Character Relationships - Guest Post by Cyn Balog

So I sent an urgent message to Cyn Balog the other day, gibbering about character relationships and how difficult it can be to make them real. She responded with this amazing guest post for Creare. She is fabulous and wonderful and all those awesome words smashed together into a super-awesome-nova! Thank you Cyn for this great post and I'll stop typing now so the peeps can read.

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Yes, it's important to craft real relationships in your books, and by that I mean “dysfunctional”. Think about it: If you have two people who get along completely well 100% of the time, that’s not a relationship… that’s cloning.

My books have been mostly plot-driven, but that doesn't mean you can ignore character relationships. While you’re throwing physical plot obstacles into the way of your main characters (like falling boulders, for example), keep in mind that relationships with secondary characters can create the biggest, most real obstacles of all, while revealing character. So it’s important to know your characters very well, and I recommend creating a character that has goals in direct opposition to the goals you’ve set out for your main character.

Also, if your book is plot-driven, remember you need to create a few breather scenes in there, a little falling action. Your scenes should either advance your plot or advance your character toward their goal, or both, so during these breather scenes is a perfect time to foster your character relationships. Have them doing something very normal, for example making spaghetti, having a dialogue, just interacting. You obviously don't want these scenes to drag on forever and you want to make sure it has something to do with the plot, but a few of these scenes can help the reader sympathize with the characters and deepen the understanding of the character’s motivations and goals.

And finally, your characters need to have a history. The deeper your characters are by themselves, the more meaningful their relationships will be to the reader. For example, if you illustrate (through flashbacks, perhaps) how a man has gone through several relationships but never found “the one”, when he finally marries a girl, that will have more impact than if you just show him marrying the girl. The more real your characters are by themselves, the more real their relationships will be.

The way characters respond to adversity is a great way to reveal who they are, and there’s no better way to test a relationship than throwing a crisis at it. In the movie SPEED, Sandra Bullock’s character says something like, “Relationships built on extreme circumstances never work,” but they DO work for fiction. Even in character-driven fiction, there needs to be crisis, conflict. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but it’s always present. How your characters work together (or maybe how they don’t work together) through that conflict will reveal the strength or weakness of that relationship.