Indiscernible, That’s What We Are

Two men are standing outside of an airport.

The shorter, slightly older man is reaching up, holding the taller, younger man’s face in his hands.

They are smiling at each other but the taller, younger man is visibly, though quietly, crying.

Ça va.” Says the slightly older, shorter man to the younger, taller man.

He doesn’t speak French, but the younger man does.

The younger man gives a wet laugh. “Ça va.” He nods.

Do you think that these two men are father and son? Maybe even step-father and step-son? Older and younger brother? Maybe lovers? The very best of friends?

Does it matter?

How two people–two characters–relate to each other, the essence of why they have the relationship that they have is never fully describable to someone on the outside looking inward. Some feelings and experiences transcend explanation. A relationship is explained in both what is said and not said. Body movements and expressions. Actions committed and not committed. The way two people can look at each other and slowly start to smile, knowing exactly what the other is thinking.

When you write a story where one of the central plot points is a strong relationship between two of your characters, knowing how to convey what those characters mean to each other can be difficult. Maybe it is not difficult for people to understand what it means to be spouses, or a child and parent, or a lover, or best friends, or siblings…but all relationships are remarkably different. There are a multitude of ways that two people solidify a bond, regardless of the type of relationship they have. And no one can understand the gravity of the events that led to that bond the way that the two characters/people can.

So, how does a writer fully convey to a reader just what a relationship means for the two characters in question?

Think of your strongest relationship – the one you know will stay true until the day you die. What makes it the strongest relationship in your life?

It’s not the words you say to each other. Or the hugs you give each other. Not the blood you share. Not just the events you have been through together. Or similar sense of humor or interests. The strongest relationships transcend all of that.

The strongest relationships are built on the fact that above all things, these two people accept each other for who and what they are, no questions asked, no expectations, no demands…they just truly understand each other through and through.

And they ask no more of the relationship than that. It’s almost divine, how these two people “get” each other. And it’s not because of the long midnight conversations or talks over meals they’ve had hundreds of times. They are…kindred.

When you write a strong relationship between two characters in a story, maybe go beyond “well, we grew up next door to each other, so our relationship was convenient…”. Figure out what it is that these two people/characters see in each other than no one else sees. Hint at it. Play with that knowledge, and slowly expose it to the reader so that that the depth of that relationship is felt as deeply by the reader as it is the characters.

You’ll be surprised how much more endearing your characters will be to your readers.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase