Relationship Development

At its core, relationship development is based on the same principles no matter the relationship, whether the characters in question are sworn enemies, best friends, or lovers.

Relationship development is important, not just between your main character and those they love, but also those they hate. Make sure your antagonists (the ones that are people) have developed relationships with your main character as well. It will add dimension to both your conflict and your antagonist.

1. Develop your side characters

It’s hard to have really well developed relationships if the only character that is developed in your main character. While you might not put a lot of the development of your side characters in the book itself, you should know everything about them.

Without well-developed characters, it is hard to portray good relationships, and this is something to keep in mind particularly in the case of friends. Often the main characters and the love interest are fully developed, but the friend characters are used more for plot devices.

2. Start out slow

As much as you want your characters to fall in love, be friends, or loathe each other immediately, it’s just not realistic in most scenarios.

For an example I know everyone is probably familiar with, in Harry Potter, Draco and Harry didn’t immediately hate each other. Draco made overtures of friendship when they met, and then again later. Their antagonism built with every confrontation they had.

Take your characters’ personalities and the situation of where they meet into account when deciding how they will start off their relationship. It’s fine to have your characters “click” but make sure your readers can connect why your characters got along so well. For example, using Harry Potter again, Ron and Harry fall into a friendship, but it feels natural because of how they met and their respective situations.

3. Build their relationships consciously 

Be mindful of the pacing of your relationship development, and make sure it feels natural. Some ways your characters can get closer (or further apart):

  • Shared experiences
  • Communication
  • Shared interests
  • Time spent together

Each interaction should strengthen or weaken their relationship. No matter what device you use to build their relationship, make sure it is natural to your characters’ personalities. Someone who has issues with trust is not going to spill all of their secrets in a bonding moment unless significant trust has been built up.

Relationships should be multifaceted, so vary their interactions. For long-term relationships, romantic love should not be only based in attraction, but have a great deal of trust and communication built up as well.

4. Show the development

Highlight the development over the course of your story by showing characters getting closer. What form this takes really depends on your characters, but they could share secrets more easily or be more likely to show physical affection with hugs, or simply spend more time together. Each scene that they interact should show their progress.

However you choose to show it, it will be more prominent if there is a direct contrast between early in their relationship and after there has been significant development.



How do you develop your characters’ relationships? Share your tips below!

What’s wrong with adverbs?

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with adverbs. An adverb is a word that modifies or describes another word in your sentence—usually verbs, other adverbs, or adjectives. They are important tools and can provide necessary information, but it’s important to be aware of how you’re using them in your writing.

Adverbs get a bad rep when writers use adverbs to prop up lazy writing. Like many writing “rules”, it all comes back to the age old show, don’t tell principle and conciseness.

Look at the following two paragraphs:

“You’re going to pay,” Alex said icily. He walked angrily out of the room, leaving Bob to stare stupidly after him. The door slammed loudly as he left.

“You’re going to pay.” Alex said. He stalked out of the room, leaving Bob to stand there, frozen, one hand still raised to reach for his coffee mug. He’d had never heard Alex sound so cold. The door slammed as he left.

These two paragraphs say almost the same thing, but the difference in strength of the writing is apparent. The adverbs tell us how Alex and Bob feel and act, but we don’t need to be told in the second paragraph; we know.

In some cases, the adverbs were telling us something the verb already told us, like with slammed and loudly. Loudness is already conveyed in slammed. There is no other way to slam a door than to do it loudly, so this adverb a wasted word and should be cut.

Should adverbs be completely banished?

No. Like all writing rules, avoiding adverbs is by no means ironclad. If there is a sentence that this one adverb brighten up, and nothing else will do, by all means use it. If you need it to convey information, use it. But whenever you come across an adverb while editing your writing, you should consider:

a) What does it add that is unique?

b) Is there any better way I can convey the information?

c) Is it part of a dialogue tag?

If the adverb gives unique information, then it serves a purpose. Often though, you’ll find the information given by the adverb is already shown elsewhere in your text. Readers don’t like it when you repeat things they already know.

If it’s a part of a dialogue tag, it’s best to remove the adverb. As discussed on my previous post on said, there are better ways to convey information in dialogue, through interspersing action between the characters talking. However, adverbs are natural in everyday speech, so they definitely belong inside quotation marks. You can use them to make your characters speak realistically.

Tips for avoiding unnecessary adverbs
  • Choose more powerful verbs. The English language is rife with verbs, many of which mean something similar but have different connotations. You can write, but you can also scribble, pen, address, jot, compose, draft, or scrawl. Select a strong verb, and you will have no need for an adverb.
  • Focus on small details. Instead of tapping on something nervously, describe their tapping so that it shows their nerves.
  • Don’t be afraid of short sentences. They are useful and don’t need to be filled with fluff to make them longer.
  • Leave out very and really.

It’s hard to let go of purposeless adverbs. I, like most writers, find them all the time in my writing and have to prune them out when editing. Make sure the adverbs you’re using serve a purpose, and your writing will be stronger and more engaging.

However, adverbs should not be stressing you out during the first draft. Concentrate on getting your story down, and worry about adverbs or other style issues when editing.