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: Twins—identical and fraternal—have a unique sibling dynamic. While birth order can often help determine personality and determine family dynamics, the same rules don’t apply to children born only minutes apart. Their identical age often means they share the same space at home, are given the same rules, are in the same grades at school, often have the same friends. Despite being individual and different people, a twin’s identity is often partially wrapped up with their sibling’s.
Each relationship is different, depending on the people involved, their history together, their individual personalities, and a host of factors. Here are some common dynamics—healthy, and not so much—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.
Being best friends with one’s twin
Knowing that the twin always has your back
Being a companion or ally to help one’s twin navigate the difficult stages of life
Intuiting a twin’s emotional state or physical sensations on a deeper level (sensing when they’re in danger, feeling pain when they feel pain, etc.)
Knowing one’s twin intimately and being able to offer meaningful and even life-saving advice
Recognizing and valuing differences as a way of embracing individuality
Recognizing the difficulties of being a twin and trying to make things easier for one’s sibling
Being in frequent communication, even as adults who are physically separated
Engaging in various degrees of sibling rivalry
Vying for people’s attention
Other people’s expectations creating insecurity or frustration (expecting twins to be alike in personality or aptitudes, etc.)
Unfair comparisons making the twin relationship volatile (e.g., one being referred to as the smart, athletic, or shy twin)
Being disgruntled at having to share everything
Struggling with desires to go one’s own way and to stay on a path that aligns with one’s twin
Extreme competition with one’s twin
A dominant twin always making decisions for the other twin and running their life
Difficulty adjusting to life as an adult singleton (when one twin moves away or both attend different colleges)
One twin being the obvious favorite (of a parent, teacher, coach, etc.)
Using an identical twinship to confuse, control, or manipulate others
The unique relationship creating extreme grief, isolation, and depression upon the loss of a twin
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
One twin wanting independence while the other wants to share everything
Both twins wanting to be the best at the same thing
One wants to use an identical twinship for nefarious reasons while the other does not
One twin’s goals or desires changing while the other twin wants things to remain the same
One twin following a path that the other can’t follow (engaging in unhealthy habits, pursuing a toxic relationship, participating in criminal behavior, etc.)
A twin wanting to be their own person while also wanting to maintain their identity as a twin
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Controlling and Timid, Affectionate and Withdrawn, Cautious and Reckless, Independent and Protective, Supportive and Apathetic, Loyal and Disloyal, Private and Gossipy
Negative Outcomes of Friction
Twins growing apart and losing intimacy
Increased feelings of insecurity
Competitiveness with a twin spreading to include an unhealthy competitiveness with others
A twin feeling like they have to be the best at everything (to prove their value or elevate themselves above their twin)
A twin losing their sense of identity
One twin adopting a false persona as a way of differentiating him or herself
A twin engaging in unhealthy behaviors to gain attention
A twin becoming selfish or stingy because they’re tired of sharing everything
A real or perceived betrayal by a twin resulting in a deep inability to trust others
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A single parent’s engagement to an undesirable partner bringing twins together to derail the relationship
A bullying situation bringing a twin to their sibling’s defense
The death of an elderly parent whose last wish was for their estranged twins to come together to achieve a common goal
Twins choosing to pursue the same occupation or volunteer opportunity to honor a respected mentor
Twins in complementary careers having to come together to solve a crime, right a wrong, or meet a need in the community
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
A twin learning that it’s possible to be a twin and have their own identity
A co-dependent twin realizing the need for self-reliance and independence
A twin applying the positive aspects of their twinship to an ailing relationship with a family member, love interest, or business partner
A dominant or controlling twin learning that a change of approach is needed for the people in his life to be able to thrive
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Alienation, Beginnings, Coming of Age, Crossroads, Family, Friendship, Health, Journeys, Love, Unity
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.