I apologize to anyone who has sent me a message recently! I just got one in my inbox and noticed that there a few others before it. I was never notified. I wasn’t trying to ignore you or anything I swear!
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
Writing Fiction For Dummies
Ok. So Just to be a dick here. The third most important thing any writer must do (First and second being writing and reading) is to develop support. You are not an island no matter how many funny writer gifs of absolute isolation you see floating around the web. You need support and more importantly than generic support you need support of people who have been where you are now and where you want to go. You’ll need those mentors and those friends for they will help you weather the storm of your emotions. (And if you’re like me you have a lot of those.)
It opens up so many opportunities for you to break into publishing (on either side) and gives you first person access to information about your (hopefully) future job.
So go build your author network, make friends don’t just buy into the solitary writer idea. We push emotional connections with words and empathize as part of our job requirement. While writing is something you need to do alone when you get down to it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.
By 2030 we’ll be cyber tech and while I know it’s been done to death I wonder if we’ll ever see books that feature a high opportunity costs for humans who upgrade to cyber parts.
In my three years as an editor and two as a writing center tutor, I have learned that commas are the most commonly misunderstand punctuation.
Even worse, commas in fiction can be subjective. I’m going to cover some bases with how to use commas that aren’t as obvious.
- Use commas for independent clauses. Independent clauses are sentences that can stand on their own.
Amelia couldn’t stand looking at Oliver, but she also couldn’t stand that she had been betrayed by someone who loved her since they met. Remove the ‘but,’ and both sentences can stand on their own. However, when a sentence is short with two independent clauses, a comma isn’t necessary: I like apples and he likes bananas.
- Use a comma to set off introductory elements. The introductory element is often a dependent clause, meaning it depends on an independent clause to function as a full sentence.
Racing away from Theosodore, Amelia threw herself against the door and began slamming her fists against the flimsy wood.
- Use commas between independent clauses and dependent clauses.
Amelia was still shaken, although she hadn’t lost her life. If you add the second phrase in front of the independent clause, it becomes an introductory element—hence, add that comma.
- Use commas to set off parenthetical elements. The parenthetical element is a sentence that can be removed without changing the meaning.
Amelia’s brother, who is eight years old, can see the shadows, too. Remove the parenthetical element, and the meaning doesn’t change.
- Use a comma to prevent misunderstanding.
Amelia ran to the door, running faster than a hoard of skittering spiders. Without that comma, people would think the door was running.
Outside, the blue sky contrasted with the storm in Amelia’s heart. Remove the comma, and the sentence becomes nonsense.
- Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives.
The tall, terrifying shadow stood over Amelia, glaring deep into her eyes. Here’s a simple trick: put and between tall and terrifying. Read it out loud. If it makes sense, then put a comma there.
Now here are some sentences where comma usage can be subjective in fiction. These commas are stylistic choice.
"So she went to the store." Without a comma, this reads as a simple statement, changing the tone entirely. It seems as if the speaker is annoyed.
"So, she went to the store." This reads as more of an explanation than a simple statement.
Amelia couldn’t stop the shadows because she was too busy protecting her brother. A comma doesn’t really seem necessary, however…
Amelia hated staring into Oliver sad gray eyes filled with unending voids, because she could see so much of herself in them. I put a comma there, as the sentence before ‘because’ is longer than previous example I gave. But, really, using a comma before ‘because’ is actually pretty subjective, depending on how you want your readers to read it. It also helps to break up a longer sentence.
Another interesting comma usage that can change the meaning of a sentence entirely. “Stop slapping, Nathaniel.” Without that comma, Nathaniel is the one being slapped.
There are a bunch of other rules for commas, but I wanted to point out the most commonly misused rules. (Don’t overuse commas.) Here is a link for more instances of comma usage: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm
Re-blog for fellow writers frustrated with the poor, misunderstood comma. Next post will be on creating tension in your story.
Modern fiction is sorely lacking in friendships - and I don’t count friendships that evolve into romantic relationships. I’m talking about a real old-fashioned friendship that has no romantic connotations or potential whatsoever. Romance and sex are great, but they’re not the end-all, be-all.
Types of Friendship
- You’re OK. That person that you talk to rarely, but you’ve heard good things about them. You talk to share opinions on stuff sometimes, but you don’t have a lot of shared interests and you never hang out. Anyway, you don’t mind working with them on group projects.
- Acquaintance. That person who you make small talk with on a fairly regular basis. You know the basics of their life and they know the basics of yours. You get along well and you’ll work together if your better friends aren’t around. You have a mild interest in each other but rarely hang out.
- Friend. That person who you hang out with on a fairly regular basis. You share many interests, such as humor, media (books, shows, etc.), sports, hobbies, and/or opinions. You, at least, have a strong interest in their life and they ideally have a mild to strong interest in theirs. However, there are things you keep from each other and you would probably not help them bury a body.
- Life companion. That person who you hang out with as much as you can. You share many interests, have a strong interest in each others’ life, and keep very little from each other. You always work together when you have the chance. You would probably help them murder someone.
Basically, you don’t need to make friendships only people your MC grunts at in greeting or besties 4ever. There’s a whole spectrum and I invite you to play with it.
Problems with Friendships in Fiction
- No friends. The character literally has no friends, even if they have ample exposure to people their own age or sharing the same interests. I understand that a lot of your characters are introverts. So am I. I spend an unhealthy amount of time blogging and I still miraculously have friends on the outside. Even total jerks will probably have some jerk friends.
- Shallow friends. The friends the character does make are rather one-dimensional. They don’t seem to do anything when the MC isn’t around. If they have a life outside the MC, they are usually dating or hanging out with other friends, making them little better than acquaintances.
- Sycophants. This applies chiefly the the MC’s enemies but also the MC. The MC’s enemy has an inexplicably large amount of followers without a reason for it. I would get it if the enemy has wealth or power, but surely there are some people in there that the enemy likes or something about the enemy that makes them charismatic. If the MC has a large following, their friends will fawn over them and/or drop anything to help them, without a real reason why. I often don’t understand why the MC has so many friends, especially if they’re angst-ridden world-savers.
- Friendship = romance. NO IT DOESN’T. Astoundingly, you can be friends with someone of a compatible gender without experiencing sexual attraction to them. As a pansexual, it would be very awkward if I was sexually attracted to everyone I befriended. Also, whenever I hear the phrase, “Marry your best friend”, I puke. I would not marry my best friend, thank you very much (incompatible orientations aside) because our friendship is built on a different kind of intimacy. Romance can develop from friendship - especially if your character is demisexual - but please stop making every single friendship of compatible genders turn romantic.
- "Like a brother/sister to me." This is the plague of male/female friendships. Listen, guys, friendship and fraternity are two different bonds. They’re like apples and oranges, especially considering the bond you have with your siblings rarely maps directly to a bond you have with one of your friends. You’re also discrediting the entire idea of friendship, as if it can’t exist without a familial vibe.
Benefits of Friendship
- Shoulder to cry on
- OK with touching each other
- Long-running inside jokes
- Shared interests
- No judgement - if there is a disagreement, you ideally agree to disagree or have a controlled debate about it
- Exposure to new things
But, you cry, that is exactly like a good romantic relationship without the sex! That’s the point. You can have all the good emotional/intimate things about a romantic relationship without the sex! And you should have important relationships without sex, because they are real and do happen IRL. Also, chances are - especially if your characters are young or unmarried - their closest relationships will be with friends.
Awesomeness of Friendship (Plotwise)
- Friendships don’t tend to end or begin with a bang. So you can have your character slowly deal with the creeping fear their friends are abandoning them or deal with the creeping realization that someone is becoming closer to them in a good way.
- Your MC has difficulty budgeting time between their significant other and their friends
- Friends make great secondary characters and interactions with the MC will bring out their character as well as the MC’s
- Killing off good, well-developed friends really will motivate your MC instead of blase, kind-of-friends the author usually opts for
- BrOTPs (although make sure they are BrOTPs and not a form of queerbaiting)
- Gives your character a larger network of people to emote with, other than the usual lover, mentor, and friend the MC abuses a lot
- Toxic friendships that drive the MC into dangerous situations
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Anonymous said: What's the best way to start a story?
Don’t open with the weather and don’t open with dialogue. That is all.
I disagree with the weather bit. Scott Westerfeld Opened up Uglies with a description of a hazy morning that still makes me giggle to this day (and spurred me on to buy the rest of his series)
DIY Ultimate Know Your Dress Shapes Guide Infographic from Enerie here. For examples of which designer made which silhouettes famous go to the link. For more ultimate guides from Enerie go here:
I am currently bawling because I needed this a year ago.