Formulary Friendships

Something I’ve struggled with in writing is creating a believable friendship between my characters. There’s the meet-cute, the struggle, the development and the love. Yes, I’m talking about friendship here, not a love story. It has the same elements as a romance story without the sexual tension.
So. What have I come up with? A formula! Because no good writing come from freeverse, right? Well here we go:
How to build a fictional friendship:
– At first meeting, one character doesn’t like the other. He’s fiercly independent, “I don’t need a friend,” etc.
– Soon thereafter or in the same meeting, the one who knows the environment will save the skin of the one who does not know what’s going on. One depends on the other for understanding of the situation. Maybe there’s a bully in a new school or a self importent centaur in the middle of a magical forest. You get the idea. Typically works best if the independent character from step one is the one needing to be saved. Give your character a piece of humble pie. No one’s an island.
– Once the skin has avoided a skinning, there should be a joke the two can laugh about. This can be a funny conversation that crops up throughout the book or a practical joke they play on a less favorable character (the unsuspecting centaur?).
– The conversation drifts to common ground on which to build the relationship.
– The characters have had their own experiences in life leading up to their meeting. Now they need to have some life experiences together. Queue adventures.
– Conflict will make the friendship believable and show the audience that it’s a relationship worth fighting for. I’m not good at writing conflict. Find your own formula for this.
– Boom. Friendship.
I’m open to suggestion on this. What are your thoughts and experiences creating relationships?
Image credit: Made Man


  1. I would be worried by so technical an approach. I try wherever possible to climb inside the skin of my characters as I write them, so by the time they meet somebody else in the plot I already know who they are likely to accept and who they will find to be at fault. Some thoughts: most acquaintance is based upon need, and the more radical that need the more potential depth will develop in the relationship. So, if someone rescues you from a fire you will be drawn to them more profoundly than if they just pass you the nuts in a bar. Either contact point will stimulate conversation, or not, depending upon the chemistry. Where it goes from there will be determined by empathy or an absence of it. Finding an alliance against a common cause will not of itself generate a friendship: expressing that alliance in similar fashion, hearing the enthusiastic counterpoint, sharing the joke – that’s what makes a friendship. At the stage where you find you are writing banter into the dialogue – that’s when you know you’ve got it right.

    I have greater difficulty when writing sex. It is so easy to stray into the realms of farce. I think it is important to recognize that different people seek sexual congress through different motives, and those motives don’t always have much to do with friendship, but unless I can completely sympathize with my character and believe in them my description of the encounter will feel forced and appear ridiculous. For instance, an embittered divorcee must be allowed his anger, but then how does his intended sexual partner react? What is her background (or his) and why is she ready to to go to bed with him? I get asked frequently how specific the biological language can become, and I guess my answer has to remind the writer that thinking through the head and the eyes of the aggressor will bring forth the language. But then I have to have the courage to write it….


    1. Fredrick, I always appreciate your comments so much. Especially this one, “most acquaintance is based upon need, and the more radical that need the more potential depth will develop in the relationship.” This is great to be thinking about when I write the relationship development between my characters.

      I have a snide relationship with formulas. I typically look at a formula and scoff, but other times I need a starting point. Formulas have there place if not completely depended upon. This post is part facetious part candid.

      I haven’t grappled with writing sex. I think you said it best when you said you need courage to write it.

      Thank you for your advice!


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