5 Tips to Write a Compelling Friendship

In Finland we call Valentines day Friend's Day, so today I'm giving some advice on how to write platonic relationships 😘

And these tips might be helpful even when you're writing romantic relationships in your stories, because to create a deep romantic relationship it may be beneficial to first make sure that your characters' relationship arc would work as a platonic relationship, and then add the romance on top of that.

These tips might really be helpful for any type of relationship in your stories.

But friendships and sibling or parental relationships are my absolute favourite. Every important subplot relationship doesn't have to be a romance.

Not every character needs to even desire romance, or ever end up with anybody.

Being alone doesn't mean you're actually alone, and even if you are actually alone, that isn't too bad, either.

Friendships are one of the most fun ways to reveal more about your main character, and to advance their arc and advance their story forward. The fact that your main character has people they love and care about makes them so much more loveable (also check out my post about creating loveable characters!). It’s easier to root for someone who has people they need to protect and care for.

Now, let’s get into my 5 tips to write a friendship in your book.

1. Make your characters compelling

Your characters are the foundation of your story, and their friendship will only be as compelling as the characters themselves. 

So make sure your characters are well-rounded and have distinct personalities, backgrounds, and motivations, because this will help them stand out and make their friendship more interesting. 

Don’t be afraid to make your characters flawed and imperfect.

Imperfect people are fascinating. Besides developing the friendship itself, it’s important to ensure that each character has their own arc and growth throughout the story.

At the core of your character should be a deep wound that they’re grappling with and struggling to fix. This inner struggle, this inner conflict, is more relatable than simply dealing with external conflict. Inner conflict not only adds layers to your characters, whether they be main characters or side characters. It also adds depth to the friendship you’re writing.

By giving each character their own motivations and goals, and exploring how their friendship affects those aspirations, you can create a richer and more complex story.

Perhaps you can show one character struggling with personal issues, and the other character supporting them as they work through those challenges. Preferably, you’ll find opportunities to show both characters supporting each other throughout the story.

Alternatively, both characters could have opposing goals that challenge their friendship and forces them to make hard decisions, like having to choose to pursue another goal over helping their friend.

The most important thing here is to make sure that your characters have a life outside of their friendship. It sucks to read stories where the side characters are just used by the main character or the plot, and clearly don’t have any goals, dreams or fears of their own. Make your main character’s friends be fully fleshed out characters, not just cardboard cut-outs!

Give your characters distinct voices and unique quirks that make them memorable. Consider what makes them tick and what their ultimate goals and desires are. This will help you create believable and engaging interactions between them.

One way to develop compelling characters is to use character questionnaires or profiles. These can help you think through important details like their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and defining traits. You can also consider their personal histories, relationships, and life experiences, as these will shape their behaviour and outlook on the world.

As you develop your characters, keep in mind that they don’t exist in a vacuum. Think about how their personalities and experiences shape their interactions with each other, and consider how their friendship will develop and change over time. This will make your story more dynamic and keep your readers invested in your characters’ journeys.

Ultimately, creating compelling characters is about making them feel real and relatable to your readers. By taking the time to develop your characters and give them distinct personalities and backgrounds, you can create a friendship that feels authentic and engaging.

2. Show their bond

Friendships are all about the bond between characters, and the best way to convey that bond is through their actions and interactions. Instead of simply telling readers that two characters are friends, show their friendship through dialogue, body language, and shared experiences. 

This will make the bond between them feel more genuine and impactful, and readers will be able to see how the friendship develops organically.

Overall, showing the bond between characters is all about creating authentic and meaningful interactions that show their trust, loyalty, and affection for each other. By doing so, you can create a friendship that readers will root for and care about throughout your story.

Have them share inside jokes or references that only they understand. This can create a sense of intimacy and connection between them that readers will pick up on.

Small gestures can also go a long way in showing the strength of a friendship. For example, having one character offer a shoulder to cry on or bring the other character their favourite snack when they’re feeling down can demonstrate their closeness and support for each other.

I absolutely love reading these moments in books. It’s super cute when characters go out of their way to do things for each other, bring each other food or do even small things to help them progress in their goals.

But I think the most effective way to show the bond between characters is to have them face conflicts together. This can range from minor disagreements to major obstacles that threaten their friendship. By having your characters work through conflicts and come out stronger on the other side, you can demonstrate the depth and resilience of their bond.

Show your characters protecting each other, and making difficult decisions together, listening to each other's input and asking for advice. 

You can make writing a strong friendship so much easier by showing them interacting with the conflict in your story. Show them fighting for something, and fighting against the thing that stands in the way of your characters’ happiness. 

Conflict forces them to grow a stronger bond in order to survive.

You can use it to either increase the amount of trust between your characters, or make them trust each other less. Test the characters’ friendship and bring them closer together, or further apart. Or tear them apart and then bring them back together… Everyone loves a good “friends to enemies back to friends” arc. Or at least I do.

3. Let there be friction

Friendships aren’t always smooth sailing, and introducing opposing opinions or lifestyles, conflict and obstacles into the friendship can make it more dynamic and add depth to the characters and their relationship. 

This can include disagreements, betrayals, or external challenges that threaten to tear the friendship apart. By exploring these conflicts, you can create tension and show the characters growing and maturing as they navigate their friendship and their other challenges.

When your characters clash, this allows you to reveal something new about these characters to the audience. You can use these conflicts to explore their motivations, beliefs, and values, and how they handle adversity. By putting your characters in difficult situations, you can reveal their strengths and weaknesses, and how they cope with conflict.

It’s important to remember that not all conflicts have to be big or explosive. Even small disagreements or misunderstandings can create friction in a friendship and add complexity to your characters. These can be as simple as two characters having different opinions on a topic or one character being upset that the other didn’t invite them to an event.

The key is to make sure that the conflicts are rooted in the characters and their personalities, and not just added for the sake of drama or pointless toxicity. By doing so, you can create a more nuanced and realistic portrayal of friendship, where even the strongest bonds are tested.

In the end, allowing for friction in a friendship can make your story more engaging and give your characters more room to grow and change. By showing the ups and downs of their relationship, you can create a richer and more satisfying experience for your readers.

4. Include emotional depth

Friendships are often built on emotions and shared experiences, and including emotional depth in your writing can make the friendship feel more meaningful and real. 

Your characters are going on a journey together, so show that inner struggle as they fight to get what they want. This can include scenes that show the characters comforting each other, reminiscing about the past, or expressing their love and gratitude for one another. By slowing down and stopping for a moment to delve into the emotional lives of your characters, you can create a friendship that feels authentic and has more of a memorable impact.

Consider how the characters grow and change throughout the story, and how their friendship strengthens as a result. Use the middle of the book to show their friendship goes through difficult and happy moments, and then use the ending to bring their arcs to a satisfying conclusion, and show how their friendship has affected their lives in meaningful ways. This will create an emotional depth to your fictional friendship that makes readers wish they could be a part of your story just so they could join that friendship, too.

You can also use the characters’ emotions to drive the plot forward. For example, if one character is going through a difficult time, their friend might try to help them by going on a quest or taking action in some other way. By showing the characters’ emotional investment in each other, you can create a sense of urgency and tension in the story.

Another way to include emotional depth in your writing is to use sensory details to create a mood or atmosphere. For example, you might describe the colors and textures of a sunset to evoke a sense of nostalgia or use a rainy day to set a melancholy tone.

Finally, give your characters room to process their emotions and reflect on their experiences. This can be done through internal monologues, diary entries, or conversations between characters. By showing the characters grappling with their feelings, you can create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability that will make the friendship feel more real and relatable.

In the end, including emotional depth in your writing can make your fictional friendship more than just a plot device. It can create a connection between your characters and your readers, and make your story a memorable and impactful experience.

5. Give them a history

A character’s backstory and their shared history can greatly affect the way they interact with one another, and show WHY they’re even friends in the first place.

So often I read books that make me wonder why these characters are even friends, because they have nothing in common and nothing in their history that would give them a reason to be friends. But then there are other books that feature friends who feel like absolutely inseparable platonic soulmates, and I would die if they ever lost each other.

The thing with backstory is that you don’t want to tell it to your readers through just exposition or dialogue. Instead, you should show it by using small details, hinting at the characters’ shared experiences in an organic, natural way that slowly reveals more about them and keeps the friendship feeling like it could be completely real. Like I said earlier in this post, don’t just tell the reader that your characters are friends. Use small details to build on their history piece by piece.

Perhaps they have a specific inside joke only they understand, or maybe they share a favourite childhood memory that they reminisce about. These details not only convey their history but also add depth to the characters and make their friendship feel more authentic. 

Show through these small details, jokes and conversations how the characters have grown and changed throughout their lives both together and perhaps even when they’ve been apart. 

Maybe they were once inseparable, but have now drifted apart due to different life paths. What if they’ve had a falling out but eventually reconnected? How does that affect their relationship now? Are they happy to forget the past and forgive, or is their relationship strained and awkward? What if one character forgets and forgives, while the other one holds a grudge?

Friendships come in many different forms, from childhood friendships to work relationships to romantic partnerships. By exploring different types of friendships, you can create a more diverse and interesting story.

Consider how the different types of friendships might affect the characters and their interactions, so that you can create a more nuanced and multifaceted story that will resonate with a wider range of readers. A childhood friendship might be built on shared experiences and nostalgia, while a work relationship might be more focused on shared goals and aspirations.

Additionally, giving your characters a shared history can also create conflict and tension in their friendship. Maybe there was a betrayal or misunderstanding in the past that has yet to be resolved, or maybe their shared experiences have led to a fundamental difference in values or beliefs.

By adding complexity to their shared history, you can make their friendship more dynamic and interesting. It also provides an opportunity for growth and resolution, as the characters work through their past issues and come to a deeper understanding of each other.

Setting also plays a part when it comes to your characters’ backstory and history. For example, a shared love or hatred towards a specific location, like a forest or a cafe, can make characters talk about their past and help show your readers what the characters’ childhoods were like, how your characters met and became friends, or what important events have happened in their past that tie them together and solidified their friendship for life.

In conclusion, giving your characters a history together (and separately from each other!) can make their friendship feel more fleshed out and believable. It creates a foundation for their current relationship and gives your readers a glimpse into their shared past. 

Whether it’s through shared memories, inside jokes, or unresolved conflicts, exploring the characters’ history adds depth and richness to your story. And we love depth and richness!! Give us complexity! Those are the things that make fictional friendships truly compelling.


Wooo! That was a long one!

Those were my 5 tips for crafting strong, compelling platonic relationships in stories. Good luck with your writing!

Do you have strong friendships in your work in progress? What creates friction between your characters in that friendship?

I hope these writing tips were helpful.

I'll see you soon for another blog post.

// Em 🌷

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