This blog was featured on 07/17/2018
Writing Intriguing Female Friendships
Written by
She Writes
July 2018
Written by
She Writes
July 2018

This guest post is from Robyn Harding, author of Her Pretty Face. Harding is also the author of international bestseller, The Party, four novels of contemporary women’s fiction, a young adult novel, and a comedic memoir. She is also the screenwriter and executive producer of the independent film, The Steps which premiered at TIFF and was the closing gala film at the Miami International Film Festival. 

"Robyn Harding has once again proven herself to be a master of domestic suspense, weaving a complex tale of friendship, parenthood, and long-hidden secrets that forces us to consider whether we can ever truly leave our pasts behind. In the compulsively readable HER PRETTY FACE, everyone is hiding something, and the only question is whether anyone will survive unscathed as the action reaches its dramatic conclusion."  - Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping

Female Friendships and Secrets

Female friendships are among the deepest and most powerful of all our interpersonal relationships. They can also be among the most complex. While men’s friendships are often based around shared activities, women’s relationships revolve around shared thoughts, emotions, even secrets. This makes female friendships ripe for drama –in reality and in fiction.

Literature and pop-culture are littered with stories of female friends. There are tributes to lifelong companions who love and support each other through drama, strife, even war. And then there are the dramatic portrayals of friends who lie, cheat and betray. Both the light and dark side of these friend relationships make for compelling fiction. In fact, the more complex the friendship, the more intriguing it will be to readers.

My latest novel, Her Pretty Face, explores a deep female friendship that is tested when one woman’s murderous past is revealed. Even then, her pal wonders if there is a way to forgive, and to maintain the treasured relationship. Their friendship becomes a complex mix of love and admiration, hatred and fear. But it never loses its power.

Drawing on Personal Experience 

When writing about female friends, I recommend drawing from personal experiences, both positive and negative. Like most of us, I am blessed to have a number of wonderful women in my life whose friendship means the world to me. But I have also had a few friends hurt, disappoint, even betray me. As a writer, I tap into those moments of pain, and the feelings of jealousy, envy, and insecurity. In real-life, these issues may not have been all that dramatic, the hurt feelings may have been no more than a twinge. But developing these emotions and building on these experiences gives a fictional friendship the depth and complexity necessary to keep a reader engaged.

Try exploring the following questions. Even if they don’t make it into your story, they’ll give you a deeper understanding of your characters and their relationship:

  • How did your characters meet? How long ago?
  • What drew them together? What has kept them together?
  • What do they share? (A long history? A dark sense of humor? A love of animals/scrapbooking/wine?)
  • What are their differences?
  • Do they fill a need in each other?
  • What does friend A admire most about friend B? (And vice versa)
  • What does friend B find most annoying about friend A? (And vice versa)
  • What is a secret they would only tell each other? What is a secret they would never tell each other?
  • What is unique about this friendship compared to their other friendships?
  • What is their friendship kryptonite? (What is the one thing they could do that would drive them apart for good?)   


Whether you’re writing a beautiful portrayal of a supportive bond, or a gut-wrenching tale of heartbreak and duplicity, adding depth and nuance to your characters’ relationship will make it more compelling to readers. Drawing on the good, the bad, and the ugly of your real-life experiences will make the fictional friendship more real and relatable on the page, leaving your readers engaged and satisfied.

(Photo Credit: Robyn

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