Who Needs Best Friends?

Whether it’s in real life or found on the big screen or between the pages of a favorite book, we need best friends.

Anyone who’s been through either good or difficult times can appreciate the steadfast friend who remains at your side.

As a writer, I can’t imagine having a main character without the benefit of a best friend.  Sometimes they provide comic relief or that voice of reason.  Whether that best friend is quirky, serious or just sweetly loyal, I love best friends!  Love, love, love ‘em!

Where would Lucy be without her Ethel?  Probably not in as much trouble, but, come on, where’s the fun in that?  Can you even picture Fred Flinstone without Barney Rubble?  Or Spongebob without Patrick. 

There are, of course, the stories with best friends that have you reaching for your tissue box.  Beaches.  Bridge to Terabithia.  My Girl.  Fried Green Tomatoes.  Charlotte’s Web.  Those are the stories that make you want a best friend just like the one you read or saw—even though the outcome of that friendship may be about loss and pain and learning to go on without them. 

Mohammed Ali once said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school.  But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”  So, so true.  We usually do learn the important lessons from our friends because they’re the sounding board for our hair-brained ideas, and if we’re lucky, they’ll manage to talk us out of them!  From the crib to nursing home, we depend on our friends.  No pun intended on the Depends.  Well, now there is…

What does friendship mean to you?  As a person?  As a writer?  What are the qualities that a best friend has to have as a supporting character in a book?  For me, they have to have a strong sense of loyalty and acceptance.  You can tell a lot about people by their best friends.  In some ways, they help define us.  They help us to understand ourselves, and, sometimes to accept ourselves—faults and all. 

Many times best friends come together because they have so much in common.  Others join forces because they’re so different and can somehow, someway balance out each other’s weaknesses and complement their strengths. 

Writers are an amazing group of friends when they finally meet.  Who else can fully appreciate the need to talk to imaginary people?  Who else can understand the mad scramble for a pen and paper while driving because you just thought of an amazing idea?  Who else can sympathize with you as you hit a bump in the publishing road?  No one else gets why a rejection letter from a complete stranger can feel like someone close to you just broke your heart.

Within the past year, I was lucky enough to become part of several amazing groups of writers.  My Unsinkable Sisters (and one lone brother) from the 2010 Golden Heart Finalists.  My MargaRITA sisters, the YA finalists from that same group.  RWA and the smaller chapters—WRW and YARWA.  And, now, my very own Waterworld Mermaids, who recently joined forces as first-timers at our local conference. 

When you think of best friends in books, movies or real life, who comes to mind?  Who inspires you?  Oprah and Gayle?  Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer?  Laverne and Shirley?  And, when you write those secondary characters—best friends for your hero or heroine—what character traits do they have to have? 

I’ll end with an anonymous quote I once read:  “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

So, when life kicks you in the butt or things don’t seem to be going your way, make sure you have the friend who will remind you not to forget your dreams and the songs in your heart.  Someone who will pick you up, dust you off, and then give you another swift kick in that same butt—but in a good way.