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

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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.

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