Relationships in Fiction

Relationships in Fiction

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Any story becomes more human when you add relationships. How many relationships depends a lot on the characters and story.


When you are following a sociopathic character, relationships may not exist. Most sociopaths are loners. On the other hand, all loners are not sociopaths. Some people just feel better when there is no one else around.


People tend to have a lot of friends early in life and fewer as they get older. Except for the loners mentioned above, your character’s will all have friends. Don’t just give them work friends and relatives. We all keep up relationships with people from our past even when we or they have changed. So should your characters.


If you’re writing a murder mystery, romance doesn’t come into the main story. If you want your detective to be hard-boiled, romance won’t be a big factor although sex might be. If your detective is just a normal person doing a job, their love life will show their human side.

For any other kind of adult novel, romances are going to be a part of characters’ lives. Even people who live alone are usually not part of the forever-alone group.


Everybody, even loners and sociopaths, has some family. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings, and children are all possible. Of course you could write a character with no siblings whose parents have died after keeping their own relatives a secret and who has never had kids. The length of that sentence shows how unlikely it is that all of that will happen. On the other hand, there are people who deliberately cut themselves off from family.


Stories with action could use some sexing up. Men and women are different when it comes to sex, in case you hadn’t noticed. Women like the romance. Men like the sex. Actually men and women like both, but their focus is different. If you’re going to have a sex scene, you need to have a romantic build up, and don’t throw too much detail into the scene. It isn’t sex ed. Your readers don’t need the details. Mostly. If you want to make a sex scene disgusting because it’s the villain, by all means give your readers the details.

Unless you’re writing erotica, you should only have sex in your story to advance the plot. Couples in the story are going to have sex. We know that. We don’t need to hear about every event. What next? Are you going to tell your readers about their trips to the toilet, their fondest childhood memory, or how they choose a barber? None of those things should be in the story either unless, again, they move it forward.

Why Should You Care About Minor Relationships?

Relationships that aren’t important to the main story make your novel more realistic. We all have friends and relatives that do nothing for our careers and don’t share our interests. So will characters in your novel. They are real people in your fictional world. But, should they just show up because they exist?

Minor characters will show up because they work or live in places important characters visit; the home and workplace, for example.

Minor characters are also useful for presenting information the reader needs to know that wouldn’t be brought up by any of the main characters. In the movie The Bad Seed, minor characters came for a visit to the serial killer’s apartment so that the viewer could learn that it is theoretically possible for a child to be born a serial killer. This news advanced the story.

Another good use of minor characters is a way for one of the important characters to explore their ideas without resorting to an inner dialogue. They can meet a friend or relative by chance and talk it out. The other person may also influence their view of a situation and allow them to act out of character.

To put it briefly, minor relationships exist for most people, they should appear in your novel, and it’s best if they appear in a way that advances the plot. With these thoughts in mind, it will be easy to slip minor relationships into all your fiction.

Article by Ivan Izo.


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