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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best Friend Trope

Today I'm going to talk about tropes. One trope in particular that I'll call The Best Friend Trope. Now, this trope might have an actual name. It's probably listed on TV Tropes somewhere with a long and funny article. But as I don't know the actual name -- or if the trope even has a name -- from here on it shall be called the Best Friend Trope.

these girls love the sun
 Everyone has a best friend. If you're lucky you'll have more than one.
I see best friends in YA all the time. There are good BFFS, a la Jellicoe Road and horrible BFFs a la Before I Fall. There are heartbroken friends and mean friends and chirpy friends and quirky friends and happy friends and every single kind of friend under the sun. Best friends, if they're used wisely and have a role in the story, can enrich the plot. If they aren't used wisely they can become nothing more than a trope or a plot device.

Below is a situation I see often in YA. This is not necissarily *every* best friend situation there is.

Cool MC: Hey, I'm super cool. I have a BFF. She is cool too (names reason BFF is cool). We hang out all the time.

BFF: Squee!

MC: Oh look, a mystery/hot boy/problem /every single thing under the sun we need to figure out.

BFF: I'll help

*they problem-solve*


BFF *acts weird*

I hate drfiting away BFFs!

MC: Now a major plot point has happened and my BFF is drifting away!

BFF: *drifts away*

MC: *is sad* :(

And thus brings me to the problem. I see this all the time. The BFF and the MC start to work on a problem. It could be any problem. Getting the guy, figuring out what's going on at the old spooky haunted house, or punching some creeps in the face. The two of them work on it together in blissful, peaceful harmony. And then a major plot point happens. The BFF drifts away. She runs away. She forgets about the MC. She ignores the MC. She and the MC fight. And then the BFF isn't a character. She's a character forced there for a little while, while the writer pushes her away so the MC can do....whatever the MC wants to do.

I see this ALL THE TIME. It's predictable and annoying. And it's a sorry excuse for a writer. Don't just push your characters away like that. Plot device characters are annoying. Best friends seem to be the ones chosen for this most normally. Develop your best friends. Give them emotions. Feelings. Give them more than three scenes. Give them a real relationship with your MC. Make the relationship different and nonpredictable. Make the MC a character.

I don't feel any relationship towards your characters, towards your MCs, when you push them away and make them plot devices. Make your best friends strong, give them real purposes in your story. And if your MC's best friend exists only for one reason, to further the plot, to add suspense, then develop them. And if you have to, cut them apart with scissors. Make a best friend that someone would really be friends with.

Don't make your characters tropes. Don't make them plot devices. Because when you do, they become predictable. They become annoying. And they aren't best friends anymore.



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