1. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Non-romantic Chemistry Between Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by KokoN, Mar 12, 2016.

    I am interested hearing people's thoughts on developing non-romantic chemistry between two characters. I am currently writing a story where the two main characters are female (and probably will be related to each other) and I don't want their interactions to be boring. To me, having good chemistry means that the two characters together have something that invokes emotion (negative or positive) in the reader that they wouldn't have by themselves. I'm not sure if that's a very good definition though.

    Another thing that made me wonder about this is I was watching the show Jane the Virgin and the interaction between two of the characters, Jane and Petra, who I feel have very good chemistry. This made me think back on other relationships between females and realize many of them are pretty boring. (However I've been watching a lot of TV lately rather than reading, so maybe this is different in books than on TV.)

    Can anyone give me some examples of female characters who have good non-romantic chemistry, whether in books, on TV, maybe in real life, etc? Also, why do you think these characters have good chemistry? You could give some examples of two male characters too, and if chemistry between two men differs from chemistry between two women. I'm less interested in non-romantic chemistry between a man and a woman because I've seen that a lot in in books and on TV before.
     
  2. Fernando.C
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    Fernando.C Active Member

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    For me chemistry is a deep bond between two characters. A connection, and understanding between them. They also need to be relatable and tangible to the readers both as individuals and as friends. The readers or the audience (in the case of a TV show) should care about the friendship between the two, if they fight and end up falling out, this should be upsetting to the readers. I think one good way to achieve this to throw conflicts and challenges their way, let their bonds be tested and their friendship rattled and ultimately let it result in a new found trust and deeper bond between them.

    It could also help to look for real life examples. Look at your own close friends for example, see what it is that makes you great friends, why is it that you get along with them? Have you always gotten along with your friends or maybe there were some issues at the beginning which you've over come over time. These all could be great sources of inspiration for creating good chemistry between your characters.

    As for examples of Character with good chemistry, I always loved the friendship between Buffy and Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv show. You could always tell how much they cared about each other. Especially as the show progressed and they faced all sorts of dangers and issues together, you could see how they helped each other other be better and stronger which is a really important factor when it comes to friendships both in real life and in fiction.

    Also, I personally don't think the sex of the characters has any significant influence in terms of chemistry.
     
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  3. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Interesting. Thanks for the insight! :D
     
  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    To put it in it's most functional way; you develop non-romantic chemistry the same way your create romantic chemistry. You describe it differently and give it a different emotional resonance but you are doing essentially the same thing. First; you show them being compatible personalities; that means put them through shared experience and show them being able to work through it without needing to form an explicit structure. The result is building trust and understanding each others value to each other; they appreciate when to push (in this case teasing each other or making jokes at their expense) and when to follow and both can take either role. Next, once you've established that relationship is there you show them being socially comfortable together, sharing more intimate parts of their life and developing their own in-jokes and language. They can cry together, comfort each other and cheer each other up. Finally, they learn each others foibles and know when to make a decision on the others behalf (take the bottle of vodka off her!) for their benefit.

    You notice this is very much the same as developing a good romance (or a successful romance I should say; a good romance needs fire too) because human relationships are kinda, well, predictable. Even when there is no sexual component we build bonds the same way; shared experience, showing vulnerability and mutual benefit. Showing that bond once it's built is easy enough; make in jokes, express interest, show compassion (ie redirect the conversation from things one knows the other is uncomfortable with). The most meaningful stuff isn't in the day to day dialogue, it's in a few lines in a hard time. Someone you are close to will ask 'Seriously though, are you ok?' and won't be fobbed off; someone who isn't is uncomfortable eliciting that kind of vulnerability. Exactly what you show them doing is up to you and your story but it all comes down to this basic stuff. They know when to push and when to back off, when to ask and when to just let it be and they back it up by always laughing together.

    Sisters are a weird one though. Seriously, family ties put weird stressors on relationships. Within literature sisters who are close in age tend to go through phases; either they are close when they are young (pre-teeange) then close again when they are adults. Alternatively they'll be close as teenagers and then grow apart. It's all about the parental relationship. If sisters are close when they are young then the first one becoming a teenager will end that pretty quickly; she gets to go out and have fun and do all this cool grown up stuff the younger one can't do. If you aren't close when you're young as a teenager they discover an ally against their parents that is extremely useful in facilitating fun but that only lasts until one of them moves out. That doesn't say anything about the real world; just that sisters who are friends for the whole book is kinda dull and feels weird; siblings are always competing and that'll either lead them apart or together to give you satisfying development.
     
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  5. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Thanks @LostThePlot, I found it helpful how you compared romantic and non-romantic relationships. Although, as you kind of mentioned in your last paragraph, what might make a good relationship in real life could be boring to read about. Sisters or relatives aside, how do you develop an interesting relationship between two characters? Is it mostly just make sure their relationship isn't perfect, or are there other ways of making chemistry interesting and fun to read? The more I consider it, I think it's maybe making their relationship have its ups and downs, and then also be unique, as in they have their own personal issues that they tend to fight about or whatever. Maybe I just need to start paying more attention to character relationships when I read!
     
  6. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    You write the question as a teenager who has no experience. All relationships develop naturally. As you grow up, you'll learn this. No explanation here will help your writing - it's too complex until you live it.
     
  7. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Not quite sure what you mean by that, @Jeff Countryman? I'm 23 so of course I've had relationships that developed naturally over time. However, writing about relationships is totally different than being in them, just like how being outside is different than writing about nature. You need to figure out which part of the relationship the reader will find interesting. And some relationships, while satisfying to the people involved, would never interest a reader.

    I do think that the only way for me to really get the hang of creating interesting chemistry between characters is to pay more attention to it when I'm reading and writing. I guess I was just interested in hearing how other people create chemistry between characters, since I'm a verbal processor and enjoy hearing other people's opinions on technique.
     
  8. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I've got characters that I think have good non-romantic chemistry. She's well, a she, and he's gay, so you'd think it would be obvious there was no sex. Yet every reader so far insists they are having sex, even if I'm not writing it! So I would say, be forewarned that you might get told to "get that lesbian smut off the page," even if they aren't have sex. (Even if they aren't lesbians.) People are weird.
     
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  9. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I still can't believe your readers think he's not gay. I think your hints are pretty effective.
     
  10. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    A teeny-bopper's writing is . . . well . . . teenager angst. Keep writing. My profile is here: http://www.writingforums.org/members/jeff-countryman.71796/
    Click on the "Information" tab if you don't know how to learn about other members.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  11. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    @KokoN there's no reason to think you can't have strong bonds between character's without sex. It's called platonic love. I know of this even though I haven't experienced it yet. Absolutely go for it.
     
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  12. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    If you're looking for ways to show non-sexual chemistry and friendship between two characters without boring the reader try putting the two of them through some shared experiences. The activities they wander through can provide the interest. Look at any buddy cop movie. The interactions between the two characters would be boring if they weren't also trying to bust the drug kingpin or rescue the kidnapped girl.
    To display chemistry between the two you can provide them with their own inside jokes, person or organization to complain about together, make one a joker and the other one able to feed them straight lines to play off of.
     
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  13. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Haha, good to know. ;)

    Thanks for the encouragement. :)

    I really like what you said about shared experiences, that really got me thinking!
     
  14. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    If you're having issues visualizing a platonic relationship that is also emotionally intimate, just think back to other works you've seen doing this as a reference point. There are slews a friendships that develop in novels, short stories, movies, video games, manga, comics, pretty much everything!

    Han Solo and Luke Skywalker
    Rand al'Thor and Mat Cauthon
    Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley [all their relationships to Harry, particularly Hermione]
    Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
    Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson

    The list goes on and on. Sometimes examples in preexisting works are the best way to see how others implement things, so you can try these with your own characters and plots.
     
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  15. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Thanks for the examples! :)
     
  16. Witchymama
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    Witchymama Active Member

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    I really love platonic relationships. To me they are easier to write. There's more room to play with the dynamics of the relationship without attraction and sex getting in the way. That's not to say that I don't like to write that, when it's called for, but friendships and familial relationships are just easier. I guess that comes from having literally hundreds of cousins, that I was very close with.
     
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  17. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Interesting.
     
  18. Shelley Penner
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    Shelley Penner New Member

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    "To make a friend you need to be a friend."
    In reality and in fiction, I truly believe this old adage. So how do you 'be a friend'?
    You offer support and help when needed; you care about your friend's happiness and well being; you laugh together, tease one another and defend one another loyally; you accept one another's differences and honor one another's strengths; you spend time together exploring one another's interests, even if they are not necessarily shared interests; you confide in one another, ask for and give advice (often unwanted); you argue and disagree and get angry, but friends always eventually forgive, else they are no longer friends.
    While romantic relationships are often about physical reactions (compatible chemistry), non romantic friendship is all about companionship, and companionship is all about spending time together, growing together, building trust, and supporting each other both emotionally and actively (as in experiencing physical adventures together).
     
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  19. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    A loving romantic relationship also needs bonding though. Especially if it's full on the L word.
     
  20. Shelley Penner
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    Shelley Penner New Member

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    All relationships need some sort of bonding. Even enemies have a bond between them, something that connects them, albeit in a negative way. My point was that non romantic relationships are not about chemistry, which is a physical attraction, but about companionship and building trust. Romantic relationships need those things too, but if it's 'the full on L word', it takes that compatible chemistry to be ideal.
     
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  21. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Already, I am drawn into the rich narrative and human drama that is likely to surround this awesome premise.

    Seriously. I have honestly never read a story or seen a movie about two females just being friends without some gimmick to drive the narrative. Females who aren't ninjas, warriors, chemists, wives, or some other stupid underdeveloped element that's only purpose seems to be to give us a reason to pay attention to them.
     
  22. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Congrats on finding something creative that I wrote, lol! In all seriousness, I completely agree. There are so few well-developed and interesting relationships between women in literature, television, etc. Thanks for the feedback, I'll keep working on this concept. :)
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have the faintest idea what your post here means, though it does sound like its intent is to insult someone. To make it clear who you wanted to insult, you could learn how quoting works on this site. Also, your profile is blocked.
     
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  24. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    LostthePlot put it perfectly, I think. Just make sure they really resonate as best friends, and you will be just fine. Maybe reflect instances and interactions that you have with your own best friend, if you find it hard to put it on paper. My WIP is doing just this. The main character is whisked away on an adventure to the Venezuela jungles to save his best friend. They are both major characters, but I wanted to stay completely away from the clichéd boy gets girl plot. My main character is gay anyway, so of course they aren't going to end up romantically together.
     
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  25. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Yay, gay main character. Is there a boy gets boy plot? I'd be interested in that. ;);)
     

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