Life is all about relationships. They influence and affect how each of us relates to the larger world. It makes sense, then, that stories manifest our relationships. Even the lack of interactive relationships are a fun road to traverse in the writing world, as Wilson reminds us every day—though that is a type of relationship in and of itself.
Writers have a dual responsibility when it comes to relationships:
- create compelling and realistic interactions with our characters
- create connections and familiarity between our characters and our audience
Types of Relationships
The first thing we all likely imagine when we hear “relationships” is the romantic kind. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Husbands and wives. The boss and their intern. You get the idea. While there’s nothing wrong with picturing romance, there’s another relationship that’s often overlooked in fictional worlds.
Platonic. Here we get the parent/child stories. Teacher and students. Friendships. Heroes and villains. Beings and objects. Try to keep this in mind when crafting your next story. Especially the interactions of people with inanimate things, or emotions. These are almost more important than the romantic relationships.
From another angle, relationships also exist between concepts. Good versus evil, anyone? It’s the go-to theme in most stories. But you can add deeper layers to your characters by incorporating grey areas among the black-and-white.
Much as your villain can play the parameters of heroism, don’t forget the reverse is true, too. Your hero can test the waters of villainy.
Imagine if you will: a character involved in a plane crash, shown to be a person with strong will, determination, and a desire to help out other victims in the aftermath. That same character is later revealed to be a fugitive, escorted onto that plane in handcuffs. Now that character’s every action is viewed with suspicion. Why are they a fugitive? Was it murder? Will it happen again?
In the above example, I’m describing Kate Austen from Lost. Kate often rides the fence between good and evil. She’s developed throughout the show as someone who wants to do the right thing, even if that thing isn’t always clear or easy.
Another way to play with characters is personality. People often have different personas depending on the people around them. Actions speak volumes, and are a powerful visual about who the character is.