Character relationships

by Erica
(NSW Australia)

Question:: My book has a pretty big cast list (with about 6 'main')- basically a school bus went missing and these kids are stranded, for weeks by themselves. I'm telling the story from my main Character (Kiara)POV. And I'm trying to figure out how to describe the relationship she has/develops with the others.

Her Best friend has a crush on her so secret HE didn't realise he had one until halfway through the book, and I'm trying to figure out a way to convey this without seeming too obvious (she's pretty oblivious and has to have him confess to it before she knows about it).

Kiara also ends up with a Brother/sister relationship with a few of the older guys particularly with Josh- but when I try to write this, it seems like the boys all harbour crushes on her- and they don't, especially considering Josh loves a different girl entirely... Can you help me try to differentiate these relationships?

Answer: Dramatica describes three ways characters can interact.

1. Complimentary relationships are ones in which the characters inadvertently help or hinder each other. In other words, they are both pursuing their own interests, and those interests may happen to fit in with each other or interfere with each other. Friendships often result when they fit in with each other. (We dislike people who interfere with our interests.)

2. Conflicting relationships are ones in which characters' goals, methods, beliefs, or feelings clash with each other. Hence, they often become enemies. In rare cases, the conflict leads to something positive and better. (Some people fall in love from such positive conflict.)

Obviously, there should be conflict between your main character and the impact character (the love interest). That doesn't necessarily mean they fight, but that they have the opposite approach on some issue, which makes the main character doubt her approach. Her personal crisis will be the moment when she ultimately decides whether to adopt his approach or stick with her own (and he switches).

3. Dependent relationships are ones in which each person gives or withholds something the other person needs (emotionally). When it's a case of giving, that can be a very strong relationship. Withholding can be a dysfunctional relationship.

Great relationships sometimes have a little of all three. They may compliment each other on some issues, be in conflict on others, and need each other for something else. Each relationship may be based on a different set of issues.

None of this has to do with sexual attraction, which is the fourth element in romance.

As you know, physical attraction can be the incentive to interact with someone, which then allows one of the three types of relationship to emerge. On the other hand, some relationships start when people are put together and the emotional closeness that emerges out of positive relationships can lead to physical attraction. Put a group of teenagers in a confined space and it's not surprising some romantic feelings emerge.

What I would suggest you do is map out arcs for each relationship. For minor relationships, you can think of these as having three parts...

1. Start - How does the relationship begin/stand in the beginning? How do they interact at first?
2. Progress - How does the relationship evolve? Are there conflicts, clashes? Does one person have feelings that are not reciprocated?
3. Resolution - How does the relationship stand at the end of the story?

For the main/impact character relationship, four parts may make more sense...

1. Setup - What is their relationship like in the beginning?
2. Complication - How does the relationship deepen?
3. Crisis - How does the relationship appear destroyed?
4. Resolution - How does it all work out?

This assumes a happy relationship in the end. If you don't want the lovers to be together in the end, then the crisis will be the pinnacle of the relationship, before it all goes wrong.

For each stage of each relationship, try to have a moment or event that illustrates it. It can be as simple as some dialogue or other interaction.

I know it sounds complex, but fortunately characters often do this on their own if you let them.

Comments for Character relationships

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 09, 2014
by: Erica

Thanks Glen your answer definitely makes it so much easier to map out the relationships, especially since i planned on Kiara having a failed relationship with another boy (I thought I was set to go with that but your explanation and help definitely makes it easier). Does this method work for non-romantic relationships?

Jul 10, 2014
by: Glen

It works for all relationships, romantic or otherwise.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero