Introduction by Gilda Evans:
It is my pleasure to share this insightful post by Florence Osmund with my audience. While it is written from the standpoint of creating fictional characters, I think it’s important to point out that art very often imitates life. The things that Florence points out are just as relevant in governing real relationships as they are in creating believable ones for our books. So, whatever your trade is, you will glean something from this post. Enjoy!

Building Believable Relationships in Fiction

When writing fiction, there are many ways to drive the story forward, and one of them is to build believable relationships between the characters. Whether you’re writing about a parent/child relationship, or one between a worker and boss, two lovers, friends, siblings, adversaries, or strangers, how the characters relate to each other is key to creating a compelling storyline.

Here are some factors to consider when building fictional relationships.

Conflict: Most, if not all, long-term relationships include some level of conflict. Without it, the relationship just isn’t credible. Conflict may arise from something as simple as a minor disagreement or as severe as all-out war. How the couple resolves the conflict will also help to define the relationship.

Communication: The manner in which two people communicate with each other says a lot about their relationship. Think about these three basic verbal and non-verbal communication styles when developing character relationships:

Passive: Compliant, shy, submissive, indifferent, apologetic, soft voice, stooped posture

Assertive: Assured, confident, positive, strong-willed, direct, firm voice, relaxed posture

Aggressive: Hostile, combative, offensive, intrusive, disruptive, loud voice, rigid posture

Values and beliefs: Relationships can potentially succeed or fail based solely on the belief and value systems of the people involved. So when building relationships, consider creating scenes that fall under one of these broad categories of values and beliefs:

Financial responsibility
Cultural/social issues
Family matters

Stress: People react to stress differently, and you can convey significant information about your relational characters by showing how they handle stress. Consider these possible scenarios for a couple faced with a difficult situation:

Stepping away from the situation momentarily Vs charging in like a bull
Maintaining a positive attitude Vs a negative one
Talking it through Vs clamming up
Addressing it directly Vs doing nothing

Empathy: Giving one of your characters the ability to feel what the other is feeling can lead to a good relationship. Conversely, a character’s lack of empathy can be detrimental.

Tolerance: Showing one character’s acceptance of another character’s faults will portray a strong relationship.

Trust: A trusting character can lead to many interesting plot points as well as define a relationship between two people. One character may trust someone, but not get that trust back in return. Or both characters may trust each other. Or neither one may trust the other one.

Respect: The level of respect characters give or don’t give each other will help to define the relationship.

Knowledge sharing: Some relationships are built on one character sharing knowledge with another, such as parent/child and teacher/student.

Support: Having one character provide support to another will either strengthen the relationship, or break it down if there is a lack of support when needed.

Humor: If your characters share the same sense of humor, their relationship may be stronger than if they don’t. Similarly, if one uses humor to get through difficult situations and the other one doesn’t, it could weaken the relationship.

Sex: Whether a couple engages in sex or not will define whether they have a romantic or platonic relationship. How much, how little and the types of sex they engage in will also help to define the relationship.

The important thing to remember when building fictional relationships is to make them flawed, because as we all know, in real life, no relationship is perfect.

About the Author

Florence Osmund grew up in an old Victorian home in Libertyville, Illinois, complete with a coach house, the same house she used as inspiration for her first two books. She earned her master’s degree from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and has obtained more than three decades of management experience in corporate America. Osmund currently resides in Chicago where she is working on the sequel to “The Coach House.”

Website (includes lots of new author advice):
Facebook Author page:
Amazon link to buy “The Coach House:”