‘“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.”
“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!