As I make my immersion into writing again, I’ve begun rereading some of my old novels. I reread Volition Agent because it is a short novel and I wanted to get back into it. But then I read Dissolution of Peace with the hope to get the sequel out later this year. I also got to thinking about Broken Trust.
Now, I mention these novels for more than just a quick plug for myself, but also because I happened to notice a theme here. All three of those novels, though less so in Volition Agent, show the Male / Female Friendship. And not just a casual friendship, but a close bond often becoming best friends.
And since June 8th was National Best Friend Day, and I have a female best friend, I thought this was a great topic to discuss.
I think this theme is largely because of my own life experiences. I find myself getting a long with females more than males. I have some good male friends, but, of my closest friends over the years, most of them have been female.
But it is funny how in real life the Male / Female friendship is so complicated. You have to deal with jealous significant others, rumors, and a level of social stigma that imply the friendship isn’t possible. As a straight male, I’ve had this issue many times over and it has even kept me from ever having a good friendship.
The thing is, there is no reason a man and a woman can’t be friends. Society has this absolutely wrong and it drives me nuts. I could go on a long rant about this but I won’t because I want to stick with the writing part of this. (Besides, I am fairly sure many will see the rant behind the topic.)
So here are some of my tips, both from real life and from writing, on how to have successful coed friendship in your novel.
Attraction is Okay
It is absolutely okay to have a level of attraction there. It is natural to develop a bond with someone and get a little attraction involved too. Attraction is normal and personally I do think all of my female friends are attractive women. Remember attraction isn’t just physical appearance either.
In Dissolution of Peace, Janice’s first impression of Mike is that he isn’t that good looking of a man. After developing a very close friendship with him, her perception of his appearance changes. They have a friendship forged in their protection of each other and as that trust grows she just begins to see him differently.
The point here is that attraction comes in a variety of forms and it is normal and possible to find a friend of the opposite sex attractive and not “make the moves” on them.
Banter and Flirting are not the same thing
My wife often teases me that I flirt an awful lot. But my banter with my friends is often mistaken by outside eyes as flirting. And maybe by the very technical of definitions it could be seen that way. But I don’t think of it as the same thing.
When you develop a friendship bond with another male, to give each other shit it is perfectly normal and acceptable. The exact same words can be said to a female friend and society says, “ohhhh they want to hook up.”
Again, the point is that there is no reason your male and female friendship can’t exchange banter. You shouldn’t have to second guess your words with true friends and neither should your character.
Compliments are Okay
This one is insane to me. I tell my male friend, “That shirt looks sharp.” And it is just a compliment. But I tell a female friend that those jeans are amazing and next thing you know the rumors start up. Why has society done this?
Compliments to your friends shouldn’t be awkward and they should be part of any healthy relationship. Not just compliments on appearance either. Compliments on hard work, success, a new significant other, or anything about their life should be included.
Friends hang out
If two friends go get a slice of pizza and see a movie, it is hanging out. But a male/female friendship is treated different. These two decide they want to go to a movie, and now it might be date. That shouldn’t be the case at all.
While I think it is great for friends to hang out with the significant others involved too, there isn’t any reason a friend should have to include them all the time. It is okay for a male and female friend to go and hang out alone. It is not a date.
Jealousy is a real emotion. I am jealous often and easily. It doesn’t mean anything more than that I feel left out or not as important. I recognize that.
My wife is very supporting of my having female friends, she even claims to not be jealous. And while I know very well that my wife trusts me and doesn’t get jealous near as easy as I do, I know she is human and thus gets jealous from time to time.
I am not just talking about the jealous significant other, though, in my experience, that has been the most damaging to friendships I’ve had. There is also jealousy between the friends. It is okay to be a bit jealous that your friend has dedicated their time to something other than you.
Jealousy can be just a fleeting thought or a raging storm. But it is a part of any healthy friendship. It is how far the jealousy goes that really matters. Jealousy can by a nasty catalyst for disaster, so the line is fine.
In Dissolution of Peace, Serenity finds herself a bit jealous of Janice and Mike’s friendship. This isn’t because she is worried Janice with steal Mike, but because Mike and Serenity have to hide their relationship while Janice and he are able to hang out in the “open” and more often.
I put this at the end for a couple of reasons, but one of those is the fact that it is probably the most awkward of the dynamics of a male and female friendship. But also, our imagination is often one of the things we keep secret the most. But I don’t do that because it isn’t healthy for any relationship.
First is the dream realm. Why we are so scared to share that we dreamed about someone of the opposite sex is beyond me. We are hardly in control of our dreams but we somehow feel responsible for them.
The most awkward can be the sexual dreams simply because this is your friend and now you’ve imagined them in a sexual scenario. I always tell my wife all my dreams, even these, and she seems appreciative of the fact that I can share these with her. I’ve never shared these dreams with the friend I was dreaming about.
This is because of two society stigmas. Sex is not to be talked about and then the female male friendship is taboo. I have one friend I do tell when she is in my dreams regardless of the content. She doesn’t seem to mind, in fact I think I could tell her anything and maybe that’s why we are close friends.
In fact she told me that she read that sexual dreams about someone means you want to get to know them better. Don’t know if that is true, but sexual dreams are normal and often have little to do with sex.
Next is the day dream. I think this normal too. The imagination running wild thinking of what life might be like if you dated your friend. I’ve more than once commented to a friend that, “If we dated you’d drive me crazy because…” This is often in response to helping them with a relationship problem, but it does reflect that I’ve given it some thought.
When you are close to someone, I feel it is normal to let the mind wander to thoughts of people in different roles in your life. Life without someone, with someone in a different way, getting closer to someone one, and so on. When I met my newest friend, I often had day dreams about what my life would be life if we’d become close friends. Now, I can’t imagine life without this person.
There are scenes in both Volition Agent and Dissolution of Peace where characters think about if they would be able to date their friend. They don’t act on those thoughts, but they are there.
Real Life Inspiration
The bottom line, when writing any relationship it is important to draw from your own life experiences. Mine tell me that the male and female platonic relationship is very possible and in my fictional worlds it is even seen a little bit as normal. Because I see it as normal and acceptable. Society has made it something it isn’t.
The truth is, that I didn’t even notice this theme in my writing until I reread some of my work. It just came out to the paper because that is what I know.
I hope you got some value from this post to apply to your own writing, but in the end write what works for your story.