Writers: Fine Tune your Characters' Friendships

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.
We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O'Keeffe
Friendship, I think it's safe to say, is an issue in most if not all children's books. Now that my MG mystery is finished and in the hands of editors, I realize a subconscious exploration of friendship had been going on during the writing, some good, some bad.
Friendships are important - if not crucial - for our well-being.

An Aha Moment

The book was done. Fini. Caput. Honest. Time away, in its wisdom, has continued to fine-tune unexpected areas that felt complete only days ago. The questions began to rise like the broth in vegetable soup: Did I cover enough ground in my portrayals of my characters' interactions? Can I make their growing friendships more meaningful?
There are four major friendships-in-the-making:
mc + sidekick
mc + grandpa
mc + dog
mc + cat and her kittens
The antagonist isn't having it:

antag - bullies mc
antag - is jealous of mc
antag - is mean and cruel - a bully
antag - her egotism blocks any hope of friendship unless she changes
The antagonist's problem? The eleven-year-old mc and her sidekick compliment each other. Friendship blooms. She doesn't know how to be friends.
Nothing can replace the value of a close friendship.

Example of a friendship-in-the-making:

Sidekick:                                                                     mc:

not in tune with subtleties of others                           empathetic to the extreme

athletic                                                                        not athletic at first

cautious, not wanting to get in trouble                       is willing to take chances, curious,                                                                                         adventuresome

entrenched in her immediate surroundings                 thinks outside of the box

outdoors type                                                              artistic, prone to indoor activities

By the end of the book, the characters learn from each other and share their qualities. The master plan is to expand this book into a series. The characters will grow. Their friendships will deepen. That's the goal.

Develop Positive Traits of Friendship

As I wade through this partial list of how my characters can become better at being friends, think of the portrayal of your characters' friendships. Do they need fine tuning?

Making and retaining friendships isn't easy.

Choose your friends wisely.

Believe in yourself.

Be introduced.

Be loyal.

Be positive.

Be reliable.

Be respectful.

Be trustworthy.

Be careful not to be hurtful.

Be a good listener.

Be truthful.

Be confident but not egotistical.

Have fun.

Have the shoulder a friend can cry on.

Keep in touch.

Make eye contact and smile.

Remember birthdays and special occasions.

Show interest.

For more information, check out the entire articles that contributed to this article:
Photo: By Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.


Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, great tips on creating and developing character friendships in children's writing. It's important for the friendships to evolve, just like the mc should.

Love the first on in the list: Choose your friends wisely!

Linda Wilson said...

So true! Thank you, Karen. You're a pal!

P. Herron said...

Nice mapping of the characters' relationships! Makes them much more complex.

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you, Pam. I saw Linda Tripp at the March critique group meeting and we lamented about your move to California. However, I bet it will be beautiful there. Safe travels. Please let me know whenever you're in Albuquerque. It would be great fun to get together again.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Girl friendships have been a Basic structural element in romantic comedies for screenwriting forever. Thank you for reminding me.

Linda Wilson said...

Yes, what would we do without our girlfriends?!

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