1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Writing friendship in a way to make readers care about it

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mallory, Mar 15, 2011.

    Hey,

    I'm running into a problem with one of my stories...I want to make the friendship important, something the readers care about, and I'm struggling with it. You know how in certain books/movies there are friendship scenes done so poignantly that you kind of want to cry - like in King's "Dreamcatchers" when the four friends offer to Duddit's mom to walk him to school, and in LOTR when Sam is always there for Frodo? (there are several scenes like this.)

    This is what I'm trying to achieve, but I'm not sure how to do it the best way. I can write fun and funny scenes shared between friends, but what about sad scenes? What if close friendships drift apart or shatter - what's the best way to show the emotions by showing, not telling?

    In addition to asking how to best do it, I'd also like to ask how to NOT do it. What automatically screams "cheesy purple prose"?

    Thanks!!!
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I would really like to help you, but it would really help if I knew how old they were, men or women (girls, boys) and maybe a little of what is going on?
     
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  3. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I am now and have been estrangled from my bff/soulmate/cellmate
    The bitter sweetness is we still "get' each other although we married other people..ya dig ?

    For the record the universal color for passion is purple....just sayin'
     
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  4. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Show what you can but tell what you have to. Remember that good writing is often actually a mix of showing and telling. It's been so long since i read lotr, i don't remember how the sam parts read. In the movie, i think it does come across as over the top.

    I think it's better to be subtle than to overdo it. Long live Duddits.
     
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  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oh, sure. I should have provided this in the original post and I'd be asking the same question.

    They're girls in the 18-22 range. My story is about a girl in college who, in addition to the main plot, deals with the dramas and real-life struggles of college life. Not fitting in in the dorms; roommate problems; guy problems; close friends from high school drifting away; etc, as well as the lighter and more fun things like staying out all night with new friends; parties; and hooking up for the first time.

    I feel like there's loads of bittersweet/real-life growing up stuff about high school kids, but none for college kids. And all the stories/shows that DO cater to college kids are all the same. Feel in over your head at first, but struggle and make it. Struggle with a troubled long-distance relationship from high school, then realize it's better to let each other breathe. And my favorite: the MC doesn't get along with her roommate for the first few days, but then they have a bonding night and become the best friends in the world.

    I want to write something that struggling college freshmen can really relate to, you know? Real problems with realistic outcomes. I'd have liked something like that available to me when I was a college freshmen.
     
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  6. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    So the friends that you want to portray as being the best friends are the ones in college? Or is it one in college and one from high school in a different school or that couldn't go to college, got married, had to work, etc.? I ask because it may be difficult to show how enduring friendship is if it's just one year of college, whereas if say your college girl ditches her bff who had to stay behind to work so that she could fully experience college life and she felt they had nothing in common anymore, that could work.

    Say you show her hanging out with her new friends, ignoring calls from her old friend. On the phone with old friend who's upset about a break-up when new roommate comes in to go out for pizza and she drops the call with old friend.

    Then say college girl gets in over her head, cheats on a term paper, gets busted for drugs, gets pregnant, who knows? Everyone drops her. Who is still there? Working girl is, because they had sleepovers, shared skinned knees, learned how to rollerblade and skateboard together. They're best friends.
     
  7. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    I think for a friendship to be done well there needs to be a mixture of conflict in it; things that will really test how strong the bond is. (i.e. jealously, pride, and prejudice). And no matter what happens to any of the characters, in the end, they still care a lot about one another and put aside differences, arguments, and such.
     
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  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    My main friendship-related themes are:

    1. Used to be really close friends in high school, but then the MC's friend drifts apart from the MC, who is the one hurt by it.

    2. Not fitting in in the dorm hall and being the 3rd-wheel in a triple dorm room; these are different than actual friendship issues I suppose, but it's the same issue: wanting to convey the emotion impactfully without being annoying about it

    3. Some kind of blowout where the two friends have a fight and stop talking, probably over a guy -- but this one I can handle, it's the first two I'm struggling most with.

    ------------

    Has anyone read "Lucky" by Alice Sebold? That book is a rape memoir and my book is not, but there are a few themes (like about the college life stuff) that it has in common. You know when Alice and Lila's friendship freezes after they were really close for a few years? that's kind of what I'm going for....I feel Sebold wrote it well...
     
  9. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I haven't read the book you're speaking of, sorry. Probably the friend being hurt by drifting apart would be best served by flashbacks of some sort. The friend calls, gets blown off for the 4th time and then burns the scrapbook of them (maybe too dramatic?) all through childhood while remembering them all. If that's too dramatic she could visit her family and EVERYONE could ask how her friend is (because they were inseperable) until she ends up crying, or blowing up on them, whatever your character would do.

    The dorm thing is fairly simple. That's little things. Kicking a shirt that belongs to one of the other girls out of the way when she comes into the room, having MC leave a note for her that they (her and the other) went out for pizza. Having her NOT leave a note and MC waits half the night for her to go out and ends up eating a snickers for dinner.

    Hopefully I've gotten the point. I hope this helps?
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks very much! I get the drift at what you're saying. The roommate thing presented a challenge because I wanted to use it to create funny/awkward moments in certain parts, but having some genuinely painful parts in there too, and you've given me a better idea of how to pull it off.

    I think I have some new ideas on the friend-drifting thing, too.

    Here's another issue......my MC arrives to college without connections. She has the friend she drifts apart from, plus two or three acquaintances who she tries to strike up a friendship with but it doesn't really work. Everyone else she observes, on the other hand, has a giant clique of girls from high school following them around and isn't looking to make new friends. This starkly contrasts what she'd been led to believe previously about all new freshmen looking to make friends, and it takes her a full semester and part of the next to really find her own people. This causes her to spend many a Friday and Saturday night doing her nails alone in her room, working on homework and lying to her roommates what she'd done for the weekend.

    This, I know, is the same case as the other two: write the scenes and let them speak for themselves. But how can I make her realization of "oh crap, everyone has friends" during the first few weeks evident in a way that's not spelling it out?

    Thanks.
     
  11. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I sort of understand what you are saying, but it can be hard. I'm writing a scene about the MC's brother, and they became best brothers for a while, never argued or nothing. The MC and his brother haven't seen eachother in about 10 years, and the MC finally gets the opportunity to come back and see him. It happend so fast that his brother fails to remember who he was, until he comes back to see that people were making fun of the MC. The MC's brother is the only one who can help him and protect him. At the end of my story, it turns out that the Mc's brother died in a car accident to a drunk driver. They come in several conflicts when the MC moved to see his brother for the first time in 10 years. Such conflicts included using powers (the MC's brother had powers and granted them to him), and so on.

    I wouldn't work too hard on coming up with friendship stories, but you should go with your gut and try your best to see what you will come up with. You can develop the characters and their relationship with the other characters first before coming up with the plot, or don't add the plot without giving the character's description on their friendship statues with the other characters. That's how I done it, but like I said, don't try to work too hard on coming up with a story...
     
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  12. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hey man,

    Thanks. And your story sounds cool.

    Yes, I know it's hard. But all the books that really stand out in my memory are the ones that can nail the emotions of friendship (and failed friendship) the right way.
     
  13. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    That's part of the reason why Harry Potter is so popular. You've got a group of friends, and you follow along with their lives and how they change over time.

    I really like having the 'best friends' dynamic. Having a group of people so close that they're as good as family. Even through rough spots and challenges, they'll always be family.

    When you're trying to write friendships in a way that make the reader care, here's the best advice I have to offer.

    Make the character care. Don't just think they care, convince yourself that they care. Show it in your writing. Show that they appreciate their friend, and that they're appreciated in turn. Show that unconditional acceptance and how much it means to the character.

    If it matters to your character, it'll matter to your audience.
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks,

    That's great advice. Convince the MC more than the audience. And yes, I do plan to have a friend like Harry's Ron, but she won't pop up til later. I want to deal with the loneliness issues for the first few chapters, then when she makes a solid friendship I can introduce other types of drama. :)
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I've come with ideas!

    Firstly, you have to make a list of qualities that people consider impressive in friends.

    Let's take Frodo and Sam as an example. Sam had loyalty and unconditional Platonic love for Frodo. Loyalty and Platonic love are two major qualities people like in a friend. These qualities are especially impressive when heavily challenged and they still endure.

    It's nice that Sam liked Frodo and all of that, but what's that really worth in the Shire? It's worth a lot, but not rearly as much when you find yourself literally having to travel to hell on a possible suicide mission. Sam didn't even consider not going and that's the touching part.

    So, a formula wold be to pick a friendship quality, heavily challenge it, but show that with these people it is stronger than the challenge.
     
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  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have her walk and stand in a group outside class have them all chatting away and no one introduces themselves. When she is sat in her room have her roommate getting ready to go out whilst she is studying. Sit her in the library working away whilst there is a group of people sat round another table. Have her signing up for the rugby whilst a her roommate and posse are signing up for cake making ... She goes into the lecture theatre and has trouble finding a seat, they are all taken. Everyone else has things out saving them for 'friends.'

    Don't expect huge amounts from it on first draft let that be when you lay out the skeleton for what will happen.

    When writing a scene between friends think carefully about the setting - will it be be under the tree, on a bed, in a cupboard. Use that setting to bring in atmosphere with sounds, touch, smells etc And it will be the springboard for the body language and reactions. The actual dialogue is less important than what they are actually doing during the scene. For example will they be throwing a ball aimlessly at a wall whilst talking, will one friend have an arm round the other, will they be clenching their fists ready to attack the other. By these scenes these friends should already have mannerisms that the reader recognises - make sure you use them to show emotion as well - I am playing with new characters and is a different scenario but shows quite well about it is what the character is doing that says more about what is occuring than the actual dialogue:

    The dialogue without anything:
    'I'll go first. Same time next week?'
    'Your shirt's hanging out mate.'
    'Black, Inspector wants to see you. Where have you been?'
    'Err ... Must have been a rum burger at lunch Sarge.'
    'That's been happening a lot lately. Must be the dipping sauce.'

    Also writing the dialogue out like that helps as I can see the individual words and tweak them and improve them without the distraction of the movement and surroundings.
     
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  17. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    To have crisis in one's life - will separate 'the wheat from the chaff' / 'the men from the boys'
    When my husband died I discovered whom my real friends were. One person I hardly knew (our daughters were school friends) armed with a large pan of home made soup, was one of the first people to knock on my door and offer her help, she and her husband volunteered to lend me their car, or to ferry me anywhere I needed to go and weeks later when I needed a hug she was there to provide it.

    True friends are there when you need them most. They sometimes know what best for you when you don't (I didn't know that I needed a pan of soup and what's more I couldn't eat anything at that time but, my family appreciated it)

    Fair-weather friends, at the first sign of a problem disappear into the woodwork.
     
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  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    A way to show how she's feeling left out and missing her friend at the dorm could be:

    She and her friend had a shared experience in the past that defined their friendship -- they've used this experience to build jokes and references around, like it's become a part of their shared world view.
    In the company of the other girls at the dorm, she may fondly refer to this concept/idea and then watch it fall completely flat in the new company.

    I think most people know how that feels. Her new circle of acquaintances weren't there, and would never understand what she meant. They might even think she's weird, quirky, etc. It would be unfair to blame the new girls for not "getting it", but the scene could highlight a vacuum where the missing friend had been.
     
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  19. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    She can get caught lying to her roommates in simple ways. Her roommate asks what she did last night, she says she went to a movie with kids from physics class (or whatever). A little while later roommate says she loves MCs nail polish. MC, distracted getting ready for class, and thrilled that roommate noticed, says Thanks! I did it last night. Roommate thinks......Hmmmm.

    You can do little things like that many ways. Is that what you mean?
     
  20. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's about the experiences they go through together - if a friend vanishes for half the novel because she's not vital to some aspects of the plot (eg, how friends are almost always sidelined in romance), then no matter how close you say they are, the reader won't feel it. The focus needs to be on them for at least a part of the novel. If they only pop in when needed, and the character only thinks about them when they have to, it won't come across as a genuine friendship. In my real life I walk around and everything reminds me of my friends - things I ought to tell them, that they'd find funny, memories of this that and the other. When writing friends I always try to cram in as much experience as possible, memories instead of abstract images (such as trying to convey embarrassment, I'd have the main character reminisce about something awful her friend did in public rather than just search around for a good simile for blushing.) and just generally remember that the friends exist. Try to get injokes going that the reader can run along with - friends have a free pass not to let things drop that more distant people would never dare mention, so early events in the novel can be used as points of comedy/tension throughout. If your friends interact well with each other before the tension/dramatic or sad moments, then when it comes to writing those parts it will come a lot more easily, and have a relevance to the reader when bad stuff happens between them.
     
  21. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    All these posts are really helpful! Thanks!
     
  22. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sacrifice. And that sacrifice actually has a cost. Not; "I stick with my geeky frinds because they are really much more fun to hang out with the popular kids" because then you sort of taken the cost of that choice away.

    Or "I stick with my geeky friends and my choice of doing so glorify me to the readers" because then you sort of traded the cost of the sacrifice for a lot of moral high ground and reader sympathy.

    I'm not saying that the choice of sacrifice shouldn't have any upsides making it work it, but that showing it it had a real cost.
    "I stick with my sick friend because I love her, but it means endless hours and nights lost taking care of her when she caught until her ribs brake. And lot of heartwretching worry. And guilt for being healthy myself"

    ---

    The other important thing is tension. You need something driving the friends together, and something driving them apart at the same time. Emotional or outside factors.
     

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