This post is based on my learnings from writing my debut romcom; Instructions For Falling In Love Again, everything I gleaned from working with two editors and reading a ton of contemporary romcom books featuring fictional friendships through my book blogging.
I am going to be honest here. Until I started working with my editors, the fictional friendships in my stories were not given enough focus or attention. I got so carried away with writing the romance I didn’t appreciate the importance of fictional friendships.
Fictional friendships need to be believable and relatable. When I say fictional friends I mean those minor characters who support your main heroine or hero. They can be male or female. I did try to find a pic for this blog post showing both men and women but I couldn’t find one. Will try harder next time.
So, as a romance reader I want to fall in love with one of your main characters, I want to get close to my electric fan when reading intimate scenes, I want to discover pieces of me buried deep inside characters and I want be reminded of my own friendships. All this is the magical reader glue which will stick me to your novel.
Up until my editors got hold of my novel the minor characters who were friends with my heroine, Pippa, were a bit wooden. Both Emma and Mel had similar traits and you couldn’t distinguish between them.
The game changing moment for me writing fictional friendships was when Emma Mitchell, from Creating Perfection said to me (down the phone in her wonderful Northern accent), ‘why would Pippa be friends with these two?’
She then made me think about how things play out in real life. I stepped away from my novel and started making notes on friendships and supportive friends during the dating years.
My notes looked something like this:
- Friends can influence our thinking and point us in a different dating direction…after one drunken night out with cocktails and a lot of dancing.
- Friends know about our dating past. They know where the skeletons are buried and have funny and embarrassing stories to tell. Over a glass of wine and a bowl of nibbles they will point out where you went wrong with your disastrous relationship with that sixth former, why the crush on the postman never materialised into anything and how your steamy holiday romance changed you as a person.
- Friends also have busy schedules, careers, families, life poop to deal with and bad days.
- Dates will be dissected on Whats App, Messenger, texts and email by friends.
- Chatting with friends usually involves talking about shared memories.
- We act differently when we are with friends as opposed to a ❤️ interest.
- Friends can discuss a wide and extensive range of topics in less than half an hour.
So, with Emma’s help, I pulled together some key things I think should be considered when creating fictional friendships:
- Friends need history too. As a reader I want to know how long your characters have been friends, where they met, some interesting memories and I want to know what is going on in their lives. In my novel, Pippa, Emma and Mel have been friends since school. Mel has just been fired from her job as a flight attendant due to her affair with a pilot and Emma has reached the end of her dating bucket list. These three have shared history as they grew up with Pippa and are godmothers to her kids. In my revised draft I started to bring this out more in their conversations and actions.
- Focus on WHY these characters are friends. As I said above this was a game changer for me. You have to imagine these characters in real life and ask yourself – HONESTLY – why would they be friends? Is your main character someone who would have a best mate like your fictional friend? The big thing for me was why would Pippa be mates with Emma and Mel, who on the surface seem so different. This is when I started to think properly about my characters. As a result Emma and Mel changed. I needed to create imperfect characters who have good reasons to admire and spend time together.
- Share information. If you think about your own friendships you will know that there is a constant flow of information going back and forth. When we are with friends we ask about each other’s lives, we seek out info, we share stories from our daily life and we give info away. This sharing of info is not one way.
- Life poop. Your fictional friends cannot lead perfect existences with no life poop to sort out – this is unrealistic. We are all sorting out life poop in our daily lives. We are either creating life poop through mistakes, bad choices, disasters etc. Clearing up life poop by taking control of our lives, dealing with problems etc or we are ignoring life poop.
- Friends don’t just talk romance. Knowing this I have gone back through several old stories and seen the error of my ways on this. My goodness some of my novels contained fictional friends who were solely focused on the heroine’s love life. Again unrealistic.
- Friends have different views on relationships, marriage, dating and potential love interests. No one has a group of friends who are like little nodding dogs and agree with everything you say.
The best piece of advice I can give you if you are tackling fictional friendship is think about real life. 👍🏻
Have fun out there 🙋🏼
My debut romance novel is the perfect beach read. Click here for more info