Lately, I've been reading a lot of books where the main character and her best friend don't get along. This is confusing to me. Why is the main character friends with someone she dislikes, or is afraid of, or actually hates?
I get that it happens--I've seen Mean Girls. I've read Queen Bees and Wannabes. Heck, I'm old enough to have been the prime audience for Heathers. But in order for this fractured best friend relationship to be convincing, it has to be set up. In both Heathers and Mean Girls, there's a reason why the protagonist is friends with a bunch of b*tches--she chose to be. She knows that they're jerks. In fact, she can feel herself becoming a jerk right along with them. It's part of the character arc, the point of the story, that being friends with these girls is not who she really is.
But the relationships I've been seeing lately don't make that kind of sense. The protagonist doesn't have a reason to be friends with these nasty people. She isn't growing as a person. She doesn't even like the girls she knows, and there's no reason why she can't go out and find new friends, but instead she hangs out and puts herself on the line to stay friends with people who seem to actively hate her. It's like the writer thinks "well, teen girls are snotty, so I'll make the best friend snotty and that will be a good way to get all the sarcasm in." Except that it also makes the protagonist look like an idiot for hanging out with those girls.
Lately, I've been thinking about another story (I know--I'm going off the deep end here--don't get me started) that I started a long time ago. In it, the main character is betrayed by a guy he thought was his best friend in the world. And it occured to me that, when I get to this story (months from now), I'm going to need to make sure I build carefully to avoid this fault. There has to be a reason why the characters are friends in the first place, and there has to be a reason for the betrayal. I already have the reason for the betrayal, but I need to make sure that I understand the best friend character well enough so the betrayal seems realistic. Otherwise it's just a story about a guy stupid enough to think a jerk is his friend.