Top 5 enjoyable character dynamics
- “I’m good now, I swear!” Who else loves the glorious awkwardness when a reformed villain is now part of the heroic band we’ve been following throughout the story? The heroes don’t trust the former villain. Perhaps they only keep them around so they don’t do villainous things. Maybe some members of the team forgive them, but others are a tad vengeful or hold a grudge. Watch the struggle towards mutual trust. Laugh at jokes about “Hey, remember when you tried to kill me?”. Show the redeemed villain facing their former friends, now their enemy. There is drama, there is trauma, and it’s amazing. Avatar the Last Airbender pulled this off rather famously with Zuko. Who doesn’t love Zuzu?
- “You seem like a decent human being.” *Draws sword* “What a shame we don’t see eye to eye.” As entertaining as banter is, it can be just as intriguing to have enemies who recognize that the other is a decent person (plus you can still have banter). Respectable morals, kind, intelligent, etc. In a different world, we could be friends. Whether they believe in two different causes or if one is going about things the wrong way, it can be extremely interesting to see how respect changes a relationship that would otherwise be pure hatred. This dynamic can also solve the common plot hole of the antagonist not killing the hero when given the chance or unrealistically monologuing. They don’t want to kill someone they respect. They want to explain themselves to be respected in turn.
- “I would let the world burn if it meant you were safe.” I saw something recently that pointed out that you can never be the hero’s top priority. They have a world to save. Whereas with the villain, they don’t have those rules. It makes villain romances more fascinating. What will this morally questionable character do when their love is in danger? The answer: probably literally anything. Murder? Just another Tuesday. Betray someone? Everyone has a hobby. But let’s go back a bit. The hero has a world to save. No love interest could take priority over that. But imagine if that happened. We watch this paragon character who is renowned for always working towards the greater good with an intact moral compass. Then, someone they love is in danger. And that moral compass shatters. Betrayal, guilt, loss of favor…the consequences would be inevitable and far-reaching. Not to mention, dangerous amounts of loyalty can most definitely twist a character strength into a fatal flaw.
- “Oh, God. You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?” Does the mischievous character always get a certain glint in their eyes when they have an insane plan in mind? Give them a best friend (or significant other) who always notices. Their heart drops when they see that look. They mutter, “We’re all doomed.” under their breath at the sight. No matter what kind of relationship is being portrayed, it needs to be built on characterization. In turn, characterization can be supported and strengthened by showing the character’s relationships. When people know each other well enough, they can guess what the other will do next. This can and should be represented in books.
- “Get behind me!” Protectiveness is adorable. An arm thrown in front of a character as a battle begins or saying “Promise me you’ll come back alive” shows genuine concern. It gives relationships more depth. However, one character doesn’t have to be weaker for this dynamic to be possible. In fact, it’s even better when two characters of equal strength have each others’ backs. This dynamic is also an interesting angle for a character arc, if the character is overprotective. Imagine that our main character lost someone in his past. Now, he doesn’t let his close friends do anything dangerous, even though they want to help fight the villain and his henchmen. He won’t risk losing them, too. Over the course of the book/series, he could work to let go of the past, trusting his friends to watch over themselves and letting them protect him just as much as he protects them.