5 Keys Steps to Adding Depth to Your Fictional Relationships

Jordan Dane

My Australian cover for Indigo Awakening

In Indigo Awakening (Book #1 in my “The Hunted” series for Harlequin Teen)—there is a love triangle that is layers deep. I’m a sucker for love triangles, but I wanted the one in Indigo Awakening to be a little more than a girl’s attraction to two very different boys. At the apex of this triangle is a very strong girl, Kendra Walker, the leader of an underground movement of Indigo children and feelings run high when beliefs and ideologies are tested.

Lucas Darby is psychic and becomes mentally linked to a girl he hears in his head after he escapes from a mental hospital. Kendra thinks she has made contact with another lost Indigo, but after she realizes that Lucas is a powerful Crystal child, she sees the future she always dreamed would be possible. And for Lucas to connect with the “hive mind” for the first time, the link is intoxicating and seductive. Kendra is older than Lucas, but for him their connection is as intimate as making love for the first time. It changes everything for both of them. Since Lucas is evolving into a Crystal child, the next evolution of mankind, Kendra is motivated to be with him so she can be a part of a new, more powerful movement. She is a modern day Joan of Arc on a mission to save the Indigos, but someone else is her rock when it comes to protecting her Indigo children.

Another boy, Rafael Santana, has helped Kendra build a safe underground oasis for the homeless Indigos. Rafe has feelings for Kendra that he’s never shared with her, but he’s also driven to protect Benny, a 10-year old boy he loves like a little brother. This conflict will drive how he reacts when Kendra’s Indigo revolution threatens the home he wants for Benny. After she focuses her attention on Lucas, Rafe becomes jealous, but in his quiet way he deals with it until the conflict between the Indigos and the Believers blows up, the fanatical church zealots who hunt Indigo kids to stop the next evolution of man. Rafael’s love for Benny collides with his loyalty for Kendra and changes everything.

Kendra must choose how far she is willing to go to save her Indigo family—the one she has and the one she’s dreamed about. Lucas, the powerful Crystal child, represents the future she had always hoped for, but Rafael is the heart and soul of the past she started with him—the boy who made her dream possible.

Key steps to adding depth to your fictional relationships:

1.) Give a strong character vulnerabilities that conflict with what they might want and force them to choose. There are consequences to actions. Someone’s gotta lose, even in love.

2.) Give them choices that test their emotions. Their choices shouldn’t be easy. For example, make them choose between their personal happiness or the greater good. This is classic and always relatable.

3.) Pair them with opposite types of characters to enhance the conflict potential. Opposites attract for a reason. Fireworks, baby.

4.) Create internal conflicts or flaws that make them struggle with their external goals and the goals of the character(s) you’ve paired them with. Conflict is key to any great story. But add depth to your character by layering the conflict inside them first.

5.) Give them a noble cause that is a roadblock to their personal happiness or someone else’s. What would they do? Not every character would make the same decision.

For Discussion for Readers and Writers:

1.) What are some additional points you would add to this list?

2.) What are some of your favorite literary or film love triangles? Please share your thoughts on why they resonated with you.

“Dane’s first offering in her new series, The Hunted, is sensational. Indigo Awakening has strong characters and a wild and intense story, matched only by the emotions it will generate within you. Readers will love this book and eagerly await the next adventure. Fantastic! A keeper.”
4.5 Stars (out of 5)
—Romantic Times Book Review Magazine

14 thoughts on “5 Keys Steps to Adding Depth to Your Fictional Relationships

    • The American cover had a stunning font title and it looks GREAT online, but I rarely post this cover, even though I love it. The boy reminds me of Lucas.

      Yes, Dangerous Liaisons. Wicked Plus. Thanks, Kris.

  1. Right on! Awesome list, thank you Jornan!
    I might add something about forcing the characters to risk something or be at risk, but that might have been covered already by #2 and #4

    • Hey Sechin. Yes, risk is very important. How you set up your main character can drive your plot thoughts too. I love how layering complications can generate new directions in the plot, even after you get into writing it and the character motivations become more clear. That’s where great twists come in. Happy writing, buddy.

  2. I think your list is pretty comprehensive! About all I’d add is Dave Farland’s guideline about making the consequences of failure be death. Emotional death in the case of relationships. That keeps the stakes high. 🙂

    • Great point, Kessie. Herea t TKZ, we’ve talked about the notion of DEATH being more than the physical. James Scott Bell has brought this up before, as I recall. The grieving process of loss is still the same. Thank you for the writing resource.

  3. I’ve just been going through adding some layers to my protag in my current WIP. It’s a supernatural thriller, but I like an element of romance in everything I write. Even villains need love. And I’m doing what you suggest. I’m giving my guy a choice between the love he’s finally found and the greater good. Of course, with a bit of time travel involved, I can add some other surprises. Characters need to have these internal conflicts. Without them, they can never be more than words on paper. Conflict gives them life and the reader joins them in their struggle.

    • I love this, Ron. Gret observations. Your plot sounds intriguing. I think most really good stories involve a compelling relationship between the sexes that is so entwined into the story that it can drive the plot too.

      To know you have the right blend of romance to suspense, try deleting the romance scenes. If the plot doesnt make sense any more, that means it have become an integral part of the story. ramp up the stakes and punish your character for wanting to be happy. HA! I sound like a meanie, but I love the big payoff at the end and your readers will too. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Clare. Even if writers don’t consider their work to have romance, including an undertone of a relationship or conflict between the sexes can widen the appeal to the reader and make a publisher see a wider audience.

      I jokingly say that my idea of romance, money usually changes hands. But I love me some lovin’, for sure.

  4. Great list, Jordan. I especially like the idea of nobility. It’s a value readers respond to, even if they don’t realize it. And a “noble cause” is not necessarily what others would consider “good.” Think of Parker in The Hunter. He wants his money. He’s a killer and a thief, but the other killers and thieves are worse. It seems like fundamental fairness, even in a dark world.

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