Please join me in welcoming guest blogger Rae Elliott to The Educated Writer!
As writers, we tend to pair up characters that either:
A) Take on the world together like best buds
B) Fight relentlessly until someone dies or bends (or both)
So what relationship isn’t getting as much love? Unlikely character friendships that challenge character growth. Consider examples like Dustin Henderson and Steve Harrington of Stranger Things, Legolas and Gimli of Lord of the Rings, and Carl Fredricksen and Russell of UP. What can these awesome pairings teach us about the value of unlikely character friendships?
1. They share a unique, previously unseen side of each character
2. They create an exciting twist in story development that readers will devour
3. They encourage character development
1. Readers See Unseen Character Personality Traits
Who would’ve seen Steve Harrington, a popular ladies man, and Dustin Henderson, an unpopular super geek, ever relating about anything ever? No one, that’s who. But what we loved about their relationship in Stranger Things 2 was the way they opened up to one another and shared a side of themselves no one else knew.
We see Steve as one-dimensional, yet in the one pivotal scene where Dustin and Steve set out together to bait Dart the Demo-Dog, Steve gives Dustin “girl” advice. It’s just guy talk, really, but we enjoy every second of it because these two unlikely friends are relating to one another. Plus, Steve reveals his embarrassing secret to getting his hair so coiff-tastic- something he’s never told anyone. It cements their unique bond.
What’s so great about this is Steve becomes a big-brother figure to Dustin in a way. Due to the wild circumstances that bring them together, Dustin gains the confidence to talk to the ladies and Steve, in turn, befriends a great kid he once considered below his tier on the social ladder. We adore this pairing because we get to see a side of both characters we’d never see if they hadn’t become friends. We love each of them more as a result, and we root for this friendship.
2. Your Story Gets an Exciting Twist in Development
Dwarves and Elves have hated one another for centuries. Ages ago, Mirkwood Elves refused to support Dwarves in their battle to take back their homeland, and the seed of hatred was planted. When Gimli, a dwarf, and Legolas, an Elf of Mirkwood, join the Fellowship and support Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring, we see the potential for sparks to fly.
Right from the get-go, in fact, Gimli and Legolas are butting heads. We are certain that this fracture in the Fellowship will bring disaster. But there’s something about slicing Orcs apart that instead brings people together. Gimli and Legolas protect one another and fight alongside each other loyally. The cause unites them, and as the conflict rises, their bond grows tighter. They see the good in one another, playfully tease and challenge each other, and deeply respect one another (even if they don’t admit it).
Readers love to see twists like this. No one saw this friendship coming because the story set up the divide between these two races at the outset. This meaningful and unlikely friendship sends a powerful message to readers as well. So consider how your characters can come together and even enhance your world-building efforts by making history together.
3. Unlikely Friendships Encourage Character Development
Carl Fredricksen lost his best friend, fellow adventurer, and wife Ellie. Just before losing Ellie, the two had saved enough funds to finally take that adventure together to Paradise Falls. Ever since his loss, he’s done everything he can to preserve the memory of Ellie and their life together. When Carl and his house floats away with the help of 10,000 balloons, little does he know that in an attempt to get his “assisting the elderly” badge, Wilderness Explorer Russell has become a passenger on this flight.
The two are polar opposites. Russell, a happy-go-lucky adventurous child and Carl, a tired, cranky old man, are forced together on the adventure of a lifetime.
Writing characters you know nothing about? Find out more about how to write characters that are nothing like you right here.
Through their journey, Carl is reminded of what joy he had as a child pretending with Ellie and doing the unexpected. Through plucky, relentless Russell’s friendship, Carl grows and is able to make peace with his loss. He’s reminded to have adventures in honor of Ellie’s memory. He develops as a character and softens. He cares for Russell, Kevin and Dug, making peace and having adventures in the name of the past. We adore this pairing because we see the comical contrasts in their personalities. But as their bond grows, and they look out for each other more, they grow as individuals as well. This unlikely character friendship has us realizing that they actually needed one another all along.
The one uniting factor with all these friendships are unlikely circumstances. Conflict that unites people is the foundation for creating unlikely character friendships. Does your story lend itself to creating bonds between characters due to unexpected conflict? Are there scenes in your story that could introduce an unlikely character friendship? Clearly, unlikely character friendships are adored and celebrated by readers, so why not include one in your story? It will enhance the world you’ve shared with your reader, and give them all the more reason to invest in your characters!
Need help getting a great story idea in the first place? Read this great article by Jade!
What unlikely character friendships do you love? Share in the comments section below which pairings you love and why you love them! I’d love to hear what you have to say :)
Rae Elliott is a sci fi & fantasy author, blogger, Ent hugger, and Wampa whisperer. But most importantly, Rae believes all teens can write fandom-worthy fiction. Rae shares her writing tips for success over at her blog Barely Hare Books.com. Rae is developing the “Fundamentals of Fandom-Worthy Fiction” Writing Course for new writers which you can learn more about right here. You can also check out her latest fantasy fiction novella Guppies here. Find Rae on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook at: @barelyharebooks