In her book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger reminds us that characters hardly ever exist in isolation from each other. With the exception of such stores as Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, or Steven Spielberg’s Duel, most tales consist of characters who love, hate, like, or dislike each other.
Novelist Leonard Tourney stresses that couples have become more important in fiction and in film.
Pairing people up into relationships changes their individual chemistry; it brings out differing aspects in them: Walter White’s complex master/slave relationship with Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, is one of the many examples of this sort of complexity. Older television series such as Cheers, Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey, and Moonlighting, are more cases in point. This is not limited to television alone.
How successful would Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Rain Man, or Lethal Weapon have been without this chemistry between the lead characters?
All of these stories have characters based on traits that cause the most bang for the buck when mixed together. The mix is characterised by:
1. Characters who have something in common that brings them and keeps them together.
2. A conflict between characters that threatens to tear them apart and is the cause of much of the humour or drama in a story.
3. Characters have contrasting traits — opposites may attract, but they often combust when brought together.
4. Characters that have the ability to transform each other, for better or worse.
Marshaling characters utilising these relational traits is a useful method for creating interesting stories.
Writing characters that are driven by strong relational dynamics is an important way of generating interest in your stories.
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