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Creating a Great Friendship Between Characters

This guest blog post by Samantha Amenn explores what it takes to write great characters and realistic friendships.

By Samantha Amenn

Rebecca is in Haiti and Nicole is writing. Please welcome our first guest blogger, Samantha Amenn. Sam is an avid reader and writer currently living in Illinois. She is currently writing a fantasy novel about a revolutionary fighting for his people’s freedom and against members within his own organization that are trying to sabotage his efforts. She has a writing assistant who is named Pepper and is a phoenix. You can read more about their adventures together at their blog Follow along on Twitter  and @pepperdaphoenix .

Photo credit to Greg Raines on

At the heart of any story are the characters and their relationships. Plot provides a blueprint, but if a book doesn’t have realistic and compelling character relationships, then readers will have a hard time caring about the marvelous plot that’s been built. Today, I’ll be discussing how to create realistic best friends, the one character who will never leave your main character’s side.

There are the fairly common components to a great friendship: the moment that solidifies the friends (like Harry and Ron sharing candy on the ride to Hogwarts), the big fight where the side character has a chance to walk away but doesn’t (like when Frodo tries to go to Mordor alone, but Sam stubbornly comes with him anyway), and the moment the side character gets to save/support the main character. However, what a lot of writers miss when developing character friendships are the little quirks.

We all have friends with the obnoxious laugh, the one who snorts when they’re tickled, the one who tells the terrible puns, and the one who is always late. These are little quirks that make a character and they can either get on your MC’s character’s nerves or be the quirks the MC character remembers fondly.

For example, in the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the side character, Conseil, is eternally calm and speaks in the third person. Both quirks can annoy M. Arronax, the MC, but also calm him during the most stressful events during the book because they provide M. Arronax something familiar to latch onto.

Additionally, quirks can be developed as the characters get to know one another. For example, in the Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Gimli turn their antagonism into a competitive game of who can kill more orcs. This leads to some showmanship from both the Elf and Dwarf and becomes the one humorous note during the Battle for Helms Deep.

Friendship Rules

Now that we have an idea of what a quirk is, how do we develop them for our characters? I have the following rule of thumb:

  1. Each side character should have three quirks the MC likes
  2. Each side character should have three quirks that gets on the MC’s nerves
  3. The MC should have three quirks the side character likes
  4. The MC should have three quirks that get on the side character’s nerves
  5. Three quirks that blossom out of their relationship.

I like the number three because it gives us a nice selection of quirks we can sprinkle throughout the story and it adds dimension to the relationship. It is also true that sometimes the quirks that the MC likes one day could be the quirk that annoys the MC the next day because they’re stressed or frightened or angry. Quirks that can either be the one the MC likes or the one that gets on their nerves depending on the situation are probably the most realistic.

I like to create quirks for both characters in the relationship because it pushes us to develop our secondary characters who often get overlooked when it comes to character development. It also challenges us to think about how the MC and side characters interact and see each other. The quirks that the MC like and the ones they don’t like, say a lot about how MCs see the side character. Does the MC only like it when the side character compliments them frequently, but not when the side character gives money to the poor? Or does the MC like it when the side character’s nose crinkles when they laugh, but the side character hates? See how those two questions have already added dimensions to this non-existent MC? And the same is true for the MC’s quirks the side characters likes and dislikes.

The last three quirks, the ones that blossom out of the relationship, are most likely developed during the second and third drafts, since they have to organically come out of the character’s interactions with each other. That isn’t always clear until the first draft is finished. However, these quirks should be responses to each other’s quirks. For example, if your MC is always misplacing things, then the side character can keep track of things for them and pull out the very item the MC was looking for.

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