Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite, derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.
The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs. It should be noted that details involving characters working in specific occupations can vary from country to country. Our research is based in North America with a heavy emphasis toward the U.S., so if you live elsewhere, those details may be different than what you’re accustomed to.
Police Officer and Confidential Informant
Description: An informant is someone who is part of or has infiltrated an organization where criminal activity is occurring. They work with a policy agency, providing inside information that those on the outside wouldn’t be able to access. In exchange, they may receive immunity for their own offenses, a commuted sentence, or monetary reimbursement.
Each relationship is different, depending on the people involved, their history together, their individual personalities, and a host of factors. Below are a wide range of dynamics that can accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict.
Recognizing what each person brings to the table
Respecting the agreement or arrangement (maintaining an informant’s confidentiality, not shopping around one’s information to other agencies, etc.)
Respecting boundaries (the officer not showing up at the informant’s home or workplace, the informant not expecting the officer to drop everything and come running when he calls, etc.)
The officer validating the informant’s feelings rather than dismissing them
Being patient; recognizing that it will take time for the goal to be achieved
Approaching the relationship as equals rather than one person having unlimited power over the other
The relationship becoming too cozy or friendly
The informant acting as if the police work for him
The officer threatening or browbeating the informant
Broken trust (the officer not responding when the informant requests help, the informant providing false information)
A paid informant shaking down the police for more money in the middle of an investigation
The informant calling at all hours, on weekends, on holidays, etc.
Informants crossing lines that threaten the officer’s case (trying to entrap a suspect, etc.)
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
Each party only wants what they want, with no real concern for the other person’s needs
The officer wants facts but the informant is providing skewed information to punish an enemy or fulfill a private vendetta
The officer wants to maintain a professional relationship but the informant is pursuing something more
The informant wants to be respected for what he’s doing but the officer sees him as a criminal and simply a means to an end
The officer wants to be left alone unless absolutely necessary but the informant fears for his life and needs frequent reassurances
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations:
Withdrawn and needy, pushy and timid, controlling and stubborn, responsible and flaky, judgmental and oversensitive, nosy and private, honorable and sleazy
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The informant being “outed” and endangered
The officer losing his inside informant and his case being jeopardized
The officer arresting the informant for criminal behavior so he’ll be more compliant or submissive
The officer ignoring a needy informant’s calls, not realizing that he’s in real danger
The officer questioning whether or not the information he’s receiving is real
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A dangerous situation requiring the officer to come to the informant’s rescue
A situation that allows the officer to see the informant as a victim rather than a criminal
Getting the desired information, which gives them both a sense of accomplishment
Discovering a new mutual enemy
An oppositional judge, lawyer, or police chief who makes the job more difficult
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Being able to glean the evidence that will result in a case being prosecuted with positive results for people in the community
The case revealing problems in the process or system that can now be examined and addressed
The informant realizing that he no longer wants to be involved in a criminal lifestyle
The officer learning that his stereotypes about the informant or the suspect weren’t true
An uncooperative or untrusting person learning the benefit of working with others
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Fall from Grace, Alienation, Betrayal, Crossroads, Danger, Deception, Endings, Enslavement, Freedom, Greed, Journeys, Obstacles, Perseverance, Sacrifice, Stagnation, Suffering, Teamwork, Violence
Other Relationship Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.