In my writing posts, I'm talking about character dimensions that are important to consider in characterization but that tend to be neglected unless they're part of the plot. Previously, I tackled finances. Now I'll look at relationships, and this isn't just something you need to know for a romance novel. How a character interacts with the other people in his or her life tells you a lot about that person and can influence the way the story develops. And yet I sometimes get the feeling that authors don't think much about it other than in developing a romantic history when a romance is part of the plot -- and then way too often it's of the "his last lover betrayed him, so he will never trust women again" variety.
Here are some things to think about when it comes to your character and relationships:
Does he make friends easily or does someone else have to make most of the effort? Does he have a wide circle of friends or a small circle of very close friends? How long has he known his current close friends? Are they friends from childhood? From his teens? From college? Or did he meet them more recently? Is he still in touch with any friends from his past, or is he the sort of person who makes a fresh start at new stages in his life? Is he open to making new friends, or is he satisfied with the friends he already has? Does he become friends with co-workers, or does he separate his work and personal lives?
How does she communicate with friends? Text messages, talking on the phone, Facebook, e-mail? How often do they get together in person, and what do they do?
What is the character's romantic history? A few longer-term serious relationships or a lot of short-term flings? How did she meet her past lovers? Does he dive head-first into a relationship or ease cautiously into it? How did past relationships end? Can she stay friends with her exes or is a breakup a blowup that severs ties for good? Was she the dumper or dumpee? Has he been hurt before, and in what ways? Does she have any fond memories of past relationships, even if they ended badly?
What are the character's romantic hopes? Does she want to get married and have kids or not? Soon, or sometime in the distant future? Can she imagine being alone, or does she tend to jump right into another relationship?
How does sex work for this character? Can she separate sex from love, or is love essential for sex? Is she shy about it or more assertive? How committed does a relationship need to be before she has sex, and how far is she willing to go before that point? Are there any beliefs or attitudes from other aspects of his or her life, like religion, that affect decisions about sex?
All of these attitudes about relationships will affect the way a character interacts with other people -- how he approaches others or reacts to others, what his support network is like, who'd notice if he went missing, how he reacts to a person he finds attractive, how he reacts if someone else finds him attractive, etc., and if you've thought about it before you write, then these interactions will be more consistent for the character and more authentic.