When it comes to this game we call writing, there are not many things more complicated to get right, or more important, than relationships.
Think about it, in the real world, so much of what we do involves interaction with others. From grocery shopping, to school friends, to romantic connections and colleagues. We are forever meeting people and interacting. If you meet the same person often enough, a relationship can develop. This does not have to be anything conscious, but it is just a natural act. It is a complex thing, to accurately capture relationships in the written word. There are incalculable nuances of the human condition which impact and disrupt who we get on with each other with certain people. Who some associated make better friends and appeal to us more than others.
In writing, you need to capture this in word. All of the principles or real world interaction apply. Body language, visual stimuli, etc. But they must be captured on put on paper.
Some of the best books I have read in recent months nailed the role of relationships in life perfectly. They caught the intricacies of not only the interaction between the main characters, but the fringe ones also. Casual acquaintances; the cashier at the supermarket, a bank teller, even a beggar, encountered on the same corner of the same street, every day. Relationships are everywhere and they are a bigger part of our lives, than many of us could imagine.
If you are working on a story today –if you are a writer, that is a pretty safe bet to take – then have a look at the scene you have written. The relationships that are there, and more importantly, think about the ones that are missing. Those near background moments of the day. The things that we would struggle to recall if asked, but do nonetheless. It is those small instances that can often have the biggest impact on a scene and really make it pop!
I know for my current novel, the one with my editor at this moment, I wanted to make sure that I took the time to work on the character relationships. Some, were not developed fully, because the mere hint of one is also, under some circumstances, enough. You can see two strangers who clearly know each other, and while the extent of their relationship is a mystery, you are able to draw your own conclusions.
Small things are what matter. In real relationships, they say it is not the large, grand gestures that count, but the small, intimate moments. The same thought can be used for writing; the small moments are often a bigger defining moment for a set of characters than one single large scale gesture.
Relationships take time, and they take hard work, but if you put all of that in, you get something much more rewarding in return.