One of my favorite parts of a cozy (or, in this case, not-quite-cozy) series is the friendships built along the way, and how they grow and change. The protagonist builds her tribe along the course of the series. In the best of them, they grow and change.
Many series start with the protagonist relocating to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, it often means ignoring the friendships left behind. As someone who is good at maintaining connections through years and across miles, that didn’t feel realistic to me.
I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when I read (and hope the same happens in my writing) at quick connections in some cases, which then have room to grow (and, hopefully, don’t stagnate). Genuine friendship needs time and shared experience in order to thrive.
As transient as theatre is, moving from show-to-show, the friendships tend to sustain beyond closing dates. Many romantic relationships don’t, but friendships do. I found it much easier to make friends in theatre than outside of it. Where I live now, people go to work and go home; they don’t put much effort into friendship, unless it’s they knew since they were toddlers.
Sophie has her tribe in New York – her housemates are also her closest friends. While they will not be central to many of the books (although I plan to bring one or more of them onboard during the series), they will remain connected.
Her two closest friends on the ship are Roz (a dancer) and Harmonia (the tarot reader). These two friendships will go through a lot of tests and changes. But the time they spend together, the connections they form through being together in a small space, sharing time and experience together, will be a throughline. Sophie will make other friends on the ship, too. She’s a kind person and people are drawn to that kindness. I hesitate to say “positive energy” because it makes her sound flaky, but that’s what she has. Even during tough times, she tries to find the best in a situation, and the best in the people she meets. She is an optimist, even when hit with pessimistic issues.
Things won’t always run smoothly with Roz and Harmonia. All three of them are too dynamic to fall into the tropes of The Pretty One, The Funny One, The Sexy One and stay here. Things will shift. There will be challenges. There will be arguments.
What I don’t want is one of those fake arguments that supposedly drive the plot, but, in reality, feel false and wrong and cause the reader impatience until the characters make up. I want things to be deeper and not that petty.
Some friends will be short term – cruise ships are notorious for having a turnover in staff and crew. Some will be short term because of a hidden agenda that is revealed during the plot and changes how they relate. Some will be short term because they leave.
She makes friends with men, too. Sophie and Sebastian are friends first, which sets a good foundation as their relationship grows and shifts. Bassio (a ship’s host), Tobias (the ship’s wardrobe supervisor), London (entertainment staff) are all platonic friends. There are other men on the ship with whom Sophie may flirt, but also remain platonic friends. Too often, genuinely platonic male-female friendships (as opposed to failed romances that “settle” for friendship) are ignored in fiction, especially mysteries. It’s something I’d like to read more about. Therefore, it is something I will write more about.
One of the reasons the ship as backdrop intrigues me is the possibilities in the exploration of different layers of friendship.
How do you like to see friendships develop and evolve over the course of a series?