As both Kati and I have mentioned previously, we went to our first writing conference last month, where we learned so much, we’re still processing it all. One of the things that really stuck with me personally was something that David L. Robbins said: “don’t write characters that actually like each other!”
He put it this way: If you’re sitting there in a restaurant and you overhear one table discussing a movie they both agree they’d like to see, and at another table a woman says, “if you ever touch me again, I swear to god…” which conversation are you going to listen to? You won’t say, “shh, I’m trying to hear which movie they’ve chosen.” No. People are instinctively drawn to drama, the more, the juicier, the better. It’s why soaps have been around so long, why tabloids sell, and why, according to Robbins, you should write characters that don’t get along.
Having characters who don’t like each other, or at least don’t agree, is a great way to easily increase tension, especially if they’re characters who should get along, or who need to at least work together for whatever reason. It’s why so many love stories start out with mutual dislike – the reader knows those characters will eventually fall in love, and it’s intriguing to see how that happens, to watch those angry sparks turn to something else. In fact, I can’t think of too many great love stories that didn’t follow the pattern of boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy loves girl but can’t show it, girl begins falling for boy but doesn’t want to admit it, etc.