Information and Character Relationships

There are many things that can affect the relationship between two characters. Events both were involved in and how their roles related, similarities in personality, common interests or a lack thereof, and all sorts of factors, far too many to name here. But one of the most interesting ways that I’ve seen of cementing a bond, or ensuring that a bond will not be cemented, between two characters is by the flow of information.

What usually sets this off is a pretty simple trigger. Character A knows something that Character B does not. Character B, at some point, figures out that Character A knows, and the relationship is affected in part by whether Character A tells or has by this time told Character B this information, and if so how. Here are some possible scenarios, with the most likely (but by no means the only) result.

A knows and doesn’t tell, but does tell B he knows. Would you have a high opinion of someone who says “I know something you don’t know” and never actually tells you the something? I sure wouldn’t. Unless A can demonstrate that he really is keeping it from B for her own safety—good luck—B’s probably going to resent the living daylights out of him.

A knows and doesn’t tell, and B finds out from a third party. How B is likely to react to this depends on the importance of the information (and how it, absent A’s knowledge thereof, would have affected their relationship) and how B finds out. But it’s not unreasonable to expect B to feel somewhat betrayed, in that something was being hidden from her, and at the very least to want to know why it was hidden. While it’s quite possible that it just didn’t occur to A that B should know, don’t expect that to soften B’s feelings on the matter too much.

A knows, and B knows A knows, but A dribbles out the knowledge little by little, on a need to know basis. This one’s going to be affected a lot by why A is being so parsimonious with his information, and how it ties in to the existing dynamic between the two of them. If it relates to an issue that’s already putting tension between them, or something that’s bothering B in general, expected the results to slide more towards the extremes than if it’s a reason B finds perfectly understandable.

A knows, B knows A knows, and A answers B’s questions but is still obviously holding something back, whether it’s information or just A’s investment in the situation. The good news, as far as B is concerned, is that she’s getting answers—but don’t be surprised if she’s still upset. After all, there’s got to be some reason why A is holding back, and B’s likely to pick up on it. If B’s touchy about trust, expect it to make this situation more difficult.

A knows, B knows A knows, and A is willing to fully (or with very minor exceptions) answer B’s questions. I’ve seen this strengthen character dynamics that I would otherwise have expected to be equal to ones in which no important information was being passed. Knowledge is power; sharing knowledge is trust, trust strengthens connections. (I’ve also found that it’s further helped if Character A strongly implies that this isn’t information he’d share with just anyone; it shouldn’t be too hard to see why.)

Note that these aren’t the inevitable reactions to these situations, but they’re pretty likely. Consider also the effect of the relative rank of the two characters on the situation; the farther apart they are, the more legitimate it is for Character A to withhold the information Character B wants, and thus the likelier it is to have a positive effect if Character A expresses willingness to share, particularly if the willingness is expressed before Character B has officially declared an interest.

Knowing these patterns can be useful for both determining and predicting a character’s reaction to this kind of situation and how it might affect the character/character dynamic, and possibly for steering the dynamic between two characters. Give it a try!

(Note: post delay was due to blog error. If a post is missing, please, say something so this doesn’t happen again or at least can be remedied sooner.)

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