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Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

Your Protagonist is the main character of your story and it’s them who you follow on their story journey. A well written friend for your Protagonist can enhance both your character and the story itself. I’ll be exploring different examples of well written story friendships and how you can recreate that effect in your own writing.

Northern Lights – Lyra and Pantalaimon

Story Friendships in Northern Lights
Story Friendships in Northern Lights

Lyra is the strong willed and smart 12 year old at the heart of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. She lives in a world where your soul takes the form of an animal that lives with you, a daemon, and Lyra’s daemon is Pantalaimon.

Pantalaimon acts as both a support to Lyra, and a balance. When she is impulsive he is cautious, when she is scared he is brave. He offers her the side of her personality and temperament than isn’t active in that moment, but that should she access would make her choices better. Pan helps guide her on her escape from Mrs Coulter, and inspires her on her quest to get through the snow in the North.

Through her relationship with Pantalaimon, Lyra is able to become the best version of herself. She learns her inner truth and is able to face challenges that, without Pan by her side, might overwhelm her.

How To Write These Style Of Story Friendships Yourself

The key to this style of story friendship is in the balance your character offers to your Protagonist. Create a character who naturally enhances your Protagonist by mirroring them, but in different ways. They match their strength but when your Protagonist is weak. When your Protagonist is nervous, the friend is brave.

This balance allows both characters to flourish and form a partnership that allows them to stand strong together. This should make them the perfect relationship, but it could be a little co-dependent. If your friend characters come to rely on one another too much, they won’t know how to cope with their lives and choices alone.

The Harry Potter Series – Harry, Ron and Hermione

Harry, Ron and Hermione are an example of story friendships riddled with conflict. They all love one another, but have problems between the different points in this friend triangle regularly.

Story Friendships in Harry Potter
Story Friendships in Harry Potter

Ron represents the opportunity for rebellion. In Ron, Harry gets to indulge his free spirit and desire to be a child, free of the crushing responsibility of being The Boy Who Lived. The problem is, Ron also carries a lot of envy. The responsibility thrust on Harry also makes him special and stand out from the crowd in a way that Ron never can. This causes tensions between them that flares up when Ron feels vulnerable or overlooked.

Hermione represents responsibility but also Harry’s natural intelligence and bravery. Hermione draws out his ability to think and act wisely, that might otherwise get lost. She gives him the strength and skill he needs to both survive, and to save the lives of others. However, she is also a figure of pressure. He resents being forced to live up to something he never asked for, and Hermione represents that.

Ron and Hermione, naturally in conflict by way of their personalities, are also in love. This means jealousy and frustrations flare up between them as both deny their feelings. Opposites attract.

How To Write These Style Of Story Friendships Yourself

The strength of the friendships between Harry, Ron and Hermione is in the conflict. They don’t blindly agree with one another. Each is challenged on their choices and their beliefs, so each must either change their mind or be willing to fight their corner. By giving your Protagonist a friend, or friends, who force them to fight for what they think, they will become firm in their choices. They will have seen all the potential weaknesses in their plans, had all their bad choices or behaviours pointed out.

It’s in those challenges and conflicts that your Protagonist will become truly secure in their own position. The opposition from friendships, rather than enemies, mean the challenges come from a place of love. So the lessons will sink in more deeply to your Protagonist.

Story Friendships in The Karate Kid
Story Friendships in The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid – Daniel and Mr Miyagi

In The Karate Kid, Daniel is bullied and lonely, until he meets Mr Miyagi. Mr Miyagi sees potential in Daniel that even he doesn’t realise is there, and is able to draw it out of him. He challenges him, makes him work, and ultimately forces Daniel to accomplish his goal. By the end of the film, Daniel is able to defeat his nemesis, Johnny, in a karate competition.

Mr Miyagi is a classic example of a mentor character. His friendship with Daniel guides him and teaches him so he can do what he needs to do to succeed. Mr Miyagi is essential for Daniel’s journey. He teaches him and, through his faith and passion, Daniel is able to see what Mr Miyagi sees. Daniel is able to become the champion.

How To Write These Style Of Story Friendships Yourself

The mentor character is a classic of story. If your Protagonist needs to navigate a world they’re not familiar with, the mentor character guides them. This could be a magical world that your Protagonist has entered, or it could be a sport that your Protagonist doesn’t know. But either way, without the mentor to teach them how to get through their story and achieve their goal, your Protagonist wouldn’t succeed.

However, it’s worth noting, at some point your mentor character might need to be removed. If you don’t, then your Protgonist is forever in their mentor’s shadow. They won’t accomplish their goal because their mentor is the one more capable of doing it for them. You need your Protagonist to excel to the point that they are the strongest and therefore, they have to be stronger than their mentor. In this case, you may want to kill your mentor character to force your Protagonist to stand alone and not depend on their mentor anymore. This forces them to become their strongest self.

Story Friendships in Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit
Story Friendships in Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit – Lilly and Saffron

In Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly and Saffron start out as enemies, but by the end of the book are best friends. Not just best friends, they are bonded on such a deep level that should one die, the other would also die. This provides and really unique situation that means, in some ways, they truly have nobody else in the world. No matter how close they get to someone else, nobody could comprehend the situation they are in. Nobody could ever become closer or more connected to either girl.

Whilst Lilly and Saffron’s relationship is not without challenges, and at first Saffron is particularly affected by this new dynamic, it does ultimately solidify their relationship. It’s only when together that each girl is truly whole, and truly capable to fighting off the dangers they face in the story.

How To Write These Style Of Story Friendships Yourself

A friendship that bonds two characters in a truly unique way creates a real partnership. They are separate people with their own lives, but their story arcs forge them together. By making your story have such a powerful impact on two characters, you’re drawing your audience into that relationship. They’ve seen them separate and watched their relationship grow, and then seen them together. It’s only when together that your two characters achieve their story goals and their full strength.

It’s important to remember that when you do form a bond that’s supernaturally tight between two characters, it won’t come without flaws. They are not the same person and they don’t have the same experiences, views or thoughts. So they can still have immense levels of conflict but with a bond so tight it becomes claustrophobic and they can’t ever really escape from one another.

The Power Of Friendship

I love friendships in stories. I love seeing characters enhance one another, challenge one another, and truly care for one another. Some friendships may develop into a romance, but there’s something really powerful about people who love each other desperately, but without it turning into a relationship. Friendship is so important, and makes for really interesting story. Story friendships deserve a place in fiction and can do a lot for your story.

More From JJ Barnes:

I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.

You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk

Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books

Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose

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