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: Growing complexity results in an increased potential for conflict. Such is the case when people enter into partnership to share ownership of a business. So many factors play into relationship dynamics for business partners, and they all should be considered to get a clear idea of how the characters will get along. How many partners are there? Are they sharing a physical space or do they meet online? Do their personalities gel or clash? Were they friends before joining forces or is it purely a professional relationship? Digging into their backstories will not only help you know each character, it will allow you define the ins and outs of the relationship itself.
Below are a wide range of dynamics that may 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.
Acknowledging each person’s strengths and building roles based on them
Pitching in and doing the dirty work when it’s necessary (taking on a job the character doesn’t enjoy, filling a gap even though it’s not an area of strength, etc.)
Showing mutual respect
Having realistic expectations for the other person
Communicating clearly about concerns or problem areas
Making personal sacrifices to make the business a priority
Being transparent with each other
Respecting personal boundaries
Being honest about how the business is really doing
Respectfully calling each other out when someone has dropped the ball or needs a kick in the pants
Taking time to get to know each other personally
Being satisfied with the status quo; not seeking growth or change
Each partner doing their own thing rather than working together
Clashing personality traits causing problems
Taking advantage of a partner’s weakness
Not disclosing information that makes one look bad
Competing with the partner instead of working alongside them
Ego getting in the way of what’s best for the business
Personal feelings or shared history making it difficult to work together
Partners having different goals for the business
Differing ethics between partners
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
Partners with different goals for the company (one wanting to grow the company to sell it while the other wants to create a legacy by building it as big as it can be)
One partner wanting a romantic relationship while the other doesn’t
One partner being invested in quality while the other is more interested in doing as little as possible to get the job done
Partners who prioritize the business differently in their lives
Partners with different morals or values that make it hard for them to agree on some things
One partner wanting to resolve conflict while the others seeks to avoid it.
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Needy and Independent, Cynical and Optimistic, Dishonest and Honorable, Disorganized and Fussy, Flaky and Sensible, Workaholic and Lazy
Negative Outcomes of Friction
Decreased communication, which only magnifies existing problems
Internal frustration leading to overt fighting between partners
Discord creating an unpleasant or toxic culture for employees
Dissatisfaction or lack of success stealing a partner’s joy and making the job a drudgery
Partners internalizing failure, increasing feelings of insecurity and decreasing self-worth
A partner burning out
Difficulties at home (arising from financial strain or a partner’s inability to leave work at work)
Partners not making enough money to meet their personal needs or pay employees
The business falling apart
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Coming together to fight a threat to the business (a growing rival in the industry, a lawsuit, being blackballed, etc.)
A personal disaster that encourages a closer relationship outside of the business
Joining forces to oust another partner
A facilities issue that pushes the partners into closer quarters, forcing them to get along
Fighting for a common interest outside of work (working together in a volunteer capacity, fighting for justice in their community, etc.)
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
Being inspired by a partner (to pursue education to improve in an area of weakness, to strive for a better work-life balance, etc.)
Being pushed by a partner to move past complacency and take healthy risks for the business
A partner realizing that they can’t do it all on their own
A partner learning to respect personal differences instead of disdaining them
Gaining confidence through success
Learning from a difficult partner what not to do in business relationships
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Quest for Knowledge, Betrayal, Crossroads, Greed, Inflexibility, Instability, Isolation, Loss, Perseverance, Pride, Recognition, Sacrifice, Stagnation, Teamwork
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.