, it makes you feel a little grossed out, even if they are nice-looking.

    Don't you have friendships like this? Can't you model it after your own experiences?
     
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  6. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    hmmmm...
    le gasp! :eek:

    to the OP, I would say there is nothing unusual about two people not hooking up. I understand the concern because there is a US trend of people hooking up because there is a big market for young readers (all of whom think we know what romance is). It doesn't need blatant emphasis, but it might be fun to mess with the readers and play with the tensions. Put them in situations one would think they might start to see each other in that light but have them get into some type of conflict because of frictional personalities. (Best friends do argue lol) O instead of arguing, someone says something that completely breaks the mood. That would just be some hilarious stuff if done well.

    Otherwise, you don't need to emphasize it in my opinion. just write the story as it happened in your head.
     
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  7. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    I think what I was getting at with unusual was that I really just don't know how to label it. It's not romantic but I don't see it as being a brother-sister relationship either. Although I have never had siblings so I may be wrong. I wasn't trying to imply that non-romantic relationships between a man and a woman were unusual.


    Actually the thing is almost all my friendships are like this. So I am mostly basing the relationship off of my personal experience. My concern is that since I have almost no experience personally with romantic relationships, I won't know how to show the readers this isn't romantic in nature.
     
  8. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    If it's not romantic, it doesn't have to be brother-sister either. It can be buddies, close friends, annoying sidekick & leader... it can be any type of relationship that exists. It's hard to explain how they all come about. Think about your own relationships and observe other people's.

    To avoid the romantic stuff, don't have them get turned on when they think about the other person, dwell on their body parts or eyes or anything, get nervous when they meet or anything like that.
     
  9. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Why do we need to know how they met and what their relationship is? Won't that be apparent?

    When it's time to have that character appear in a scene that moves the plot and requires her, she gets her cue and comes on stage. He says, "Hi Susan." and then they demonstrate his relationship. Maybe she kisses his cheek, or just takes his hand and releases it. Maybe she washes his tonsils. In her dress, dialog and action we will know. Never include a scene for informational purposes. It either moves the plot meaningfully or it needs to be chopped.
     
  10. stormr
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    stormr Member

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    I think that it will show the relationship in your writing. If you don't want readers to think either is attracted to the other. Then simply avoid writing lines or scenes that might make people read more into the situation. I don't think you should go out of your way to write up extra contnet to prove that they are just friends either, often that just makes someone expect that something might happen later between them.
     
  11. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know any boy/girl friends where either didn't fancy the other one, ever. One of your characters could be gay or you could have it like mulder and Scully where the reader actually wants them together but they just never even get close to that elusive kiss.
     
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  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You know, there's a HUGE difference between two people maintaining a non-romantic relationship and never having a stray thought.
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    In my opinion, if it's not romantic in nature, then you can trust the readers to see that. They may hope for romance, but that is then "reader-created" tension. If you aren't promising anything more than friendship, then give us that. If they don't think of each other that way at all, so be it. There is no need for extra "anti-romance" effort, just present them as they are, let them do what they have to do, and reader's will figure it out. You cannot control what readers will think, some may find it slightly romantic, but that would most likely come from wishful thinking (reader intrigue). Just write the characters as they are.

    It does not have to be brother-sister either. Just avoid making them think about awkward things like eye color, each other's smell or bodies, or any abstract thoughts about the other as a possible partner. If the story doesn't call for it, don't include it, and no one can argue it was there. You don't need to add anything to emphasize the absence of it, as that will make it a present thought in the story.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, this makes sense. That old adage: 'methinks the lady doth protest too much.' If you make too big a deal of them ONLY being 'friends' you do flag up the possibility there could be more going on.

    Another trick is to have these two people be part of a larger group of friends. They all watch each others' backs, confide in one another, etc. I've had lots of great friends of the opposite sex in this kind of situation, and nothing ever felt weird about it. Usually they, or I, were involved with somebody else romantically anyway.

    I've also had a great personal friend, a guy, and we did consider becoming romantically involved, simply because we got along so well, had so many interests and viewpoints in common. We figured, with all that going for us, maybe we should. But when we discussed it—and it was a dry discussion indeed—we both said nah, it wouldn't work. That chemistry just wasn't there. We are still very close friends, BTW! And I'm married and he's divorced, and my husband likes him a lot and isn't jealous at all.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
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  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Problems may arise if they're both very attractive. Come to think of it, none of my platonic male friends have been particularly good-looking, and I've never had "an alpha male" as a friend. Of course, this definitely doesn't mean it couldn't happen and it might just as well be a fluke in my case.


    I actually do know the colors of my male friends' eyes. On the other hand, it could be just me. I also know the colors of my female friends' eyes. And I know I'm zero-attracted to any of them.
    Anyway, I'd imagine the difference is in how your character would notice this stuff. If s/he goes like "such dreamy eyes!" that's a bit non-platonic. If they're like "her blue eyes burned with anger" (don't use that, please, it's a horrible example), it's different, I think.

    I think jannert put it pretty well here. Sometimes there just isn't chemistry. You can also be more relaxed around someone with whom you haven't any chemistry, the fear of embarrassment is significantly lower, you have less to lose. But when you know you want to get naked with the other person, interaction becomes an extreme sport (especially if you're not drunk). Your heart bangs like a battle ram, you get prickles on your face and your armpits get damp. The adrenaline dump impairs the part of your brain that's usually responsible of wit, or intelligible speech in general. You go, shit shit shit has my mascara gotten smudged? Does my face shine? (as if he'd notice) Can he see the slowly expanding stains in my armpits? Do I have something on my teeth? Spinach? Oregano? Don't smile with your mouth open! Then, you don't know where to look; and if you're standing up, facing him, you can't quite bear meeting his gaze ‘cause then you’d definitely lose the last shred of wit you’re trying to desperately hold on to, so for some devilish reason your eyes decide to glance way too often at his crotch. Why not the chest? The throat? The forehead? No, instead you look like a perv, like he might as well be a moving, talking penis for all you care!

    So yeah... if they're friends, that wouldn't happen...

    I'm confident you can imagine how romantic relationships are like even if you haven't had one. Novels, films, TV shows etc are full of depictions of attraction and romantic character dynamics, after all.

    Of course, in the name of method writing, you could start dating someone, you know, in order to do some research :D
     
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  16. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    As others have said don't make a big deal of them being only friends. Although you obviously can't have them making out or anything but having them go out of their way and character to avoid physical contact is awkward which readers will understand to read there is something there. It may help to kind of ignore the fact that his friend is a girl when writing about the two of them. I'm not saying have her act like a guy or anything, just have them be friends before they're opposite genders. Amongst my friendship group the only guys who seem to see me or other girls in a romantic way are also those that seem to think of us as girls first then as friends.
     
  17. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, it went pretty much like you said: the first time we met, something like 10mins into the conversation, we were already plotting how she would get the guy she fancied at the time (if I remember correctly, he was unavailable, but don't quote me on this) and how she could shake a burr who had the hots for her but wouldn't stop chasing her etc.
    I still remember the first time I told her about crushing on you: at first she thought you were too young for me and that the distance between us was too much for a serious relationship, but once she met you, she immediately took a liking to you and was pretty much sold. I think she started seeing you as "the one" for me and as best friend material the first time we went out together as a group and you kicked that one girl in that one bar with your steel-toed boots, remember? ;)


    The abovementioned friendship between me and Kat's maid-of-honor was like that. It wasn't just that there was no pull between us, but romance-wise it was more like having two magnets with poles of the same sign: the idea of anything non-platonic felt repulsive. Yet, since we were pretty like-minded, it was fun to hang out as friends. Thinking about her naked would be like thinking about my sister or some dude naked.

    I've had a few female friends like that in the past. It usually happens when two people who, for all intents and purposes, should be attracted to one another, yet aren't, but like each other as friends. It's like both wanting the other to be their intellectual whore. It's kinda cruel if it's one-sided (one wants an IW, the other a romantic relationship), but when it's mutual, it's a great basis for friendship.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013

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