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 godparent plays the roll of mentor, encourager, and guide to their godchild. Chosen by the child’s parents, the godparent is a family member or good friend. This relationship can be a close one where the two spend a lot of time together, with the godparent offering advice and correction and taking an active role in the child’s upbringing. In some situations, the godparent is meant to become the child’s legal guardian should anything happen to the parent. Other relationships are more distant, with the godparent sending birthday gifts, praying for the child, or offering support in less intimate ways. This relationship is often associated with Catholicism, though other denominations—and even families with no religious affiliation—have adopted the practice.
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.
A trusting relationship where advice is eagerly sought after and granted
A godchild viewing their godparent as a trusted confidant
The two hanging out and spending time together
The godchild accepting loving correction from the godparent just as they would from their mother and/or father
A godchild who has a poor relationship with his real parents relying on the godparent for love, guidance, and even protection
The godparent acting as a surrogate parent if a mother or father is not in the picture
The godparent taking over legal guardianship for a godchild whose parents are deceased
The godparent being more of a figurehead who only makes an appearance at birthdays, high school graduation, etc.
A godparent exerting more influence or correction than the child or parents are comfortable with
A godchild being influenced by a godparent whose ideals no longer match those of the family
A godparent breaking trust and sharing the godchild’s confidences with others
A godparent who makes promises but doesn’t keep them
A godchild manipulating their godparent to get what they want
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
A godparent wanting to connect with a godchild who wants to be left alone
A godparent wanting to push their ideas or beliefs onto the godchild
A parent being jealous of the relationship between their child and his/her godparent
A godparent using the godchild for their own nefarious means (brainwashing them, using them to get back at someone, etc.)
A childless godparent seeing the godchild as a surrogate son or daughter, and the godchild not wanting that deep of a relationship
A godchild wanting the godparent to get them out of trouble or keep important information from their parents
A willfully absentee godparent being pursued by a godchild who wants a deeper relationship
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Apathetic and Needy, Controlling and Rebellious, Humorless and Playful, Dishonest and Honorable
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The godchild losing a confidant and advocate
Poor communication, pushiness, or disrespect causing a rift in the relationship
The godchild’s interaction with their godparents causing them to lose respect for authority figures in general
The godchild resenting their parents for their choice of godparent
A falling-out between the family and the godparent
A single, unmarried godparent losing the only family they have
Either party lamenting their response to conflict in the relationship and losing confidence in themselves
The child relying too much on the godparent when they should be focused on pursuing or repairing a relationship with their actual parents
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
The godchild helping the godparent win over a potential romantic partner
The godchild enlisting the godparent’s help with something the parents wouldn’t approve of
The two joining forces to change a parent’s mind about something (letting the child go to sleep away camp, allowing him/her to get their driver license, etc.)
Keeping an important secret
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
One of the two parties realizing their need for help and learning to accept it
A helpless or hopeless child or adult learning that they have something to offer
A child learning to respect and desire wisdom
An adult learning to embrace new ways
A selfish person in the relationship learns to serve someone besides him or herself
One of the parties recognizing the importance of family
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Betrayal, Coming of Age, Death, Family, Friendship, Illness, Inflexibility, Isolation, Passage of Time, Rebellion, Refuge, Religion, Rite of Passage, Sacrifice
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.