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Writing Tip: Keep Calm and Don’t Forget Your Friends

May 17, 2014

Hello! I apologize for the month-long wait: my life’s been a bit crazy. The short of it is I was in a car crash and later hired for my first full time position at SAGE Publications, which is an academic publishing company. They were unrelated incidents, but did happen in that order. A lot of my savings was wiped to find new transportation (thankfully insurance helped a ton), but I’m also the new Associate Production Editor. And I’m still alive. So… all’s well.

But onwards! I was browsing the Internet and found this Tumblr post which discusses the startlingly lack of friendship in fiction and suggests different types of friendship formats authors could use. I read it, and my mind was bit blown with “Oh yeah, this does happen a lot doesn’t it.”

Please, please read the post. I wish I had written something so helpful and lovely.

I’m a huge subscriber to the school of “art should mimic life,” because I’ve witnessed how damaging it can be for art to not do so. People model their behavior on how they’re taught to behave and how they see others behaving. This can be as subtle and harmless as preferring green gel pens because all the other kids in the class have green gel pens, or as creepily direct as your friend telling you about a breakup using the exact wording and plot structure of He’s Just Not That Into You. Which has happened to me, by the way.

Each person you meet is not alone: they come with a network of social bonds attached, especially if they’re older. Friendship is a very powerful force in life and in fiction: Holmes and Watson have never been forgotten and it’s been over one hundred years. Both casual and deep friendships open up new possibilities for your main character(s), provide more potential drama, can explore different facets of the character, and overall make them more life-like and real to the audience. Even if they don’t have friends now, they could have had them in the past and forge new relationships in the future.

So, reading the mentioned post, I set up a challenge for you. In your next fiction piece, I double dog dare you to have one of each friendship type mentioned: the “You’re OK,” “Acquaintance,” “Friend,” and “Life companion.”

As an example, I thought of the JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which has all sorts of character relations. It is a bit fishy that Harry had absolutely no one before his Hogwarts letter, and Rowling did try to address it by saying Dudley’s gang and Harry’s magical outbursts kept others away. But still. No one stood with him? Out of the entire primary school? You can experience bullying, even when you have friends.

However, this lasts all of four chapters and after that Harry forms friendships at a brisk pace. For a “You’re OK,” Ernie Macmillan works on group projects with Harry during Chamber of Secrets and they share opinions, though frequently disagree. Oliver Wood is more of an “Acquaintance” than a friend, since they have interests in each other’s lives and Quidditch, but don’t dig much deeper. The Weasley Twins are in Harry’s “Friend” category: they help him on numerous occasions, but Harry does not include them in all of his plans and share all his secrets. It almost goes without saying that Ron and Hermione are Harry’s life companions.

There are a lot more examples in the series—even ones not centered on Harry—and many more are explored in fanfiction like Charlotte’s. But you, authors! And author me! Keep Calm and Don’t Forget Your Friends.

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From → Writing Tips

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