March 1, 2017

Developing Deeper Characters: The Best Friend / Confidante

I hate to admit it, but as much as I love a lone-wolf MC, something spectacular happens when you introduce a close friend or confidante into the mix. Suddenly, there's another voice that can almost act as the conscience or alter ego of the MC.

The presence of a friend allows the reader to see a more vulnerable (or even a braver) side to the MC. As long as they're moderately likable, they can be blunt, tacky, or forward in a way that the MC rarely can. So if writing SIFs ("strong independent female" characters) aren't your thing, or if you're looking to round out your character and give them more complexity, the Best Friend/Confidante may be just the thing. Friends can give your character much needed confidence, or a kick in the pants (whichever they need more at that moment).

A good example of why friends in fiction work well can be found in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The character's personalities balance one another and it's probably not just to reach a diversity quota. A sensual, outgoing friend can be balanced by her timid, commitment-phobic pal (and vice-versa) until each girl is left as the best version of herself. If you ask me, it just works.

In the world of creative fiction, we're often told that the MC needs to make the vast majority of conscious decisions in order to move the plot forward. While this is often the case, not every story calls for that. Not every character needs to be a "man of action". In fact, as a Phlegmatic personality myself, I find it the notion that every character ought to behave this way to just be silly. But, if the MC isn't moving the plot forward, who is? The best friend.

Don't believe me? Go watch Finding Nemo and pay close attention to the relationship between Dory and Marlin (Nemo's father). While Marlin does eventually learn to be a more active character, it is often Dory that pushes him to venture outside of his comfort zone and try new things. She gets the plot rolling and pushes him forward until he's ready to take the torch and cross the finish line.

Obviously, film is going to function a bit differently from the written word, but the concept still applies. In an interview with Sam Jones, Judy Greer explains this beautifully. Check it out.

For more on character development, check out Developing Deeper Characters: Backstory and Fear.
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1 comment:

  1. I love strong friendships in novels and movies for the reasons you stated. It's endearing to see two flawed characters push and pull to make each other better. Plus, it's a great way to approach conflict in the novel with different thoughts and reactions, which, in my opinion, makes the story more interesting. Great post!


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