Writing Relationships: Other People
Acquaintances. Fellow workers. That librarian you always see when you go to get books. Each day we have little interactions we never think about, but are relationships in their own ways. Welcome to part four of my writing relationships series. (If you missed it, here parts one, two, and three.) Today we're talking about relationships with people you don't think about that much. These sorts of interactions can be great examples of what sort of person your character is.
Also, my apologies for getting this up late. I was out all day yesterday between an art gallery trip with my friends and drivers ed. I was home about an hour total, so I had no time to upload this post until today.
You know who I'm talking about. People you know well enough to greet, but not close enough to be called a friend. In novels, these types of people are often left out, because they aren't often important to the narrative. That's fine. But when do they come in, normally to give some sort of information to the protagonist, we need to think about how the characters react to each other.
Try to make your character react the way you would. Unless the character is one that needs to improve their attitude, they will probably be polite and somewhat friendly, depending on how well they know the person.
Don't forget that these sorts of characters in novels, the ones that aren't that important, don't need development or lots of description. But if that character is going to be important later, show the reader that this person is special and you should keep an eye out for them.
People Seen Daily
Classmates. Co-workers. Carpool families. Neighbors. Any people that you might see daily and be familiar with. They can fall anywhere from friends to casual acquaintances to almost strangers. How our characters act towards these people can be an important show of character.
If your protagonist is a extrovert, the way they react to the people they see daily will differ from someone who is an introvert. The many facets of a personality can really show through when put in a situation like this.
You may not have a chance to put a scene with people your protagonist might see daily, depending on your story, but if you can, it can be quite good to show what sort of person your MC is. Too often, these opportunities are overlooked. But try to make sure your protagonist treats other well, unless they're going to go through a major character change. People aren't nearly nice enough to each other any more, even if they see each other every day.
There are so many we interact with each day. Clerks, librarians, postal workers, and more. These types of people in stories are mostly throw-away characters, since they aren't important to the plot. The barista who serves your MC a coffee on the way to work isn't exactly someone the readers will remember. But like I said before, they can be a great way to show character.
Too often, I think we think of people we don't know, workers especially, as people simply there to serve our needs. We forget they're people too and treat them unkindly or harshly. They aren't always the nicest either. That's why we should try to show our protagonists being considerate of others.
One writing prompt I read was to have your protagonist in line at the coffee shop, then have someone cut in front of them. See how your character reacts, which can be a good insight to personality. We need to write more characters that are willing to be polite and still willing to stand up for themselves to others.
What I'm trying to say, through all of these posts, is that we should try to write relationships that we want to see between people. This may not work for every story, depending on what you're writing, but that doesn't mean we can't fill our novels with examples of good. How else can we influence the world?
Let's talk! How do you think our characters should react to people around them? Do you think we need more examples of good relationships in our novels? Tell me in the comments.