What if I told you there was a secret to supercharging the relationships—romantic or platonic—in your novel?
Fantasy, romance, suspense, this trick applies to any genre. It raises the stakes, it gets us to invest in the characters, sucks us in and won’t let us go. What is it?
Doesn’t sound amazingly exciting, I know.
But think about one of the greatest fictional relationships of all time—Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. TV shows and movies based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters always feature great mysteries, action and suspense. But so do a million other stories. Even Sherlock’s genius mind, while awesome, isn’t entirely unique. So what makes these London crime-fighters so great?
They are partners. With Holmes and Watson, 1+1 does not equal 2. They are ten times better together than apart. They fill one another’s deficiencies—Sherlock needs Watson to balance him out. They are brutally honest with one another, and their teamwork while crime-fighting is exceptional. Their relationship is so strong that they can fight and no one freaks out that the friendship is over. They’re buddies for life, and they know it.
How does this help the story? For starters, it raises the stakes in a big way. If Watson dies, where does that leave Sherlock? Any threat to their lives or relationship suddenly becomes a major issue. It also gives the writers plenty of room for witty banter and other humour.
Television shows have grasped this concept particularly well. Ever watched Castle? The Mentalist? Covert Affairs? Each of these shows has a partnership at its core, and that is the glue that holds everything else together—even if the crimes, mystery and action get far more screen time.
So, what are some great ways to boost the relationships in your book? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Banter. Witty dialogue is a real art. Jenny B. Jones’ book, Save The Date, is a great example. So is the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- Shared history, memories and experiences.
- Characters knowing what the other will do or say before they do or say it. Remember George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s characters having those half-sentence conversations in the Oceans 11 trilogy?
- Brutal honesty, even insults. It’s a special relationship when you can tell your friend exactly what you think. Sherlock and Watson are great for this, in either the Robert Downey Jr movies or Benedict Cumberbatch’s BBC version.
- Opposite personalities fill one another’s ‘holes’, i.e. Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson, Jane and Lisbon (The Mentalist), Castle and Beckett (Castle), or Becky Bloomwood and Luke Brandon (Confessions of a Shopoholic).
- Terrific teamwork. Without even speaking, the characters know when to punch, duck, and kick together to defeat the bad guys. Think Shanghai Noon or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- They can fight and still be friends. This goes another step beyond brutal honesty. Rarely can a relationship survive strong conflict or differing opinions; the fact that your characters can do this cements their relationship as unshakeable.
- Emotional intimacy; the characters confide in one another and go to each other for advice, even if they are romantically involved with someone else. Annie and Auggie in Covert Affairs are a great example.
- Self-sacrifice. This is a BIG ONE. Anytime a character sacrifices for the other it is a massive ‘awww’ moment. Even a villain, no matter how terrible, can be redeemed by a significant act of self-sacrifice. When a hero does it, it’s that much more heartwarming. Prince Charming and Snow White in Once Upon A Time are total experts at this. Also, before you have a massive sacrifice in your story, you can lead up to it by having one partner act defensive or protective of the other.
- Trust. This is an absolute must. It’s the foundation of every partnership.
So there you have it. All the tools you need to create your own dynamic duo and inject extra humor, high personal stakes and even romance into your story.
Go dream up something awesome!
Jessica Everingham is a 22 year-old Australian blogger, journalist and aspiring author, and is about to start a new career as a course writer. She loves God, good stories and romance, and combines all those elements in her contemporary Christian romance novels. She loves to connect with fellow readers via her blog,
www.jessicaeveringham.com, Facebook (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting) and Twitter (@JessEveringham).