We’ve talked a lot about romantic relationships in the past. How to write good ones, how to write different troupes, etc. But not all relationships are romantic ones, and they certainly shouldn’t be that way in stories. Having a myriad of relationships in your story is a great way to show how different each of your characters is and make them feel authentic.
Today, we’ll be exploring platonic friendships. Giving your characters friends, someone who they frequently talk to outside of their romantic interest, will increase relatability and provide an opportunity to explore such a relationship. So how do you write them well? What is the best way to build a realistic yet tight bond between two or more friends in your story?
Surprisingly, the answer can be found in a cartoon about talking frogs.
Amphibia follows a girl named Anne and her two friends Shasha and Marcy who get magically transported into a world of talking amphibians. Though the story doesn’t immediately tell you how she got there, other points of view are slowly trickled in throughout the series that reveal the whole story. Shasha pressured Anne into stealing a music box, and when the three friends opened it to see what was inside, it took them into the magical world, separating them in the process.
Anne reunites with Shasha first, before later finding Marcy. Lots of drama goes down between the three girls, and I won’t tell it to you now in case you haven’t seen the show yet, but I will tell you this: Everything I just told you takes two full seasons to occur.
Something that could be summed up in two paragraphs took much longer in real show time. It sounds a little…slow moving, right? And I’ll admit, some of the more ridiculous episodes certainly felt like they were avoiding the main plot, but throughout the entire show I never found myself getting bored. Especially once all the girls reunite. Friendship is the prevalent relationship in the show since there is almost no romance whatsoever (at least, not for the three main girls. Minor characters have romantic subplots but otherwise it isn’t a main theme.) Marcy, Shasha, and Anne’s friendship is so wholesome and enjoyable to watch that it keeps you enthralled in the show more than anything else.
But it’s not that way because they all get along perfectly or because they were never apart from each other. In fact they’re not even together until the end of the second season, and even when they are, they fight and argue. Yet by the end, even though they fought and argued constantly, the three girls are closer than before and their relationship feels more genuine than many other fictional ones. But why is that?
The Secret to Genuine Relationships
Remember earlier, when I mentioned how the show was a little slow moving? How it took a full two seasons for the girls to be fully reunited? Well, these two seasons were full of flashbacks and memories that not only alluded to the plot, but also showed how close the girls were. And though these episodes with insignificant snippets of memory seemed useless at first, they were actually crucial. The more time their friendship was shown, the more genuine it became.
Think about it: You probably didn’t meet your very best friend yesterday. You probably wouldn’t be willing to march into war with a total stranger. All relationships need to develop with time. The I-just-met-these-people-and-now-we-need-to-save-the-world-together-so-I-guess-we’re-besties troupe isn’t always realistic. And there are real benefits to showing deep, genuine relationships as they develop over a long period of time. Of course, you can always tell your audience that two people are close, but they won’t really believe you until you show them sharing experiences, getting through arguments, and truly becoming good friends.
So give your relationships time. Let your character go through arguments, encourage one another, and share inside-jokes over the story through flashbacks or otherwise. Don’t try to force a deep relationship onto them instead. That’s not to say that a character can’t become close with someone within a day or two, (just look at Disney’s Tangled!) but they have to go through shared experiences either way. Show the friendship to the reader instead of telling and over time a true, genuine relationship will blossom.
What have been your favorite fictional relationships? Were they developed over a long period of time? And how was this article? Too sweet? Too sour? Just right?
Hello, I’m Sophia! I’m a child of God and I (if you couldn’t tell already) love to write! I’m also a total theater kid and strong dessert (specifically cupcake) enthusiast. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed both reading and making my own stories. I’m so glad I get to share with you what I’ve learned from some of my favorite (or sometimes least favorite) stories on this blog.