Writing Friendships: the Good, the Bad, and the ViciousFebruary 16, 2015
I’m asked quite frequently if I base my characters on real people. The short answer is no, but I do sometimes base character interactions on ones from real life. To have a whole character be mimicking someone that I know personally has always felt restricting to me. Sure, I might nab someone’s appearance, or take a funny quirk and run with it, but that’s as far as I can comfortably take it. But taking the interactions you have with your friends – the little ones that are simultaneously so personal, and so universal – are what add richness and depth to any story.
The problem here is, my friends and I aren’t perfect.
Who among us won’t instantly bash someone that’s making a friend feel angry, or insecure? Who isn’t guilty of saying, “You’re so much prettier!” And who hasn’t asked a friend to do the same for us?
I read an article over the weekend with the title “The Women We Hate… For No Reason.” It looked at how ready women in general are to instantly hate another woman, just for dating one of our exes, or being the ex of a current paramour. I’d link to the article, but I read it in a magazine (okay, it was Cosmo), and can’t find a digital version. Basically, it looked at the trend of hating on women who you likely don’t even know, and inviting your friends to join in. And of course they do, because they love you, and want to show you that they, at least, like you better. And because you do the same for them.
After reading this article, I started mulling over ways that we, as a society, can move away from this default. It’s an ultimately unfulfilling practice, and one that not only fosters ill-will and competition between women, but also leaves us scared of what other cranky women are saying about us. It’s a learned behavior, for sure, so how do we stop teaching it?
This is where my role as a writer, as well as those of everyone else involved in the media, comes in. We need to start setting a better example. But then we run into the issue… how?
I want to keep my stories realistic. I want them to reflect the struggles that humans go through every day, as well as the triumphs, both deep and superficial. I don’t want to ignore the fact that seeing someone who looks amazing on a day when I was feeling pretty cute can send me into a tailspin. I don’t want to ignore the struggle that each and everyone one of us goes through of finding our places in a world full of everyone else’s successes. And maybe I don’t have to.
I hope that as I grow, my characters will too. I hope that I can portray their struggles in realistic, relatable, and ultimately progressive ways. I want to allow my characters to feel the frustration that comes along with making yourself feel better by tearing someone else down. I want them to get sick of that, just like I have.
So here’s to showing how powerful the phrase, “I hate her too!” can be for bonding, and here’s to creating friendships, both real and fictional, that can move beyond it.
What struggles have you faced in portraying reality vs. progressive thinking? Do you also find it hard to write flawed characters without furthering some of the big problems of today? Let me know in the comments blow.
Love you all.