How can I build a realistic friendship that utilizes emotion? One of the main problems in my writing is characters not seeming to be as emotional or have real seeming connections to family or friends.

  • Characters making sacrifices for one another is a usual way.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 1:21
  • 3
    Characters making sacrifices for one another is a usual way Just don't interpret that advice too literally, the times I've slaughtered a chicken in summoning a friend from the world beneath have not ended well ... 😱 Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 11:10
  • She said she wanted a religious experience. So I sacrificed her puppy to Zarquon the Space God.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


My favourite piece of advice with which I stalk beginner writers everywhere is:

Try your hand at acting.

I mean it. Join a school drama club or an amateur theatre group and dampen your feet at performing a role on the stage. You're going to learn two things:

The first is, Louder! Can't hear you! YELL!
Well, this is not really applicable to writing. It's just the first lesson you're guaranteed to get.

But the second thing you learn is, you need to incarnate in your character. You have to become them, find yourself in the situation they're in, feel what they're feeling. And this is something that's not only useful for writing, it's necessary to do there too. Appearing in a play or two gives you some training for the moment you go and incarnate in the characters of your own creation to understand how they're really feeling and how it makes them behave.

When writing characters, you need to do just what an actor does - wear their shoes. Only you have it more complicated because there isn't only one role for you to star in. Incarnate in each of your characters in turn and live through the scene from their point of view. (Generally mentally, but feel free to act it out physically if that works for you.) Feel their emotions. Notice what it does to their face expressions or unconscious gestures, the way they move, the tone of their voice, the words they choose. And most of all, notice what they would do at the given moment. What choice they'd make. What they'd give their attention.

Then describe what you saw.


Friendship is a combination of similarities, and differences that create synergy.

We become friends with those that share our interests; because that is rewarding to both. For example, when we watch a funny movie, studies find that people will laugh 3 or 4 times as often if they watch it with a friend, than if they watch it alone. The same is true for eating out alone, it is more fun to go to a restaurant with somebody that enjoys the same food as you do, than to go alone, or to go with somebody that doesn't like anything on the menu. Even if you try a new restaurant and it isn't very good, it is better to be with somebody that agrees with you it isn't very good!

In general, it is both easy and good to be with people that like the same things you do; have a similar sense of humor, a similar understanding of the world and their place in it, like the same kinds of food, the same sports (for watching or participating in), music, politics, books, movies, and other forms of entertainment -- including bars and drinking, drug use, or sex.

Even believing in the same religion, or share their lack belief in a religion: It is why we have church clubs, atheist clubs, bowling leagues, dart leagues, pickle ball leagues, chess clubs, sex clubs, and so on.

The synergy comes from disparity in skills or knowledge. Synergy occurs when two (or more) people can accomplish more together than the sum of what they can accomplish individually.

Basically one has skills the other doesn't have, and vice versa, so as a team they have fewer skill deficits than if they work together. A great example of this is Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, in the founding of Apple. Jobs was natural salesman, outgoing and excellent at sales. He was not an engineer by any stretch of the imagination, but he could sell.

Wozniak was the son of an Electrical Engineer and quite accomplished in the art himself, he could build devices from scratch, by himself, and get them working. But he was not a salesman, by any stretch of the imagination.

There is the synergy: Together, they have both the technical and social skills to build a multi-billion dollar company that neither could ever have built on their own. Jobs did not have the capital to hire a technical genius like Wozniak, and Wozniak did not have the capital to hire a sales and marketing genius like Jobs.

In fiction, you should create similar commonalities and synergies, the more you have, the closer the friendship. (Add in sexual attraction, you may have true love.)

A chance meeting at some event that is not a common "like" for most people can spark a friendship; they have something in common to talk about. And as they do, they discover other commonalities, and then some synergies.

The measure of friendship is in the commonalities (and their rarity in the general population, the more rare the closer the bond), and in the synergies, and their rarity.

That is real life, in fiction you need to create the same thing. There must be reasons character-A likes to spend time with character-B, shared likes and dislikes, and complementary (synergistic) differences in strength and weakness, so they make a better team together than they would alone.

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