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I've played with the idea of a multi-book fantasy story for years, where a female and male protagonists' lives intertwine with one another, the series running from 12-22 years old for them.

There will probably be a time for them where they will consider each other as a romantic possibility, as with a lot of boy-girl relationships, implied moments where they're thinking about it, but I haven't decided yet whether to pair them together in the end.

It's not the focus of the story, but their relationship (in a non-romantic sense) is one of the, if not, the most important relationship in the series and I would really like to do their relationship (their friendship, their professional relationship with one another) justice. It's a challenge I want to pursue, to write them without romance taking over the relationship.

Any tips or examples of fiction where this is shown well?

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    If all else fails, they can always be brother and sister. It sounds like you don't want to use that though. So barring that, I'd say give them a mutual reason that they both respect. Maybe they feel (and agree) they aren't meant for each other, or something along those lines. – Thomas Myron Aug 29 '15 at 21:50
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    Unless you're George R.R. Martin, you could make them siblings. – 1279343 Aug 30 '15 at 0:45
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    I guess the obvious answer is to not have them fall in love. No explanation necessary. – Ken Mohnkern Sep 8 '15 at 19:27
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    I'm sorry, but I just HATE HATE HATE the assumption that a boy and a girl can't be friends without liking. I'm friends with plenty of guys that I wouldn't date in a million years! I feel as though you could base it off of a boy girl non romantic relationship you have in real life, if possible. – DJFluffy Jun 20 '16 at 3:51
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    Well, you could begin with X-files relationship (Mulder and Scully). They care a lot about each other, and true, at some point they evolve it to a romantic relationship (in the movies, if I recall), but it is never the focus of the show. – Chaotic Mar 24 '17 at 20:25

16 Answers 16

22

I have and have always had many close female friends. I don't see what's so special or "difficult" about these relationships, they function just like any friendship I have with a man or boy.

If you want to write about a male-female friendship, then just write a male-female friendship.

No, I don't constantly wonder whether or not I would like to have sex with my female friends. There are some, where that thought would never cross my mind, not because I find them unattractive, but because they are the kind of person that I don't feel sexual about. There are some that I would want as a sexual partner, but either they already have a partner or they don't feel that way about me, so that matter is settled for me and I no longer need to wonder. It's like deciding to spend the holiday in Italy instead of France: while in Italy, you don't constantly think about France, that would be dysfunctional. Instead you enjoy being where you are. So not lusting after someone you cannot have is simply the healthy way of being, and not difficult at all, unless you are the difficult kind of person.

Of course some of the things my female friends and me discuss pertain to our mutual genders, like asking for feedback on hair styles or getting a "male" or "female" perspective on a topic, but generally gender or sex don't enter into these friendships at all. We even sleep side-by-side chastely sometimes, and we hug a lot (like I do with my male friends).

If you write about a boy and a girl who are not romantically inclined towards each other, then write just that. It is not a relationship where a topic has to be avoided, but a relationship where a topic simply does not arise. Would you have to explain why two boys are friends instead of lovers? No. So why do you have to explain that about a boy and a girl?


Lauren suggested this edit to my answer: "Would you have to explain why two gay boys are friends instead of lovers? No. So why do you have to explain that about a straight boy and a straight girl?" (Italics are mine, to indicated the edits.) I rejected that suggestion, because I mean something different: When we read about two boys (or two girls) being friends, we expect them to have no sexual or romantic interest in each other, because that is how these relationships were portrayed for centuries and how the heterosexual majority of the population live their friendships. These kinds of friendships are the norm, and we see nothing strange or problematic in them. What we do find strange, abnormal and expect to cause problems are mixed gender friendships, because we cannot imagine them to be non-sexual. For some reason we feel that a boy and a girl must be about sex. But if you observe yourself, I am sure you will realize that you do not feel sexual about all people with the sex or gender you are oriented towards. Sex is not something that a heterosexual man must feel for all women (or a gay man for all men or a hetero woman for all men etc.). Sexuality is something that you feel for individuals, not for a category – or, if you want, the category is more complexly defined that by gender alone. So just because sex would be possible for a heterosexual by with a girl does not mean that it is possible for him with this specific individual.

As writers, we don't need to fall into the trap of thinking in categories. There is no such thing as "all men" or "all women" or "all English" or "all dark skinned persons" etc. People within these categories are as varied as between categories, so sex between one specific boy and one specific girl is as optional and likely as them having the same size of shoes or the same taste in music: they may or may not have it, and if they do have different shoe sizes or musical tastes you don't need to mention it in your story, unless your story is about that difference.

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    I still think you're looking at the issue heteronormatively, but you've obviously considered the complexity of the characters. – Lauren Ipsum Sep 3 '15 at 15:13
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    You are right, I do look at the question from a heterosexual perspective, but then the question is asked from that perspective. Heterosexuality is the only perspective from which the issue of boy-girl-love can arise: if someone does not expect a boy and a girl to be heterosexual, they wouldn't automatically expect them to fall in love. Therefore the issue needs to be resolved only for those people who (like, admittedly, myself) do not think of non-heterosexuality without being prompted. [contd.] – user5645 Sep 8 '15 at 6:39
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    [contd.] Which is not a result of prejudice, but of the virtual absence of non-heterosexuals in my life. It is difficult to consider what is not part of your everyday experience. – user5645 Sep 8 '15 at 6:39
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    Yes, I can see that you aren't prejudiced. It's a little ironic that your later comment "As writers, we don't need to fall into the trap of thinking in categories" contradicts your earlier one "Would you have to explain why two boys are friends instead of lovers?" because the automatic assumption of blanket heterosexuality is a category trap. And I understand that it's a challenge to remember to consider non-heterosexuality when you aren't exposed to it regularly; that's rather the point. We as writers should push ourselves to remember and write things outside our experience. – Lauren Ipsum Sep 8 '15 at 9:46
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The bast way to deal with this issue is to explicitly acknowledge it, show that it isn't an issue, and move on.

A superb example of this is found in the Dr. Who story, Partners in Crime. The Doctor has just asked Donna if she will accompany him on a journey in his time machine, the Tardis:

Donna: I don't need injections, do I? You know, like when you go to Cambodia. Is there any of that? Because my friend Veena went to Bahrain, and she- [cuts off, noticing the Doctor is silent] You're not saying much.

The Doctor: No, it's just. It's a funny old life, in the Tardis.

Donna: You don't want me.

The Doctor: I'm not saying that.

Donna: But you asked me. Would you rather be on your own?

The Doctor: No. Actually, no. But the last time...With Martha, like I said, it got... complicated. And that was all my fault. I just want a mate.

Donna: [alarmed] You just want to mate?!

The Doctor: I just want a mate!

Donna: You're not mating with me, sunshine!

The Doctor: A mate! I want a mate!

Donna: Well, just as well, cos I'm not having any of that nonsense! You're just a long streak of nothing! You know... Alien nothing!

The Doctor: There we are, then. Okay.

Donna: I can come?

The Doctor: Yeah. Course you can, yeah. I'd love it.

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    Upvoting purely for the Doctor. But in all seriousness, Doctor Who is a brilliant example of how to do it – Thomo Mar 29 '17 at 0:39
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Close male-female relationships that aren't romantic are challenging even in real life, let alone fiction, but they do exist. Assuming the pair isn't related, neither of them is gay or otherwise attached, and they're relatively the same age, your readers will begin to long to see them together, just like their friends in real life would be likely to do. One way of dealing with it would be to have them take a stab at romance early, and have it not work out for some reason. That's often how close platonic heterosocial relationships actually form. A beloved subplot from Star Trek: The Next Generation was Captain Picard's close relationship with chief medical officer Dr. Crusher. The backstory was that Picard had once been in love with her, but had suppressed those feelings out of his loyalty to Crusher's (now deceased) husband.

Another realistic possibility is for one person to be interested in the other, but the feelings not be requited. Along those lines, you can also develop outside romances (or romantic interests) for one or both characters. Allan Gurganus' Plays Well With Others is an interesting variation, in which the most important relationship of the book is between a gay man and his female best friend, but this reality is disguised/complicated by the fact that they both share an unrequited crush on a beautiful bisexual friend.

One final possibility, if you're primarily interested in their professional relationship, is that both of them are "married to their work" --that is, their relationship with each other relates primarily to their work together and only occasionally extends beyond that. It's quite common for people to have close friendships that only exist 9 to 5 (that is to say, in the context of the workplace). Remains of the Day features a close Platonic male-female friendship that exists between coworkers. However, there's a strong suggestion that there does exist suppressed sexual tension between them, and that their rejection of romance is a significant missed opportunity.

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    Societal pressures encourage pairs to become "couples" because it reduces social "entropy" and everybody else knows how to behave around them and what to expect. Mature people can separate their own feelings from these societal pressures and basic drives and actively choose what course is best for them. If your characters have or develop this sort or maturity - knowing who they are, then they will be able to sustain a "platonic" relationship in a believable manner because it's true to who they are. – Joe Sep 1 '15 at 22:15
  • "just like their friends in real life would be likely to do." Well, my male friends are not longing me to see me together with their girlfriends. Maybe unfortunately, who knows? – rus9384 Sep 20 '18 at 18:24
  • I liked the way the Pug and Carmella relationship didn't happen in Magician. It was societal pressure that kept them apart and then distance meant each of them found more appropriate partners. – Stephen Jan 15 at 4:10
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Depends on the story and setting. Have them advise each other on romantic problems. Make her older or more mature than he is, which creates a gap that can close during the series. (You could try it the other way around, but sweet young thing and worldy wise older guy is still a trope, albeit an out of date one).

  • I like the idea of an age gap that gradually closes. To a 12 year old a 15 year old seems like another species. To a 19 year old a 22 year old seems just a little further ahead in the journey of life. And you wait 'til you're 50. – Lostinfrance Sep 3 '15 at 11:15
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You have two options to deal with the situation, which will be on the mind of readers.

One is to blatantly ignore it. This is the post-feministic way: Treat the boy and the girl as human beings, romance between them simply never happens, describe their friendship and - through the telling of the story - create the frame that non-sexual friendship between girls and boys is completely normal. By not talking about it at all, you make it something that doesn't need to be especially addressed.

The other is to explicitly resolve it. Make the protagonists struggle with romantic feelings towards each other, then resolve them into friendship. Or make it explicitly clear that they are not romantically or sexually attracted to each other. Or, if your audience is adults, let them have a romantic or sexual encounter that doesn't work out, but they stay friends. This is, in my experience, one of the most common cases of real friendship between men and women where none of them has any hidden feelings - when the "let's fuck" part is out of the way, both decided it was pleasurable but beyond the initial desire, nothing, let's stay friends.

What I think will not work is something halfway. You need to blend the topic out completely, or confront it. If you try to mention it in passing, you enter this "Bob and Alice are friends, though Bob is still hoping for his opportunity" vibe.

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    Welcome to Writers.SE! And thanks for the nice answers you've posted already :) – Standback Mar 22 '17 at 12:12
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I always knew I was ... unattractive. Say the word, my girl, say the word. Ugly. I thought I'd accepted it, almost relished it. It protected me from so much folly; allowed me to have so many friendships that I wouldn't otherwise have had. I didn't anticipate the burst of utter fury that ran through me when he let slip that remark. Poor sod, always in trouble for blurting out whatever came into his head. Maybe that's one reason I liked him. I didn't take him seriously. Sweetie, cutie, but, oh dear me, not sexy. I was allowed not to want him but he wasn't allowed not to want me, is that it, if I'm honest? Where now? Can't we just be friends? Can we just be friends?

This sketch of one way of tackling B.M. Corwen's scenario of a friendship that isn't a love story was inspired by a possibility raised in Jay's answer above, one that several readers seem to have found offensive but I found poignant and believable.

Here's an example of this subject treated well in fiction (drama in this case), as requested by the OP, with the genders reversed. When I was a kid in the 70's there was an American comedy show called Rhoda. I remember almost nothing about it except one scene. A man and a woman are having dinner. The man has obviously been courting the woman for a while and is building up to asking the big question. He asks it. And, cringing with embarrassment, she says no, and stammers out an explanation. He's kind. He's intelligent. He's witty. But she just - doesn't - fancy - him. And looking at him you can see why.

That everyday tragedy of the friendship that never became a love story because of the brute fact of involuntary sexual rejection is one, sadly realistic, way of explaining the absence of a romance. An exploration of how their friendship fares after that moment could be very moving.

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Off the top of my head, CJ Cherryh's Morgaine saga (female mage, male assistant), three or four books, no romance. (removing this per @what's comment below)

ETA so wow, it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it was to find examples. Almost every story I can think of at the moment has either two people of the same gender, one gay protagonist, or two straights who eventually end up together.

In the Harry Potter series, Harry is the main protagonist of the Big Three, and while Ron and Hermione end up together, and Harry ends up with Ginny, Harry and Hermione remain just friends throughout.

In Mercedes Lackey's The Silver Gryphon, the third in the Mage Wars trilogy, the two working partners are Tad (a male gryphon) and Blade (a female human); they are friends but there's no romance.

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    Cherryh's Morgaine saga is told from the perspective of the male human who "falls in thrall" with the alien, elf-like female. There is a strong erotic undertone, and in the fourth volume the two finally make love. Cherryh uses aspects of the human-falls-in-love-with-the-fairy-queen motif (Thomas of Eceldoune) and the common feeling of many teenage boys who are secretly in love with some girl. It is a book for boys and if you read it from a boy's perspective, the romance is so strong it becomes the main topic of the books. – user5645 Sep 1 '15 at 9:17
  • @what oh gosh, I never read the fourth book. And it's been a while since I read the entire set. I'll edit my answer. – Lauren Ipsum Sep 1 '15 at 9:46
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Several comments have made reference to the squick factor associated with sibling incest. Certainly that would be an accepted reason why your two main characters would not have any interest in one another. But since you want to potentially explore that relationship downstream...

If your two characters have known each other since childhood, there will be reverse sexual imprinting due to the Westermarck Effect. It appears to be sufficient for them to have grown up together in the same house -- perhaps one is an orphan? This allows you to build -- at least initially -- a Kim Possible/Ron Stoppable friendship.

Over time, however, your readers will probably ship your main characters if they like them enough. This is good, because it gives you opportunity to build conflict. Specifically, you can leverage the Childhood Friend Romance trope to set expectations.

Consider, for example, if Ron grows up and gets married to an amazing woman. Suddenly, Ron becomes desirable, and Kim realizes what she lost. But she's ethical, and Mrs. Stoppable is also her friend. This is a powerful internal conflict. And if you ever decide to kill off Ron's wife, and Kim decides to pursue that long-deferred relationship, suddenly she can realize that it never would have worked after all.

Keep in mind, this is a long-cycle character arc. In book 1, they are friends, and Ron is a dork. In book 2, he's still a dork, and Kim is happy he met Anne. In book 3, Ron gets married to Anne, and the friendship continues. It's not until book 4 that she regrets losing out on Ron -- this is where you kill Anne, and her guilty feelings drive the plot. And in book 5 Ron has sufficiently recovered from his grief to consider Kim as an option.

  • That was a great reference! Now I wan't to read/watch THAT story... – storbror Mar 25 '17 at 13:28
  • In some versions of the Arthurian legend, such as Tennyson's, the Westermarck Effect or a similar one is used to explain why Guinevere and Arthur were never happy together. – Robert Columbia Sep 20 '18 at 11:13
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One possibility is: Just Do It. Write the story where they always relate to each other as friends or co-workers, and the issue of romance just never comes up. I've had many female co-workers over the years whom I have never thought of as potential romantic partners, and to the best of my knowledge none of them were pining away for me.

Two: Give a specific reason why one or both don't want to get attached. They are already involved with someone else. They are too devoted to their work to have time for a romantic partner. They were previously married and the spouse died and they vowed never to get involved with anyone else. Etc. Depending on how it's presented, any of these could be a setup for a romance: one person starts out totally uninterested in romance but then the other overwhelms them. But if done right, if you just say, hey, here's why Bob will never get involved with a woman, and then leave it at that, it should work.

Three: Make the woman physically unattractive. No one is surprised if a man is not romantically interested in an unattractive woman, no matter how wonderful she may be in other ways. This one isn't particularly symmetrical: women care a lot less about how a man looks than men care about how a woman looks. The sort of things that make a man undesirable to women as a romantic partner are likely to also make him unappealing to readers, though maybe you could come up with something.

Addendum in response to comments

Let me clarify my last point. You could certainly make any character, male or female, unappealing as a romantic prospect by making them rude, selfish, stupid, etc. But that would make the character unappealing to the reader, also, and in general you want your heroes and heroines to be likable. (Not necessarily, but usually.) But if you make a female character physically unattractive, she could still be a totally likable character, but a less likely romantic prospect for the hero.

I'm a little puzzled at the posters who say this idea is offensive or that it isn't true. Are you saying that men DON'T care about a woman's physical beauty when looking for a romantic partner? According to the Economist, cosmetics is a $160 BILLION per year industry (http://www.economist.com/node/1795852). Women's magazines are routinely filled with beauty tips. Apparently a lot of women think that men care how they look. OF COURSE it's not the only factor. I didn't say it was. I said "no one is surprised if" etc, i.e. it's an important factor. Maybe you think men are being shallow or unfair when they look for a pretty girl. But as best as I can make it out, you are saying that it isn't true because you don't like it. But of course those are very different ideas. I don't like the fact that people start wars and kill each other. But if someone suggested that a way to make a proposed story plot work would be to set it during a war, I wouldn't flag that answer as offensive on the grounds that I don't like war, or see any relevance in pointing out that countries often resolve their differences without going to war. Maybe I'm missing what you're trying to say.

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    "No one is surprised if a man is not romantically interested in an ugly woman, no matter how wonderful she may be in other ways." Your answer has been flagged as offensive, and I concur. (Mine is one of the downvotes for this reason.) Perhaps you can find a more sensitive way of phrasing this? – Neil Fein Sep 1 '15 at 13:11
  • The conversation about attraction and beauty standards has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Sep 3 '15 at 15:58
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    I don't find it offensive, but simply a harsh truth about the world we live in. You DID say "No one is surprised if...", which only makes the statement more okay, in my opinion. I do understand that people could take offense, but this may be because they have yet to realize (or accept) how differently men an women are attracted to each other. A similar potentially offensive statement could rise from "whether or not a man has to make a woman laugh or the other way around" - to be attractive. Still, the physical attractiveness of the female character is a sad reason for them to remain friends. – storbror Mar 25 '17 at 13:31
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Well, whatever they are facing can always be too complex to even have the time to think about something like that.

If you are planning for them to get together at some point, then leave very subtle hints where they are both so dense that they don't even notice their own feelings for each other except much later. Also, don't make it hinder the process of your plot unless that is what you want.

If you're not planning for anything to happen between them, then just focus on their mutual respect for each other. You can easily make a boy and a girl just friends but you have to eliminate all possible hints or possibilities that can open that door. Of course one or the two of them is bound consider it at one point but they are just too comfortable as friends that the thought flies as soon as it hits.

It all depends on how you want your story to progress, if there is romance, there is. If there is not, there's not.

You can always mention the blind trust between them and how they respect each other and how they always rely on one another and all the factors that would make a friendship exceptionally strong. Use your own experience or those around you to deepen their relationship.

Writing a friendship between them can be a lot easier than you think, you just have to write a normal friendship between two people and not think much about it.

  • The only issues I note here are; that your description of a good friendship could just as easily be the foundation of a romantic relationship (with the 'simple' addition of attraction). And, that some people don't actually have that much experience with good friendships, making them less equipped to write about it. Unless they use their experience as a basis for bad relationships.. still, it could be tough! – storbror Mar 25 '17 at 12:41
  • I agree, but the distinction between the "types of attraction" can be difficult to define, and perhaps more importantly difficult for the reader to accept, based on experiences and pop-culture and so on. I can also proudly say that I love my friends. Do you mention this phenomenon to support the concept of 'love without romantic attraction'? Because that might lead to a discussion... Again, I don't disagree with you, but the distinction is tricky. – storbror Mar 25 '17 at 12:59
  • In my opinion one of the main differences between romance and friendship is the type of attraction they feel towards each other. For example sb can proudly say that they love their friends but it's totally different to say that sb loves their significant other. Friendship is based on mutual fondness or sometimes a mutual goal. They can, if the writer plans on bringing them together in the end, confuse their feelings but they could also leave it as it is. The writer doesn't have to stick to their own experience but can also base it on many other characters who do have a strong relationship. – J. Roberts Mar 25 '17 at 13:05
  • Sorry I posted it too quickly by accident. Well, that is what makes love so difficult, right? People often confuse their feelings for one another whether it's friendship or romantic love. It is very tough to distinguish between them so it might be hard to write but if what she is aiming for is pure friendship then it is as simple as writing a side character who is friends with a main character. It is much easier than it appears if you look at it simply. – J. Roberts Mar 25 '17 at 13:09
  • Now, that was the kind of elaboration i missed in the original answer. Consider adding that to your answer, so people don't miss it. – storbror Mar 25 '17 at 13:12
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I assume you want good ways to have a platonic male-female relationship when they aren't related and about the same age, making it clear to the reader that they are in no way close to having a romantic relationship. I am also assuming that you are not using any sort of maneuver, like creating individual relationships for one or both of them or making one or both of them gay.

It is quite probable that no matter what you try, there will still be a great part of your readers that will expect (or want might the right expression, sometimes they realise you have no interest in creating a relationship between them) some type of romance to develop between them. Try to make them as friendly as possible between each other without making them awkward. In real life it happens very frequently, so I don't see why it should be different in fiction. One way would be to have them be open about their attractions to other people. I don't know which type of fiction you write, but try to use the story in your favour. Are they friends at school? Friends at school often talk about how hot this or that person are. Are they fighting evil? They could have a perfect balance between them that would easily be ruined by a romantic relationship, and that could play a major part in why they couldn't or wouldn't date.

It is common though that friends have some sort of sexual attraction between them, and maybe you shouldn't really ignore that. Of course, it all depends on what you are writing. But have them at some point discuss this possibility with a laugh, or even dismiss completely the idea after a brief "what if", could help. There seems to be a cannon in fiction that if they aren't going to date, they have to see each other as asexual potatoes. Just don't. Friends often realise their friends are good looking. Friends often realise their friends cause them some sort of sexual frustration. Short term friends feel this way more frequently, in opposite to long term friends, who are already saturated by their friends and therefore eventually learned not to care. Sometimes, friends do sleep together before realising that yeah, it's not gonna happen. It's always a good idea to keep in mind that sexual attraction doesn't equal romantic relationship.

There is a lot of things that could cause you problems, but there is also a lot you could work with. There's many, many types of friendships, and there's lots of ways you could create a healthy friendship between them without making two characters who are completely unsexualized to each other. Create their personalities, the setting, and everything else, keeping in mind what you intend to achieve, and I am sure you will be able to create a great story.

1

A good example is the current TV Series "Elementary", in which Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Joan Watson are partners, cohabit, and although fond of each other have avoided all romantic involvement.

Both have their own love lives; Joan has had at least two lovers in the course of the series thus far, and been out on dates. Sherlock has had several lovers as well, including a fairly serious relationship with an autistic woman, and he engages prostitutes on occasion.

Their relationship seems natural, and their talents complement each other, this is part of the reason they are together, they are better together than apart, both at the detective work, and to a large extent socially.

I would suggest, for your boy and girl: Starting at 12, they are in sixth grade and barely sexually cognizant (in fifth grade is where teachers start to see boys "showing off" and girls starting to gather into whisper groups). There is certainly no reason for them to date or even hold hands.

So (presuming a modern timeline) I would suggest a "throwaway" relationship starter; put them in band together; at 12 she thinks she can be a singer (and she is good enough that so does he) and he's a guitar player, so they have aspirations of making a hit youtube video. A million hits! That doesn't work out, but they had fun; and they think differently from each other. She's a good writer, he doesn't have any stage fright, he's a good salesman. She gets him involved in a charity project with her. Find reasons for them to work together. But by starting early enough, before they recognize any feelings of sexuality, they will feel like siblings, not romantic interests. If necessary and you write yourself into a corner where one hints at a love interest in the other, have the other be smart enough to shut it down. "You're like my brother, if I had a brother, and besides, I have a crush on Charlie. You should like Crystal, she thinks you are very funny."

Give them different things they are good at, so they both benefit equally from the friendship, but are both attracted to other people, and are open and honest about it. Because they are friends.

1

Many same-sex friendships are two of a similar "type" who are also competitors. When gendered male, the rivalry might be athletic or conspicuous displays of wealth. Gendered female the competition might be social or personal accomplishments (out-doing the other, as opposed to defeating the other). Rivalry among career peers is almost expected because there's a one-to-one comparison. There is sometimes a blurring of boundaries where the rivalry is also self-identity. They recognize aspects of themselves in the other. Consider these dynamics and ramp them up.

If the rivals have a similar skill level, they may get a charge out of being around someone who can keep them on their toes, and also someone with whom they can measure their own gains. It doesn't matter what they are competing about since no one really "wins", it's more about having someone worthy to compete with.

Exaggerate their rivalry, and maybe their egos too. Drill home why they are friends but also why they could never get together, because they are both so much alike that neither can allow the other to be good at something without proving they are just as good, whether it's cooking or fencing.

It can be established early on that retreating to a gender-specific role will not end the competition. When young they might decide that helping the other finish chores is the fastest way to get back to competing, but if your society has firmly separated gender roles, they might debate how to be better at them, again just to prove themselves more knowledgable. As a result they might be better at juggling admirers, having coached each other.

If they helped shape the other's romantic image, they may be immune to it themselves. Instead they may see an enterprise which they had a hand in creating. Also this is the one area where they don't directly compete. Les Liaisons dangereuses features 2 villains who share advice and gloat over the details of their sexual conquests. Your protagonists don't need to be predators to consider the other's social success as a reflection of their own skills. I add this possibility since other answers suggest to "friendzone" their relationship by making them unattractive or desexualizing. This allows them to be ridiculously attractive and sexually (over)confident for their age.

As friendly rivals, they know when to give encouragement and when to taunt, and they know each other's limits (similarly, they know when the other is in trouble). They lost their personal boundaries long ago which makes them unusually close, but there is no mystery between them. In fact they are too much alike.

0

Usually you'll be in your characters heads, telling the reader what they are thinking and feeling about someone as relationships grow, so the easiest thing to do if you want to ignore any romantic possibility between them, is just to never have either of them even consider it in their thoughts, or maybe just briefly and then dismiss it for whatever reason. That way there is no romantic undercurrent to any of the interactions between them.

0

For many reasons (including economics, and ages at which young men and young women mature), it is traditional in many societies for grooms to be a few years older than their brides. Your protagonists might be too similar in age to be a good match.

Looking at things from the characters' points of view:
He could be somewhat oblivious (perhaps with mild symptoms of autism or Asperger's syndrome). They might be in a milieu where courtship is taken seriously. He might consciously decide to not seek romantic entanglements until he can afford to get married, so he (more or less politely) brushes off young ladies' indications of interest.

He might not remind her enough of her father.

She might not remind him enough of his mother.

Perhaps he becomes "aware" when he notices a different girl -- and your female protagonist has already gotten involved with a different guy.

The Bibelgesellschaft series of stories in the Grantville Gazette follow a group of teenagers who take their bible studies very seriously. Blaise and Jacqueline Pascal are two of the protagonists.

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As yet another male with a female best friend, this happens frequently (I think I'm more often than not better friends with women than with men.). And I can say that there are some people who will see romantic love no matter how much you stress there is none. And they aren't wholly wrong. Love manifests in many forms, and not all of them are romantic or sexual love. Mutually... there can be times in these relationships where one does want to have a relationship, but the other does not. This will breed readers who think they should get together. It's not something that should be dwelt on long... most of the time the will they or won't they elements of this play so that one has feelings while the other is unavailable and then through the story the positions flip.

There are quite a few ways this could happen... maybe the book starts with one of them in a romantic situation with a third character and the other is not bothered by this... or maybe there's jealousy that the first falsely attributes to romantic desires for the other one, but comes to realize that he's not jealous of her boyfriend for being the boyfriend, but jealous of his best friend for finding a perfect romantic partner while he cannot manage to find one for himself.

Conversely, they could acknowledge early on that there is no way in hell they are compatible partners. She's looking to start a family and he's looking to have some sex (reverse the roles to be different... this gets used a lot but the reverse occurs too... in my experience often...). Basically, they both are looking for a romantic relationship, but their selection process excludes each other... there could be a cause that sex obssessive does make jokes (or serious but masking as joke) statements to the effect of they would want to sleep with the bestie once, just to say he did, but he respects her too much to actually go through with it... or that he knows most women have a low opinion of him, but she's the only person of the other sex who sees good things in him beyond his womanizing, and that's more important than one time to say he did it.

Conversely, they could be rather demeaning towards each other, but this is because they know each other so well, they know they can get away with it. This could ellicit responses from outsiders that they fight like an old married couple, but they are most offended by the idea of marriage to each other that they both rise to defend their offended friend, resulting in a strange defense where they are outraged that is equal parts insulting to their bestie and themselves. Rest assured, they are the only people that are permitted to say horrible things about each other, and they will turn on any one who presumes they have this ability. They're language is insulting but that's only from the connotations of the words... they are true recognition of personality strengths that are phrased in a way that is seen as disapproval by the outsiders, but are understood by the pair for what they are.

As a final note, there is nothing that says that romantic feelings for the best friend cannot occur, but they must be thought out, shown to be unrealistic, and show that it takes a friendship that does work and turns it into something that doesn't work... if you allow a date between the two... make sure it does not end happy and that they need to work through the break down to get back to status quo... they are not effective without each other, but they were wrong to try and be lovers... but they were perfect as besties... have them acknowledge why the change was a mistake... Avoid the story lines where they have to pretend to be a lovers or something... but it's okay that both are compassionate enough to each other that the she can recognize that he's been hurt by his prom date and will ask him to dance for one slow song... because no hopeless romantic idiot should feel unwanted during [insert overplayed song that the kids are slow dancing to these days].

By and large, beyond small gestures of acknowledgement that they do love each other in some way, if for a vast majority of the interactions you could sub the member of the duo with the opposite gender and the conversation is still appropriate for two heterosexual friends on almost all occurrences (even joking about romantic feelings between hetero best buds does happen.) then you're probably writing a good friendship.

protected by Community Sep 20 '18 at 10:45

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