The Disappearance of Best Friends

Forums Fiction Characters The Disappearance of Best Friends

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    I’ve had this on my mind for a while, so I just thought I’d start a thread and maybe get a discussion going. I’ll just get straight to the point:

    What ever happened to best friends in fiction??

    I’m not talking about the always teasing each other and giving each other a hard time, even though we’re pretty close. I’m talking the I love you so deeply, and I’m not afraid to say so, because honestly I would die for you.

    I’m talking about the David and Jonathans, Frodo and Sams, Anne and Dianas, maybe even Steve and Bucky kind of relationships. Maybe I’m just not reading the right books, but I feel like those kind of relationships are extremely rare in fiction now days… I don’t know, I could be wrong.

    But I’ve just been wondering, are people afraid to portray, or even be in those kind of relationships because they can be seen as weird or even gay? Because I know a lot of people can see them that way, but it just seems wrong to me to shy away from portraying them because of that.

    Also, what about the best male/female friends who really love each other but not romantically?

    I just feel like this is something that we should talk about and discuss (and I hope this all kind of made sense despite it’s rambly-ness)… What are your thoughts??

    I’m afraid I’m not active enough on this site to know is still active or who I should tag 😬, but if you stumble across this thread, even if I’ve never met you before, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

    “Creativity takes courage” -Henri Matisse



    Hi, stumbled across your post while looking at the recent activity. That’s pretty much how I find everything on here. LOL

    Also, what about the best male/female friends who really love each other but not romantically?

    I recently read the Promise of Jesse Woods, the book they have been reviewing on here recently. It was very good.

    In that story, Jesse and the boy (can’t remember his name) are best friends for most of their childhood. (I would recommend reading that book if you haven’t already)

    In the story I am writing right now, Chloe (my MC), is very close friends with a guy, but not in a romantic way at all. (I posted the first chapter in Contemporary Fiction if you want to read it,)

    But you are right and I totally agree with you on that.

    This isn’t actually something that I’ve noticed/thought about before, but now that I am thinking about it, I can’t think of many good stories out there with Best Friend-type relationships.

    But I’ve just been wondering, are people afraid to portray, or even be in those kind of relationships because they can be seen as weird or even gay? Because I know a lot of people can see them that way, but it just seems wrong to me to shy away from portraying them because of that.

    I agree. Don’t just avoid putting close relationships in writing because of the way the world has twisted relationships. God intended for man to have friends (ex: Adam & Eve, David & Jonathan-you mentioned that :)- and my mind is drawing a blank now but I know there are more).


    Life is short, smile while you still have teeth!

    Taylor Clogston

    This made sense, don’t worry about the rambliness =P It’s an interesting topic. Your initial distinction got me thinking:

    “I’m not talking about the always teasing each other and giving each other a hard time, even though we’re pretty close. I’m talking the I love you so deeply, and I’m not afraid to say so, because honestly I would die for you.”

    I think a combination of these might be at play:

    • Romance is more fun and useful to most stories than platonic friendship. Readers like romantic relationships! Hollywood demands them in every genre, and genre fic apes Hollywood.
    • Conflict is more realistic and fun than chaste, loving friendship. If you remove the “teasing each other and giving each other a hard time even though we’re pretty close,” you lose the witty banter everyone everywhere seems to love. That’s again assuming we’re talking about genre fic.
    • The “I love you so deeply, etc.” without the “always teasing each other, etc.” is not common between men in the Western world. I can’t speak for whether it’s common among women, but the West has a strong tradition of beating down male vulnerability.
    • A few of my friends have described friendship this close, and they’re all combat vets. Though they definitely gave each other a hard time constantly. Maybe the key to an authentic best friendship is a desperate conflict that makes your comrades collectively the good guys.
    • This is hard to write on a Christian writing site, but romance and intimacy are inextricably linked. If you have no solid basis for intimacy, romance is assumed. Two male characters being close usually involves a lot of gay subtext. In fact, in every example I tried to come up with for a best friendship that matched what you were looking for in the OP, there was at least one-sided explicit romantic attraction. Eventually I gave up. Maybe making certain your characters are well fleshed out aside from this relationship will help. Definitely don’t fall into the trap of your male character giving all their love and devotion to another male and then occasionally being like “Oh yeah I definitely like women tho, no homo” because that’s one of the most queer-coded traits in the canon.

    Maybe too it comes from an assumption that intimacy always begets a romantic love.  And only a romantic love.  While that can be a facet of intimate connections, it shouldn’t be the pinnacle.  I have to concur with @taylorclogston as even writing this, I have to sort through the immediate connotations that pop up when using the word intimate.  Our hearts are hardwired to desire intimacy and God often speaks of us being his bride and all those associated images.  Yet, in personal opinion, to only view God seeking us out in romantic terms is one sided.  He does love us.  With that greater love.  The bridegroom seeking his bride AND a mighty king AND a divine creator.  Maybe that God seeks us with a love that encompasses the romantic side and more and we don’t know always how to even make sense of that.  That love is more than romantic displays.

    Our culture stops at seeing intimacy always being culminated in a romantic way.  Even digging through the meanings of the word intimate, the definition that struck me is “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.”  That and “marked by warm friendship developing through long association”.  Kindred souls weathering the tempests of life together.  That’s not displayed only in a romantic relationship and I feel it’s shortsighted to contain it only within that.  Almost redefining a word to suit an end goal.

    What’s also interesting is why male to male relationships seem to face a heavier level of scrutiny than female ones when it comes to this.  Women can have those close female friendships and it’s not so quickly apprehended to support the intimacy equates romantic love agenda.  I have to wonder if there are far deeper things going on.  Men need that fellowship and it is healthy but harder to find, thus they face more scrutiny when they do achieve it.  Meaning, it’s a healthy God intended thing that is hard won, so our enemy is loath to give it up without sticking some nasty barb in it.  I.e., “You can have that level of intimacy but only if it indicates a gay relationship.”

    So… maybe… maybe part of our work is to show there is more to love.  Through well crafted relationships that aren’t always romantic.  I’d love to hear feedback and pushback on this.  Something I’ve thought about as I’m working on crafting male to male relationships in a work in progress.


    Interesting idea, Chalice! Thanks for starting this thread.

    In his book, “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis devotes a chapter to friendship. He describes how a good friendship differs from a romantic relationship. When two people are lovers, the primary purpose/goal of the relationship is each other–the intimate relationship is an end in itself. With friendship, however, an interest, cause, or goal the friends share is what brings them together, and keeps them together. Yes, love and intimacy can and should develop, but they are side benefits, not the primary reason for the relationship.

    Lewis said (and I paraphrase) “While lovers are staring into each other’s eyes, friends are standing shoulder to shoulder seeking new horizons.” It’s the passion and drive of a shared goal, a shared life purpose, even if it’s simply to survive, that makes “friendish” people into friends who would die for each other.  I don’t believe there’s any culture in the world where people, whether of the same or opposite gender, who are truly just friends, spend a lot of time thinking about each other and their relationship, let alone expressing lots of verbal or physical affection for each other. But they may spend all their time together, rebuilding a broken wall, cooking a feast, or saving the world. I think that’s the secret to writing a great friendship.


    Taylor Clogston

    @zee Thank you so much for that paraphrase! Something clicked for me when I read it. You reminded me of The State of Affairs by Esther Parel, which attributes some of our modern issues with infidelity to our demands that our spouses fill not only our romantic needs, but the social and spiritual needs which for most of human history have been filled by same-sex-non-sexual friendships and by religion, respectively. As Parel says, it’s just too much to ask of one flawed human being. But the idea that your romantic partner is your best friend is something I see everywhere around me. I guess if a reader thinks a romantic partner is inherently a best friend, I can understand why they would think a best friend is inherently a romantic interest.

    @deeprun Hey, long time no see. I always cringe away from “must be the work of the Enemy” because it feels to me like moving away from the idea that human action is the problem and, by extension, from the idea that we have responsibility to address it instead of “just” praying. Not necessarily disagreeing with you, just presenting my bias. I do think that women suffer a different scrutiny in relationships. Women have the stereotype of not really being friends, instead always manipulating and backbiting each other. I see this constantly.

    Also, “romantic friendship” has a Wikipedia page, which to me sounds quite a lot like what we’re talking about. It’s not amazing. [citation needed] everywhere.

    Daeus Lamb

    Heh, I have two male friends who, in earlier drafts, to my chagrin, expressed what some people would interpret as homosexual undertones. That wasn’t an authentic interpretation as far as I was concerned. But I could see how I might be giving people suggestions that could be taken that way.

    Here’s what I did to try to remedy the situation.

    • I showed a little more of their backstory. I didn’t have room for much, but a little helped show how their relationship had developed and, I think, made it seem a little more natural.
    • One of the guys, because he was shier and more sensitive, sometimes lost focus on practical stuff and was too focused on his feelings. In the examples you listed @chalice, the relationships are driven in part by a sense of duty and commitment to watching out for each other. I made my character a little more practical, which I think makes it seem more platonic. He’s still sensitive, but…I think I’ve addressed the worst of it.
    • I tried to show more normal interaction. If the relationship is always full of a combination of tension and love (which this one was for platonic reasons) it could easily seem like romantic tension. But, of course, romantic tension is a fairly omnipresent thing in romances. Showing the characters interact for extended periods of time without that sort of tension I think really helps.
    • I rigorously watched for any romantic cues and tried to remove them. For instance, everyone was hounding me for more descriptions of the characters in the first chapter. Well, guess what? That chapter was from the POV of one of the characters in this relationship. So I had to describe everyone else through his eyes. And, lo and behold, I pictured his best friend more vividly in /my/ head than the other characters. So I end up writing it so the one friend noticed twice as many physical details about his best friend as about the other characters around. *facepalm* *facepalm* *facepalm* *facepalm* *facepalm* Yeah, I think I fixed that.
    • First impressions. Thankfully, one of my beta readers convinced me to start my story one chapter earlier than I had been in previous drafts. This provided me with one of the most normal scenes between these two characters, and first impressions are powerful. Fingers crossed.
    • Finally, I showed that one of the characters was interested in a relationship with a woman. I know some really hardcore shippers will just say he’s bisexual, but I think it’ll reduce that sort of shipping.
    Daeus Lamb

    Oh, you know what else helped? The third friend. Yeah, the tight friend group is actually three. They’re all really tight, except these two happen to be tighter because they’ve gone through a little more together, plus, their personalities connect naturally on a deeper level.

    In earlier drafts, this third guy got sidelined. Now I’m doing a little better at showing all three of them interacting together. The more I get readers to think of this group as three, not 2 +1, the far more it’ll seem brotherly.

    …Speaking of brotherly, these days, while you can do it, it’ll be harder to write a really tight relationship between two unrelated male characters. But I think you can still get away with intense love in father-son and brother-brother relationships.


    As I analyzed past stories I’ve written with this idea in mind, I realize I don’t have much in the way of same-gender friendships. I wonder if I’ve been subconsciously avoiding this because of how it could be misinterpreted? Also, because I am currently writing romance, perhaps they didn’t seem as important, but now I’m thinking it’s something I should explore.

    I do have one (male) character who enjoyed a very close relationship with his (also male) cousin, largely because they were raised as brothers for a good portion of their lives, but unfortunately the cousin is dead, so the relationship, while still important, is only a memory.

    The only other same-gender friendship approaching this level of closeness would be that between a significantly older “father figure” character, and a young man who has lost his father. But maybe that doesn’t count?


    A close brother/sister relationship is a major factor in the plot of all three stories.

    And, in the first one, an older sister’s idea of what is best for her younger sister creates all kinds of problems for nearly everyone involved, but the older sister’s actions are certainly based in love, misguided though it may be.

    Good food for thought, this.


    @zee It is indeed for highly fiber filled food for thought.  I’ve not read the Four Loves in a while and in light of this, will begin the hunt this afternoon.  Especially before any more commentary.


    Arindown (Gracie)


    Yes! Yes! Yes! I didn’t know that someone else felt this way. What did happen to the best friends?

    For me, one of the huge gaps I see is the lack of friendship between siblings. Because, honestly, my sisters and brothers are have been my bff’s ever since I can remember, especially the ones near my age. Logically, your siblings should be the ones at your side through pain and joy…but a lot of writers miss that. They tend to make the siblings evil (I can’t say I’ve never done the villain-sibling thing😄) or just plain annoying.

    I assume what you’re talking about those honest, “I’ll carry you,” relationships that take love, and a whole lot of grit, but are worth it because you care about each other.

    I think another thing that people miss is the love outside of romantic relationships. I have friends, both boys and girls, who I legitimately love. I don’t necessarily tell them that (it might be weird😝) but it’s true. These are people that I would stand up for, who I would confront if they were doing something wrong (hopefully) and who I seek out when I need a good laugh, or a long chat.

    I think, especially between guys, there’s not much chance that best friends will say they love each-other. It seems weird. But I think actions, and even things like, “I trust you,” show that love.

    Probably the best example I can think of friendship is Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there’s some really moving scenes where Janner, Kal, and Leeli (three siblings) show their love for each-other through playful punching, looking out for each-other, leaning on each-other’s shoulders, talking, crying, and even telling each-other “I love you.” It never ends up weird, even though the books are soaked in love, with both friendship and romance.

    "If I'm gonna break, I'll break like the dawn." -Nightbirde

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