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: There are moments in time when caregivers are needed. If your character is elderly, injured, recovering from surgery, mentally disabled, or a pregnant woman on bedrest, someone may be hired to help them out. Caregivers can be round-the-clock and live-in helpers or they might come during certain hours when family members aren’t available. They might be hired for a limited period of time or in perpetuity. They may be a professional caregiver or a neighbor or friend of the family who is hired to do the job. Regardless of the details, this relationship is based implicitly on trust, with a vulnerable party depending on someone to meet their most basic needs.
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 more personal relationship where both parties express an interest in each other’s lives
A caregiver who sees and does whatever needs doing, even if doing so takes them outside their scope of duties
A purely professional relationship, with the caregiver clocking in, doing their duties, and clocking out as needed
A client who treats the caregiver as a servant or lackey
A caregiver who meets their client’s needs while secretly taking advantage of them behind the scenes
An apathetic caregiver who’s only in the job for the paycheck
A client struggling with a lack of control or dissatisfaction with their circumstances taking their frustrations out on the caregiver
An abusive relationship, one way or the other
A healthy relationship that is undermined by interfering, selfish, or drama-seeking family members
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
A willing caregiver being paired with an uncooperative client who resents their loss of freedom, mobility, etc.
A caregiver who wants to help their client become more independent working with someone who is content to let others do everything for them
A caregiver who wants to help the client as they were hired to do, and a client who wants the caregiver to take on responsibilities outside their scope of work
A client who doesn’t want help attempting to drive away a willing caregiver
A client who just wants their basic needs met being fleeced by a manipulative, scheming, or dishonest caregiver
A client desiring more emotionally than the caregiver wants to provide
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Responsible and Uncooperative, Courteous and Disrespectful, Discreet and Gossipy, Independent and Needy, Persuasive and Gullible, Controlling and Weak-Willed
Negative Outcomes of Friction
A client’s condition worsening because they don’t get along with their caregiver
The caregiver losing their job
A fussy client going through one caregiver after another and not receiving the treatment they really need
Someone being treated disrespectfully
Growing resentment, frustration, or anger
One party taking a submissive role and being mistreated
An abused or mistreated client not speaking up and getting help because they need a caregiver’s assistance
Friction with family members who must step in and take over duties when a caregiver leaves or is fired
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A goal that will benefit both parties, such as the client regaining driving privileges or being able to bathe independently
Working toward the client being able to care for themselves without needing a caregiver
Both parties seeking to piss off a mutually annoying relative
Engaging in a charitable activity that both are passionate about but doesn’t benefit either of them personally
A situation in which one party uses their specific knowledge or skills to help the other party on a personal level (such as an ex-math teaching helping a caregiver with a college-level class)
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
A client who resists help learning to accept it
A client or caregiver who sees themselves as superior is able to learn from the other party
The client may regain health or independence through their cooperation with the caregiver
Through a positive and respectful relationship, one party may recognize toxicity with others in their life, and seek out better relationships in the future
An emotional need may be filled, such as a caregiver who was orphaned seeing their client as a parental figure, or the caregiver filling the role of the client’s estranged child.
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Beginnings, Betrayal, Depression, Endings, Freedom, Friendship, Health, Hope, Illness, Loss, Passage of Time, Refuge, Stagnation, 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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