It’s a Love-Hate Relationship

They’re the stars of the show. The cogs in the machine. The beloved hero, the hated villain (the hated hero, the beloved villain). Everybody give it up for the many, the several, the protagonists!

A little too over the top? Perfect.

Whether a story is plot driven or character driven, the characters tend to be pretty important. They usually act as the eyes through which the readers see the world, and they continue to push the story forward until the very end. There’s a lot to get into about characters (arcs, personality development, etc.), but for the moment I’m going to be focusing on one thing: character dynamics.

The interaction between characters is actually one of my favourite parts of writing, if I were to try and categorize it into a list like that. Even if it’s a couple of side characters having a discussion off to the side of the chaos, it tends to be quite an interesting part of storytelling. The whole ordeal is a lot like mixing a group of chemicals together to achieve a certain result. Maybe you know what that result will be, and maybe you don’t.

There are a lot of different “archetypes” for character dynamics that can be seen across many forms of media. The hero and the mentor, found family, protagonist and rival, and so on. The whole nothing-is-actually-original definitely applies here as well, and when looking close enough it’s easy to pick up on the patterns. Those patterns might even apply to one author. People are naturally going to have character dynamics they prefer, and ones that they reuse throughout their works – just look at all the character relationship drawings on the Internet.

I’m not criticizing any of this, either. I have my own favourite character dynamics, ones that probably reappear in my writing more than I notice. I like to write and read about characters that clash in some way. This isn’t a rare thing, of course. It creates drama and that draws people in. Conflict, and not necessarily the aggressive kind, is interesting.

I can use an example of my own writing to show the type of character dynamic I enjoy. A few posts back (here if you haven’t seen it), I introduced Aylwin and Silas. Those couple of excerpts offer only a small taste of their relationship, but you probably get the idea. Silas is fairly charming, cheeky, and, of course, a thief. Aylwin, on the other hand, has a solid moral core and doesn’t deal with much nonsense on the surface. Even within that small section they engage in a few arguments, and as the story goes on the bickering doesn’t end, although it does change once their friendship begins to develop. It comes out as a lot of teasing on Silas’ end, a lot of exasperation on Aylwin’s end, and overall a bunch of fun for me.

So, it’s mostly humorous, unlikely friendships, that are a little on the rocky side. Outside examples of this might be Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Eugenides and Costis (or Eugenides and just about anyone, really) from The Queen’s Thief series, a few duos from TV shows and movies I’ve seen over the years, and quite a few more that I can’t put my finger on all at once. It may be reflected in one of my older stories, Thief, as well, but then again I don’t think I ever posted more than one chapter on here.

Beyond that there are of course other dynamics I enjoy, but these types seem to be up there in terms of favourites. The personalities of characters give way to all sorts of outcomes, and sometimes they’re totally unexpected. I can’t say for sure, I suppose, how it works for the professional authors, but I don’t think I’m always a hundred percent sure what the relationship of a group of characters is going to be until I start writing it out.

It’s fun because of the way personalities can bounce off of each other, and navigating how humans form bonds and their complicated relationships with one another. Again, bickering is also great to write. It seems to be a very compelling part of storytelling in that way.