Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Host and Guest

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.

Description: A host or hostess is someone who welcomes and entertains guests at a venue, function, or in their own home. They are responsible for taking care of the needs of their guests, making them feel both valued and special. In this relationship, self-worth is tied to each person’s role. The guest feels valued through inclusion; depending on the event, the importance tied to other attendees, and the situation, inclusion is a symbol of status and respect. In turn, the host takes pride in their role and the experience they offer guests. Their ability to oversee a successful event (which sometimes also means having to set aside personal feelings or ignore politics) will raise their esteem in the eyes of others, in turn feeding their self-worth. Of course the opposite is also true – if either party fails in their role, esteem will diminish, especially the closer the relationship is between host and guest (family, friends, business partners, exes, etc.). A negative experience means guests will feel undervalued and view themselves as a burden which may leave them angry at the host for making them feel this way. A less-than-ideal outcome will leave the host feeling inadequate due to their failure to manage the event properly or provide for their guests.

Dynamics of a Healthy Relationship
Respect and appreciation that flows both ways
Ensuring the other party has any information they need (where to find things, a timetable of activities, and any special requirements, allergies, constraints, or expectations the other may need to know)
Being polite, friendly, and patient
Doing as instructed and playing one’s role (as the good host, the well-mannered house guest, the sociable guest speaker, the appropriately attired attendee, etc.)
Being on time and not making unreasonable demands of the other
Being appreciative of the other’s time and attention
Playing peacekeeper and discouraging drama should it crop up

Dynamics of an Unhealthy Relationship
Monopolizing someone’s time because they believe they have the right to
Not respecting the host’s property, time, or reputation
Tempers that flare
Being two-faced (threats hidden behind smiles, veiled insults, gossiping about the other to bring down their reputation)
Seeking to undermine or exploit the other
Using one’s role to make the other look bad (creating problems for a host that are impossible to fix, or calling negative attention to a guest, thereby singling them out among their peers)
Making unreasonable demands (forcing too many rules on a guest or demanding a host go above and beyond)
Taking advantage of someone’s hospitality
Noticeable friction between a host and guest that makes others uncomfortable
Endangering guests (conducting illegal activities while at the host’s home, distributing drugs at a party, etc.)

Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
The host wants a flawless evening but a guest is bent on causing trouble
A host providing an open bar for guests to enjoy themselves but a guest over-drinks and gets rowdy, disturbing other guests
A guest showing up unannounced at a bad time
Inviting a specific guest to draw a crowd and having them treat others poorly due to an inflated sense of importance
Asking for something that is inappropriate in one’s role (a date, a loan, a favor, to obtain something illegal, etc.)
House guests who do not want to leave

Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Generosity and greed, kindness and ungrateful, observant and secretive, vain and simple, nosy and private, extroverted and introverted, proper and rebellious, reckless and responsible

Negative Outcomes of Friction
A host losing their temper and creating a scene
Property damage
Ruining someone’s reputation through careless words
An outburst where a masked truth is revealed (revealing a bias, envy, tipping one’s hand to plans for revenge, admitting involvement in something that was supposed to be a secret, etc.)
Saying something that can’t be taken back, thereby damaging a personal relationship
Being goaded into doing something stupid
Losing one’s leverage (saying something that will reach the wrong ears)
Incurring expenses as a host beyond what they can afford
Pushing one’s agenda when it isn’t appropriate and making enemies
Losing face in front of others when the evening goes sour

Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
When a guest’s presence puts everyone in danger, the host will be incentivized to help them leave, hide, or escape
If a threat emerges (a home invasion, for example), the host and guest will work together to survive the threat
When a party-goer over drinks, the host and another guest might help him or her get home, or move them to a room to sleep it off
If something happens to derail the evening and the host needs help, a guest might step up to help
If both need information from another guest they might work together to get it
If disaster strikes (an earthquake, a house fire, enemies at the gate, etc.) everyone will pull together to survive it
If a crime is committed and both end up falsely accused, that will put them on the same side
A situation where it’s important that everyone’s stories match when questioned by the police
When covering for someone equates to covering for yourself (due to a mistake made, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc.)

Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Characters who struggle socially may find that playing a role (host or guest) takes some of the pressure off because they have guidelines on what is expected of them
When there’s friction between characters, they must put it aside as the relationship of host and guest requires decorum. Civility may create a gap where old hurts can be addressed and worked through
Characters who previously overlooked the other’s value may gain new appreciation for one another. A host might note little things about their guest’s behavior, habits, and intelligence while a guest may come to appreciate the organization, attention, and caring of their host
A host and a guest will have different observations of the same event and by putting them together, gain a clearer picture of what actually happened

Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Fall from Grace, Alienation, A Quest for Knowledge, Betrayal, Danger, Death, Deception, Family, Friendship, Love, Mystery, Obstacles, Order, Peace, Recognition, Refuge, Teamwork, Vanity, Wealth

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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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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