Today I am pleased to welcome contributing writer Will Van Stone Jr to Kate Tilton, Connecting Authors & Readers. Will will be sharing some writing craft posts for all our writers out there so please give him a warm welcome! – Kate Tilton
Does your protagonist have friends? No, I don’t mean a group of eerily similar acquaintances like teammates, fellow art majors, pages to get hammered with at the Leaky Cauldron or the old man who teaches him how to wield that great power he discovered he possessed when he sneezed and knocked down the school bully from twenty feet away. No. What I mean is actual, real, you-know-me-better-than-I-know-myself friends; the kind that actually matter in the long run and not just there to fill those last few lines so you can hit your personal writing goal per chapter.
Does he have a best friend? No, not the if we were a movie 90’s teen flick slop. Ew, no thanks. So over those teen things kind of nonsense.
Okay, let’s back this up a bit. Before you list the reasons why a bff is unnecessary I ask you; have you considered how easily they can give real meaning to the story? How they can propel to extremes that a lack of this rather special relationship wouldn’t allow?
Ever hear of…
Buffy & Willow
Louis & Lestat
Lucy & Ethel
Max & Shred
Anita & Ronnie
Um… everyone from Stand By Me
Rylan & Logan (um, what now?)
Let’s take this one at a time, shall we?
BUFFY & WILLOW
Season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a surprise (mostly ‘cause I didn’t expect what happened to happen until the end of season seven but that’s just me) as there was no twenty-plus episode build up to the final confrontation with the Big Bad. In fact, there really wasn’t a big bad that year – just three Little Annoyances. So, as the finale drew near, who should pop up as Sunnydale’s Yearly Psychopath but one of the dang Scoobies, Willow, the Good Witch.
Also, Willow the Best Friend of the Slayer.
It was a edge-of-your-seat kind of play. The sweet, adorkable magic addict had gone all dark and veiny with a desire for total annihilation.
After all, who else could prove a challenge for the unstoppable Buffy Summers when even a murder-happy hell-goddess couldn’t pull it off?
Well, ‘cause Joss is evil, he pitted friend against friend. To the death. By taking the relationship that had grown over six seasons, and threatened to undo all of it with one swift plunge of the stake, he created a tension and suspense that horror movies envy. Buffy, who’d died – TWICE – desperate to save the world and a very Evil Willow desperate to unmake all creation, that story arch made everyone question what was right.
Oh, the drama!
Now, this totally wouldn’t have worked if, say, Amy (post-rat/pre-evil) had gone bat-poop crazy and ripped the skin off her future boyfriend. No connection, no emotional heart. Buffy would’ve staked her evil patootie and went out for pizza. But this time, her enemy was also her ally.
And just imagine the fall out we’d have seen if Xander (her other best friend in a very touching moment) hadn’t talk her off the edge. Amazeballs.
LOUIS & LESTAT
Yes, yes, most of Interview with the Vampire was Louis whining incessantly about how hard it is to be immortal and, trust me, Lestat’s action – that end with a certain shopkeeper and eternal doll as piles of dust – are unforgivable. But the closeness of these two blood suckers cannot be denied.
In a sick, twisted way, they’re connected; they need each other. Somehow, underneath all the blood soaked insanity, they balance each other out. If this story had only one of them, it’d either be an I’m So Lonely I Wish I Could Die or another Oedipus and His Adventures in Sociopathy. Oi and ew. Alone, they’d be terrible protags but together they form the basis for one of the most creative, energetic and enduring universes ever put to page.
And admit it, you ship ‘em, don’t you?
LUCY & ETHEL
Honesty, how could everybody’s favorite redhead (sorry, Rachel) have pulled off even a fraction of her wild antics without devoted Ethel by her side. The most iconic pair from I Love Lucy (take a hike, Ricky) made that show what it was. And still is. Buddy comedy, people. There’s a reason this formula is still used today…
MAX & SHRED
… as Max & Shred proves. Here’s more proof that one may be good but two is better. These two characters, aside from being great role models for how boys are allowed to act even if pop culture says otherwise (feel free to check out my review for more on them), bring out the best in each other.
Again, not so great if they were acquaintances; the oomph wouldn’t be there and we wouldn’t care if Max told Shred to buzz off after realizing they liked the same girl. And Shred definitely wouldn’t have put on the puppy suit to stop his friend’s unique problem. Without the connection, they’d just be two dudes doing stuff. And that’s boring.
ANITA & RONNIE
Listen, if Ronnie suddenly dropped off the face of the earth, everyone would notice. Suddenly, Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter would have zero humanity left in her general vicinity. See, Ronnie, as rarely as she appears, is her anchor to the human world. Without her, she’d just be a vampire-loving, were-banging succubus with more subscriptions than issues.
Anita, for all her strength, needs Ronnie. And without her, she’d be lost to the darkness that creeps in ever more with each new adventure (yea, I’m only up to Micah so if something changes… oops) and threatens to overwhelm her. Ronnie is her superhero.
STAND BY ME
Do I really have to explain this one?
RYLAN & LOGAN
Okay, so I admit this one’s a little self serving. Also, you haven’t met them yet. But these two are the heart and soul of my current WIP and, like the other pairs, their story is far less touching if one is suddenly dropped from the equation. All the pain and pleasure they experience is amplified because their better half reflects it, even when not physically part of it. While you may care what happens to Rylan, it’s Logan’s dedication to him that really punches you in the gut.
SO, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
The “best friend” relationship can, and does, have a huge impact on your story and the way everything plays out, more so than having lesser or more sexual relationships populating your stories. Best friends are the ones that know all, even the things you don’t want them to know; how else can they save you from yourself as so many protags desperately need?
Beginning to see how vital that oh, so, close relationship is? They can be the partner-in-crime. They can be their highest high, their lowest low. They can be what ties them to sanity or cuts them free. They can be their other half, the one that brings out the hidden parts while protecting the secrets. They can also be their biggest challenge, especially when the world’s at stale. they can be their salvation, their ruin, or even both. And when something happens between them, people give a damn. A big damn. Because everyone knows what it’s like to be that close to someone, to share something so intimate.
So remember, when your working away creating the perfect main character, give them a friend. And then use that friend against them at every bloody opportunity.