Write Dynamic Character Relationships

For those writers who want to improve (or begin to create) dynamic relationships for their characters, below is a list of points to keep in mind.

A dynamic character is a character who faces conflict and is changed by it. Similarly, a dynamic relationship is one that encounters conflict and changes because of it. The change(s) may be small or extreme.

Dynamic relationships (like dynamic characters) tend to be both more rare and more detailed than “flat” relationships. This may be because because they take more space for the writer to develop and if used injudiciously they can distract the reader from the main story. Or it may be because they can be more difficult to develop.

In either case, the following points can help you build or develop the relationships that your characters form.

Sticky Forces

Every person in a relationship has one or more reason for being there. This may be kinship, attraction, a cause, or some other bond. This “sticky” force not only brings the characters into the relationship but keeps them there. Reasons do not have to be universal within the group — different people can have different reasons — and the reasons can change over time.

Repulsive Forces

Just as there is at least one reason that keeps the characters inside the relationship, real relationships have at least one reason that drives the characters away from each other. “Repulsive” forces are not as strong as the sticky forces (yet!) but they might have that potential. Repulsive forces can include events, feelings, or preferences — just to name a few.

Contrasting Traits

No two characters should be identical. Contrasting traits can serve as a sticky force when opposites attract each other or compliment each other. They can serve as a repulsive force when the contrasting traits cause conflict. (Please note that shared traits can do this too.) Or contrasting traits may simply illustrate the distinct personalities within the relationship.

Transformative Potential

These forces and traits interact to create the potential for change in one or more character and the relationship. The sticky forces represent what can be kept or obtained if she changes. The repulsive forces may provide the triggers for change OR may be considered inevitable and unsolvable. In the first case, a transformation is possible. If the relationship transforms, then contrasting traits may turn into strengths.

Dynamic characters tend to have dynamic relationships. These dynamic relationships will reflect, encourage, and sometimes inhibit the shaky process of personal change. Dynamic relationships include both sticky and repulsive forces, contrasting traits, and transformative potential.

Including dynamic relationships wisely can strengthen your writing by providing wider contexts for your character, creating a subplot that ties into your plot, enhancing your character arc, and reinforcing your theme.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you have a trait that you’d like to add? Share it in our Comments section below.
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