Strong Character Relationships in Stories

Strong relationships in Breaking Bad

Strong relationships abound in Breaking Bad

In her book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger reminds us that character relationships are at the centre of most stories. With the exception of such stories 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.

Ask yourself the question: How successful would Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Rain Man, or Breaking Bad have been without the special relationships between the lead characters?

All of these stories have characters based on traits that cause the most bang for the buck when mixed together. And it’s not any old mix.

The nature of character relationships

It involves certain recurring traits and patterns in stories:

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 engaged in strong relationships with one another is an important way of generating interest in your stories.

2 thoughts on “Strong Character Relationships in Stories

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Waring : contains spoilers for those who have not watched season 8 of the walking dead.

    This article is perhaps most appropriate for a television series. Memorable movies like Good Will hunting or Saving
    private Ryan have strong character relationships mainly because an audiences has invested over two hours of there precious time in getting to know these charterers – That’s a lot of screen time. Most films don’t have the luxury of running for over ninety minutes. However a series that keeps you watching owes it rating success to strong character relationships. AMC’s smash it the Walking dead is a good example when you look at the character relation between Rick and Negan

    1. Rick and Negan have something in common that brings them together.
    They both respect Carl’s memory and are willing to negotiate a peace treaty to honor Carl’s last wish : Peace between Alexandria and the Saviors.

    2. A conflict between characters that threatens to tear them apart.
    Rick believes the only way to establish peace with the Saviors is to kill Negan.

    3. Characters have contrasting traits
    Rick puts his people first and wants to do what is best for everyone. Negan rules through fear and violence and is only interested in himself and his needs.

    4. Characters that have the ability to transform each other, for better or worse.
    Rick defeats Negan and spares his life to remind his new found followers of how different he is from there former leader.

    In short : A good place to start is looking at the relationship between the main protagonist and main antagonist.


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