In Where Love Once Lived, the male protagonist, Brian Donelson, is a member of a group of men he met in college called the Combine. There are six men in this group. When I first mentioned them in my writing class, many of my classmates said there would be too many people to keep track of. My teacher, Bonnie Hearn Hill, said one close male friend would be enough.
I listened to all the suggestions then I left all six guys in the story. However, I compromised by making only one Brian's confidante. I also deleted a subplot involving another member. The rest play smaller parts where minor characters would be needed anyway.
I decided to keep the Combine in the book because such a group is a part of my life. Although, I made up six different people for the fictional story, the idea is based on a real group of six men who have been together since junior high school days. There is a special dynamic that holds close friends together that I hope I transferred from real life to fiction even though I made a special effort not to copy any of my friends' characteristics for the story.
Long-time friends have permission to keep one another honest. In Where Love Once Lived, Brian is upset when his friends start talking about his finances and his marriage. But they don't seem to listen. They continue because they care about him and know what's best for him. They don't tiptoe around problems, they stomp on them.
My real-life Combine friends aren't quite as blunt as the fictional gang, but we still don't let anyone get away with covering up feelings.
Here is an excerpt from the book to give a flavor for what I'm trying to say:
Surrounded by his five closest friends, Brian suddenly felt exposed as if he were naked and everyone else was fully clothed. The six men had met in college and stayed close friends ever since. Even while he was in California, they got together periodically.
“I’m not having problems. I sold my company, but retained an interest in it. Its value continues to grow.”
Ron directed his words to the rest of the guys. “I can understand the tax-free million he gave his ex and the other mil that went to his daughter, but—”
“Ron!” Brian said. “That’s personal.”
“What? This is the Combine. We don’t have any secrets from each other.” Ron swung an arm up as if to include the entire room. “Do you think these guys are going to blab to anybody?”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “Who would we tell? All our friends are here.”
There's much more about the Combine in the rest of the story, but, as I mentioned earlier, Brian relates more to one member of the group than the rest.
Have you been a part of a long-term friendship? Has it been special for you?