Nearly every book I’ve read has a protagonist. And all of those protagonists were surrounded by several, if not a great many, friends. Within my own stories, my protagonists have quite a few friends. Among those friends, there are usually one or two, maybe three, friends that the protagonist is especially close to. One of my all time favorite series, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, follows best friends Lissa and Rose, who act like sisters most of the time. While reading, it’s clear that the two have known each other for a long while, see each other as their closest allies, and see their lives as them against the world. It’s obvious that they’re very close. The question is how does Mead accomplish this? How does any author establish these types of close friendships between characters without blatantly telling the reader?
If you think of your own close friendships, or your best friends, you’ll probably recognize five or more of the following in your relationship with these particular friends –
Understand without speaking.
When you’ve known someone a really long time, or have spent so much time together, you get to know the person so well that you pick up on their habits and quirks and body language. When they bite their lip, you know it’s not that they’re confused, but that the water works are about to begin and it’s time to get them out of there. If their jaw tenses, you take their hand and squeeze it to show they don’t have to face the world alone. They do the same for you. You understand each other so well that no one needs to say anything, and it’s obvious that it’s time for coffee and chick flicks, or that it’s time to head to the soccer field to kick around a ball and de-stress. You might not be able to read each others’ minds, but you understand each other well enough that neither of you needs to say anything. You just do.
Tease each other.
There’s artificial teasing, there’s bully teasing, there’s flirting teasing. But among friends, it’s the way we gently point out each others’ issues and faults without being cruel, it’s how we remind each other of good times, it’s how we show each other that we don’t have to be adult or grown up (regardless of age), it’s how we connect and communicate. Between best friends, teasing is just another way we talk to each other. There’s no malice, jealousy, anger, or bitterness behind it. It’s often light, fun, laughable, and in good humor. It’s a way to make your friend laugh when they’re on the verge of tears. It’s the way we build each other up when our plans fall through. Teasing is always there, but it never, ever becomes a way of putting each other down.
Rely on each other.
Through good times and bad, friends can always be relied upon to be there and help each other. There are no excuses, there is no distance, there are no events that could prevent two best buds from helping each other out in times of emotional and physical need, and friends rely on each other for that. But friends also rely on each other for comfort, for support, for encouragement, and for all the things it seems the world wants to take away from us. Friends are there to remind us that what we want to do, where we want to go, is completely possible and achievable.
Seek each other’s advice.
Perhaps more than our parents, teachers, advisors, and mentors, we seek advice from our friends first. This might be a perfectly faulty action, but because friends understand each other and rely on each other, it’s natural that we seek advice from those we know, and who know us, best. This advice seeking might be as simple as wondering which outfit to wear for an interview, to legitimately questioning your life’s direction and wanting to know whether you should keep on that path. And because you can rely on your friend, they help you out, if only to making fun of something to help you laugh and remind you to loosen up and stop worrying.
Feel comfortable around one another.
As with all of the above, friends are comfortable with each other enough to seek that advice, tease each other, and rely on one another. Even more than that, friends are comfortable with and around each other that they don’t care if they do something stupid, or say something idiotic, or accidently snort and spew food from the mouth in response to something funny (guilty.) Because they’re comfortable with each other, these things happen and no one cares, because these silly things hardly define us. It’s the same with crying, or showing how truly angry we are, or how hopeless we feel. Friends know each other so well that they be vulnerable and sensitive, and the friend won’t misuse them.
Miss each other when gone.
Probably the greatest understatement of all these, but best friends will miss each other. They might be separated for only a day, maybe one has moved away. But miss each other they will, just the same. The effect this has on each other is anyone’s guess, as everyone reacts differently to separation. Some might become depressed, others might lash out, and some might just have that aching sense of loneliness in their gut that seems like it can’t ever be filled. There is most definitely a reaction, and missing each other is just the surface.
Have similar interests/hobbies/goals/pasts.
Whether they grew up together, or met at summer camp, or took the same art class, friends have similar interests. There’s something that initially drew them together, and in writing a book you can’t just put that aside. It will always be their foundation, and while the foundation can grow, there’s that one point, however small and insignificant in the present, that brought them together and caused them to meet (in Vampire Academy, Lissa and Rose both had long names they had to spell in school at young ages. Later on, they grew even closer together when they both survived the car accident that killed the rest of Lissa’s family.)
Grow together as individuals and as friends.
If any relationship is to last and get stronger, growth is a must. Trials, tragedy, celebration, joy; all these add to and change a person, their actions, and how they consider new situations, and this happens in a friendship as well. While going through similar occurrences, if friends cannot grow together, change, and mature together, then their friendship will remain the way it was when it started, and it won’t be able to adjust and react properly to new situations that the friends encounter. Without the ability to grow, the friendship will become stagnant and brittle, and eventually break. Make sure to show the friends, and their friendship, grow through the story.
It’s simple. Close friends, who understand, rely, advise, and help each other, just don’t judge. Regardless of what one does, or what the other thinks about a topic, they don’t judge. They accept that they’re individuals with different views and opinions on some things. After all, you can’t have the exact same views as someone else. There are similarities, there are differences, but despite what those are, there should never be any judgment. Friends accept each other for who they are.
Don’t try to change each other.
As I said, friends accept each other. They don’t try to change one another, or mould each other into what their ideal would be, because that would be the farthest thing from acceptance. Friends understand, they don’t judge, and they don’t try to change their friends’ personalities, opinions, views, likes or dislikes, or their hopes and dreams. They accept everything about each other, and celebrate their differences.
Friends naturally want to talk with each other and discuss the things that happen in their lives, but best friends, as I’m sure you know, will talk about everything. They confide everything in each other without fear of being rejected or judged. They share their thoughts, their dreams, whatever comes to mind, and in sharing so much with each other, their bond grows.
Fights sometimes happen, but making amends occurs quickly.
No friendship is perfect, and because there are two people involved, disagreements are bound to occur. But when fights begin, whatever the topic, close friends will try to move past the argument and come to a conclusion, generally in the form of an agreement or better understanding of one another. They won’t linger on their differing opinions, and will try to make amends as soon as they can. This leads to stronger friendships, and is a way that the friendship can grow and develop.
Can’t imagine life without each other.
Perhaps more than anything else, best friends simply can’t imagine what life would be like if they weren’t together. It’s something they don’t want to think about, and is the last thing they’ll focus on when confronted with the real possibility of lifelong separation. They’ll come up with excuses, plans, arguments, anything that might be able to change the impending separation. They literally can’t picture their life being apart, because their personalities and dreams and emotional selves are so connected that the very idea of being apart for good is like imagining themselves being split in half (this goes for a romantic relationship as well, though more specifically within one where the two were best friends before they fell in love).
These are just a basic few things that can comprise a close friendship. You don’t need to use all of these, and by all means, don’t limit yourself to using only the ones I’ve listed. Use some, use none, but make sure you really look at the characters you have and focus on showing that closeness where it’s supposed to exist. It offers greater development of both characters, adds to the realism of the plot, and helps with the overall story.
For more on this topic with examples, check out Livia Blackburne’s awesome article –
Good luck and good writing!
~ Everyday Writer