The Bear Fx, featuring characters Carmy and Sydney

Types of Relationships Between Characters and How They Relate to Each Other in Fiction

Writing believable and realistic characters, along with creating authentic relationships between them, is the stuff that good stories are made of.

Without these dynamics, readers may struggle to connect with the characters in the story. Crafting intimate relationships that feel true-to-life or unique helps readers to become invested. Character development is also dependent on how we craft these relationships. I thought about these dynamics a lot after watching season two of The Bear on FX. It’s always entertaining when we all binge watch a show as a collective. This season the fandom doubled down on the belief that Carm and Syd were meant to be a couple. I, personally, do not see it. No amount of discussion will convince me either.

Debate ya mama! 😂

But it did get me to thinking about how any time there’s a couple on the screen, viewers will see (or want to see) a romance there when there are plenty of other absolutely worthy relationship dynamics to be explored. I think that a lot of viewers are seeing how Carm & Syd are working to be good partners/communicators and we (as a society) only assume that sort of effort is put into people we’re interested in romantically. In my opinion, friendships deserve this energy too. In media and in real life.

I can recognize that there is a bit of dissonance here considering that I’m a romance author. However, if you’ve read my books, most of my characters have close friendships because I think they’re important!

Varied relationship dynamics can bring depth and nuance to a story and give readers an insight into your main character’s personality.

It also allows readers to feel the connection between the characters we’ve written and helps them relate to them more easily. In my opinion, it can make or break a story, so it's important to focus on this particular skill.

1. Romantic - I already talked at this in the intro, but this type of relationship is probably the most common in fiction, whether it’s a romance, mystery or comedy. Two characters who are romantically interested in each other can create a compelling dynamic filled with tension, internal and external conflict, and emotional scenes that can suck a reader in. Emotionally vulnerable characters can make dial up the stakes and keep the readers engaged.

2. Platonic - This type of relationship is often overlooked but can be just as important as romantic relationships in fiction. They provide additional depth to your story and can give your readers a break from all the romantic drama. To create a compelling platonic relationship, focus on the shared experiences and interests that bring the characters together. This can be but isn’t necessarily a friendship. Think work friends, or your neighborhood walking buddy that you only see when out for an evening stroll.

3. Antagonistic - Antagonistic relationships add tension to your story and can be used to move the plot forward. To create a compelling antagonistic relationship, it’s important to understand why the characters are in conflict and to show the emotional impact it has on them. Also, these characters don’t necessarily need to be enemies.

4. Familial - Familial relationships can be complicated, but they provide the opportunity to explore themes such as loyalty, love, and betrayal. To create a compelling familial relationship, focus on the shared history between the characters and the dynamics of the family.

5. Friendship - Friendship relationships provide a sense of belonging and can be used to develop the characters and their personalities. To create a compelling friendship relationship, focus on the shared experiences and the emotional support the characters give each other.

6. Mentor/mentee - A mentor can be an incredibly powerful figure in a story, guiding the protagonist toward success or enlightenment. However, this type of relationship can also be fraught with tension and conflict, especially if the student feels they’re not living up to the mentor’s expectations or if they disagree with their methods. In some cases, the student may even turn on the mentor, leading to a reversal of power dynamics. The key to creating a successful mentor-mentee relationship is to establish a strong bond of trust and respect between the characters. The mentor should have a wealth of knowledge or experience that the mentee can learn from, and the mentee should be receptive to their guidance.

7. Rivalries - Whether it's between coworkers, siblings, or enemies, the tension and conflict created by a rivalry can make for a captivating story. The key to creating a successful rivalry is to develop characters with opposing personalities or goals. In a workplace setting, for example, two characters vying for the same promotion might have very different approaches to their work, which can lead to clashes and a satisfying resolution.

These aren’t the only types of relationship dynamics present in fiction or real life, but they are commonly found in stories across all genres. These relationships can add depth to a story and keep readers engaged.

How These Relationships Play Out in Season 2 of The Bear

(Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched Season 2)

Season 1 of 'The Bear' FX series gave us a glimpse into Carmy’s complicated life, allowing us to understand the depth of his grief. However, it is in Season 2 that we see how he begins to evolve beyond his sorrow. This transformation is intrinsically tied to Sydney, who becomes an essential figure in Carmy's life. Their evolving relationship moves from a mentor-mentee dynamic to one of equal partnership, enriching both characters without veering into romance.

This new business endeavor introduces a multitude of changes in their relationship dynamic. They strive to establish a bond of trust and get to know each other on a deeper level. This newfound closeness is reflected in their candid conversations, playful teasing, and shared cooking experiences. Everyone is making this out to be the beginnings of a romantic relationship. And I get it. Who doesn’t love a forced proximity, workplace, friends to lovers romance? However, I don’t see this for these two kids.


All signs point to this being a platonic relationship that’s developing into a friendship. Why do I think it’s platonic? Let’s revisit the description of platonic relationships: they focus on the shared experiences and interests that bring the characters together. This can be but isn’t necessarily a friendship. Think work friends, or your neighborhood walking buddy that you only see when out for an evening stroll.

Carmy and Syd are both consumed by the task of opening this restaurant in a ridiculously short period of time. The ticking clock adds conflict and pressure which is normally the perfect recipe for a romance in most circumstances. However, their relationship is singularly focused on food, and the restaurant. It doesn’t veer off course into more personal interactions even when opportunity and proximity would have made it easy for either character to do so.  

In season one, communication was a huge issue. In season two, Carmy introduces ASL, and they sign “I’m sorry" as a way to communicate that their disagreements are strictly professional and not personal. This non-verbal cue serves as a testament to their growing understanding and respect for each other. It shows that they value their partnership enough to make sure they’re communicating in effective ways instead blowing up at each other at every turn — though they do blow up at each other frequently. They’re learning, but still frequently fucking it up.

Also, cooking isn't just a profession; it's an intimate act of sharing and caring. It’s deeply personal, with the act of cooking for someone being one of the most intimate gestures. Remember the scene when Sydney makes an omelet for Sugar? It's these moments that underscore the personal nature of their profession. The dynamics between the restaurant owners directly reflect on the meals they serve, making their relationship crucial to their business success. It's not merely about being in sync in the kitchen; it requires a shared approach to leadership and an alignment of values. One might assume that such deep understanding and glimpse into each other's thoughts and feelings about their chosen profession could lead to romance. However, 'The Bear' skillfully subverts this expectation. Carmy and Sydney's relationship remains firmly within the realm of platonic friendship, enriching their characters while maintaining a clear boundary.

Take, for instance, the scene where Carmy invites Sydney to his apartment to work on the chaos menu. Sydney's reaction to Carmy's messy apartment doesn't hint at romantic interest but conveys surprise at the contrast between his professional reputation and personal habits. Similarly, their honest conversation under the table on the opening night of The Bear reveals their intentions and aspirations without veering into romantic territory. I know yall think that scene is the harbinger of a work romance, but I see two people acknowledging that their working relationship is, well, working.

I’m rooting for their partnership and their individual growth, but not for a romantic relationship.

There’s one more reason, one I think is important. On Twitter, someone stated that viewers don’t want to see Black woman being desired on screen — especially a dark-skinned woman. I understand the reasoning behind that statement. Too frequently, dark-skinned Black girls don’t get the love and energy they deserve on screen and off.

However… this is not that.

Because Sydney was desired. Sydney was desired by a Black man that she had a real friendship with during both seasons of this show: Marcus. It still amazes me how infrequently Marcus is mentioned in the discussion when the same attention was given to both relationships: her relationship with Carmen and Marcus, both. 

And… Carmy is a fucking mess. Like, literally emotionally unavailable on all fronts. Yes, he’s stressed, and yes, he’s still grieving, however, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be in a relationship. And something about pairing him with a dark-skinned Black woman feels off to me. Sydney deserves better than emotionally handicapped man-baby who’s deadset on leaning into his grumpy, bad-boy chef image. Sydney’s got some healing to do, too. Her insecurities kneecap her when she doesn’t have positive reinforcement from others and she needs to learn to trust herself and her abilities more. This is healing that would be derailed by getting involved with her boss who can’t multitask when it comes to work and his interpersonal relationships.

And again, Sydney deserves better! Can’t we want better for this Black woman than to be desired by this mess of a man?

Again, y’all don’t have to agree with me, but these are my thoughts after a 2nd rewatch and they won’t change unless something drastic happens in season three to prove me wrong. And, to be honest, I hope it doesn’t. A romance between Syd and Carm adds no value to the show in my opinion because all I see is destruction and a bad ending for the restaurant and the relationship in that plot progression.

Okay, that's enough discourse for today.

This post was fun to write so I hope that it was informative, entertaining and helpful for y’all! If there’s interest, I can do a deep dIves into each of the relationships and give some details on how you can depict these dynamics in fiction.

Let me know in the comments if you want more posts like this!




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