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.
Protagonist and Crush
Description: There are many kinds of romantic relationships; this one is all about a protagonist who’s crushing on someone. It may be a far-off person who doesn’t know the character exists (a celebrity or someone at the office) or a person with whom they’re already in a platonic relationship (their boss, a best friend’s sibling, or a friend-of-a-friend). Sometimes the other person is oblivious to the protagonist’s infatuation while, in some cases, it’s obvious despite the character’s best attempts at hiding it.
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.
Admiring from afar
Trying to catch the crush’s attention in non-intrusive ways (going to a party they’re attending, finagling an introduction via a mutual friend, etc.)
The protagonist purposely looking their best when the crush is around
Mooning over the crush to the safe people in the character’s life
Seeing the crush in a positive light; recognizing and valuing their positive traits and attributes
Learning about the crush’s hobbies and taking an interest in them
Seeking to impress the crush (through the character’s performance at work, by highlighting their own strengths, etc.)
Mentally replaying small interactions and analyzing them for interest
Using intrusive means to catch the crush’s attention (by sabotaging their current relationship, crashing a private party, etc.)
All other romantic options paling in comparison to the point that the character is unable to entertain other possibilities
Not being able to properly perform at work or school due to distraction and daydreaming
Being unable or unwilling to see the crush’s flaws
Being so desperate that the protagonist will accept even negative or harmful attention should the crush offer it
Not taking no for an answer
Obsessing to the point of neglecting healthy relationships
Being so nervous or flustered around the crush that the character is unable to function
Becoming so obsessed with the crush that the character believes life isn’t worth living without him or her in it
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
When the crush is taboo (a sister’s ex, someone the character’s parents don’t approve of, someone from a different caste, etc.)
Crushing on someone and learning that a friend is interested in the same person
Crushing on two different people
Desiring the crush but feeling unworthy of their love
Recognizing that pursuing an impossible relationship is keeping the character from dealing with past pain, but doing it anyway
The character’s feelings fading when the crush begins showing interest
Longing for the crush but being too afraid to take steps to win them over
Learning something about the crush that impacts the character’s feelings (the emergence of a heinous flaw, learning that the crush has a history of abusing others, etc.)
Crushing on a friend; wanting more but not wanting to ruin the relationship
Crushing on a friend who has feelings for a mutual friend
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Bold and Timid, Flirtatious and Jealous, Observant and Reckless, Childish and Mature, Cruel and Innocent, Manipulative and Kind, Needy and Withdrawn, Pretentious and Uncouth
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The protagonist changing their personality or values to avoid conflict with the crush
Sacrificing healthy relationships with those who express concern about the character’s obsession
Being rejected by the crush and becoming depressed or self-destructive
Internal conflict leading to self-doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty
Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A situation revealing personality differences that make the character realize the crush is better as a friend or ally than a romantic partner
Being paired in a contest or competition where the character must put aside personal feelings to work alongside the crush
The crush having feelings for someone close to the character, and the character realizing they make a better pair and helping him/her win the person over
A life-threatening scenario where survival is imperative and there is no room for romantic feelings or entanglements
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
A better match comes along, enabling the character to embrace happiness with someone else
The character realizing that it’s better to be alone than with someone who isn’t a great match
An obsession revealing internal flaws that the character must work through before pursuing a healthy relationship
The protagonist stepping out of their comfort zone and taking a risk to make their feelings known and pursue a worthy relationship
The character choosing to cut their losses and focus their energy and resources on more fruitful endeavors
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Betrayal, Coming of Age, Enslavement, Freedom, Friendship, Hope, Innocence, Instability, Isolation, Love, Perseverance, Suffering, Vulnerability
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.