Thursday, 20 August 2009

A Girl's Best Friend.

‘“Here you go. A slice and some ice, just enough to make that satisfying clink as one gets slowly sozzled.”
“Danny, you’re my hero. Say you’ll marry me.”
“I thought you’d never ask. A church do, naturally.”
“Only if you promise to wear white.”
“And you promise to wear as little as possible.”
“Cheers, you loony.”’

Recognise that sort of exchange? If you’ve got a best friend, then you will! That’s Maggie Lawless, my heroine from A Different Kind of Honesty, and her best friend Danny Chang. I don’t think I could ever write a heroine without writing her best friend too. My heroines aren’t dependent on my heroes – God forbid! – but they’re definitely dependent on their best friend. A girl’s best friend provides the shoulder to cry on, and the metaphorical ankle to kick. He – or she – will set her straight, cheer her on, and point out the error of her ways in the nicest possible way. Well, you knew that! But in terms of writing the story, the Best-Friend-Character is a great tool. The heroine can say things to the best friend that she might never say to the hero, and maybe not even to herself. Having the BFC shows us how the heroine conducts her relationships with other people, and tells us a lot about her loyalty. As a writer, I love writing the heroine’s best friend, because I get to indulge my naughty side. I can tease the heroine, I can stop her taking herself so seriously and let her laugh at the occasional absurdities of her romance with the hero. Here’s another exchange between Maggie and Danny.

'Maggie didn’t even pretend not to watch as Tony walked toward the sliding doors.
Danny folded his arms and tsk-tsk’d.
“Honestly. Put your tongue in, girl, it’s not ladylike. Listen, do you have any idea how much I’ve been dying to get you on your own since the softball game?”
Maggie picked up the hand towel from the counter, making a big deal of shaking it out and hanging it up on its hook. “Have you really?” she said, as lightly as she could manage.
“Just a little! I nearly followed you to the bathroom at one point, but I decided that was a bit too juvenile even for me.”
He hoisted himself up on the counter and swung his feet like a ten-year old. “What happened out there? That was one helluva tackle.”
Maggie tried to keep her expression as serene as possible. “We just crashed and tripped, that’s all.”
“Oh, yes, silly me.” He raised his eyes skyward. “And you just happened to end up underneath him. Gosh, the memories must have come flooding back.”'

In my short story Perfect Strangers, the heroine’s best friend is vital. Marco, Anna’s best friend, has let her use his apartment for a few days – the same apartment where she and the hero spend their one perfect night. We never actually see Marco, and only hear from him once during one short telephone conversation, but I was able to use this BFC to move the story along and tell the reader a bit more about Anna.

'She remembered their phone conversation as if it was yesterday.

“Ciao, bella, come va?”
“Marco! I’m fine, you?”
“Good! But I have a little mystery which I think maybe you can solve for me.”
“A mystery?”
“I have an envelope, addressed to—let me see—’Marco, Director, L’Accademia, Venice.’ That’s all. Inside, a note and another envelope. Cara mia, what have you been up to? I think it’s meant for you.”
“For me? Why?”
“Listen. ‘Dear Marco. Forgive me, but please pass this to the woman who stayed in your apartment last week. I never knew her name.’ It’s not signed.” He paused. “Anna, are you still there, bella? Shall I open it, yes?”
She held her breath as she listened to the sound of paper tearing, then Marco’s voice back on the line.
“Ah, someone has taste...La Madonna della Sedia. Again, not signed, but there’s something written on the back. Let me make it out...’per sempre’. Dio, Anna! You keep secrets! You know who this is from?”
“I know who it’s from. Thanks, Marco. Please send it to me.”'

Finally, here’s an excerpt from an unpublished work-in-progress, Silver Wings. Amy is a WWII land-girl who helped rescue a Spitfire pilot whose plane crashed in the field she was digging. When he returns to the farm to thank her, her best friend Pixie knows she’ll find out what he said later – but nosy Dot has been listening at the door.

'Dot was hopping from one foot to the other, as if she was desperate to go to the loo, but wouldn’t go till I told her what happened. As if she didn’t know already, with her listening at keyholes. Well, she could pee in her knickers for all I cared; I wasn’t gong to say a word. Pixie was grinning again. She doesn’t need to spy to know what’s going on in my head, and she’d know I’d tell her later anyway. I love Pixie to death, and she knows how to keep a secret. But as for Dot...I couldn’t resist.
“I must talk to Tom about getting the farm cat down here,” I said as I walked past them, all airy. “I’m sure I heard mice in the hall. Or maybe even a rat!”
Pixie laughed her huge laugh, and Dot squealed and rushed off down the garden. I hope she wet herself before she got there.'

I love my heroines, and I love their best friends just as much. Here’s cheers to A Girl’s Best Friend!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hats off indeed to a Girl's Best Friend! Fascinating article, Jane. I love the ways in which you use the best friend and, as you say, the BF provides another insight into the heroine and a very useful foil.

I like the excerpts, especially Pixie! And Danny is great.

Thanks, Jane - another wonderful blog.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Thanks, Lindsay! I do love playing with the best friends. :)

Jane x

Maggie Toussaint said...

Ah Jane! I so enjoy your writing! And the WIP looks great. I love the witty banter that's so much a part of your work. Cheers!

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Jane! Very interesting article; I'm amazed how you can analyze the craft. I was nodding at everything you said, recognising the way the "best friends" in my own work play off one another. I just never really thought about it that way...

And you really are brilliant with dialogue...

Jane Richardson, writer said...

LOL Thanks, Maggie! :))

Jane x

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Francesca, and THANKS! You officially just made my day! :)

Jane x

Linda Banche said...

Hi Jane, I'm with Francesca--I love your dialog!

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Thanks, Linda. One thing I'm good at - talking! ;-) Nice to see you.

Jane x

Hywela Lyn said...

I loved the humour in 'A different Kind Of Honesty' Jane, and you're so right, a girl's best friend can add a whole new dimension to a relationship and get things across without the dreaded 'info drop', And you're so good at the humorous banter, this was such a great story to read.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Lyn! You're right about the 'info drop,' so the more ways we have to get round that, the better. Plus, naughty friends are so much fun to write! And thanks so much for the kind words, I can go to bed smiling now! :)

Jane x

Keena Kincaid said...

Ah, Jane, lovely blog, and very informative. You made me homesick for my best friend. I'm going to have to call her as soon as I'm done typing this.

Savanna Kougar said...

Jane, so true about best friends. Not all of my stories have them because of the circumstances the heroine finds herself in... however, you are so right about how interactions between best friends reveal the heroine's true character.
Your dialogue is fab.
And your unpubbed scene with Pixie ~ priceless!

Debra St. John said...

Great excerpts. Giving the heroine (or the hero) a best friend really does move the story along, and it helps delve into their emotions.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Jane, that Marco sounds delicious. What a good best friend. I find it easy to write best friends, and have one in every book. They are so practical for discussion.

LK Hunsaker said...

Jane, you know I loved your Danny character and Pixie sounds like fun, also. I notice you also tend toward a girl having a male best friend. It does add an extra dimension, doesn't it?

Mary Ricksen said...

Great excerpts, Nothing like a best friend.

Chelle Cordero said...

In retrospective I realize now that my heroines have also had prominant best friends, but I never realized how important they were to the story. Thanks for a terrific insight.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Wow, how nice to wake up to you all, Keena, Savanna, Debra, Mona, LK, Mary, Chelle! I'm glad so many of you like Pixie. She's fun, knowing, smart, witty, but vulnerable in her own way. You've encouraged me to keep going with her. And LK, yes, usually I do male best friends, they add another dimension and a bit of frisson. ;-) Generally, I have an older woman in the story, one who's wise and experienced, and the heroine goes to her for other things. Kinda like real life...?
You know, I never analysed it till this theme came up. I've really enjoyed hearing everyone's thoughts.
Keena, I hope you called your best friend and had a good, long chat!
Thanks, everyone. Lovely to hear from you all. :)

Jane x

Linda Swift said...

Jane, a day late here (and a dollar short?). But I just wanted to add my agreement with your throughts on best friends. They are a blessing and a joy in real life and add so much to our stories. I was interested in your use of first person in the last except. I love to write FP myself and wonder why editors are so reluctant to accept that in romance. I personally (pun here?) feel it gets the reader right in the middle of things. Good luck with placing this book. It sounds like very good reading.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Linda, and thanks for your kind comments! I'm not sure why editors aren's so keen on first person. In the wip here, the first person pov is in diary form, and there's a concurrent story with another principal character in third. How an editor will take to it remains to be seen! And friends feature in both, seems I can't get away from them - !! Lovely to see you,

JAne x

Cheryl said...

I have said this before--I love Danny. He really has a great relationship with Maggie and I enjoy the interplay between them. I've had good "guy" friends in my life like that, and so I relate--and I think a lot of women do! That's what makes Maggie so realistic--one of the things, anyway.