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: Best friends have each others’ backs. While this relationship usually consists of two people, it can consist of a wider group of besties. This kind of friendship can look different for men and women, but themes of loyalty, respect, and enjoying each other’s company are largely universal.
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.
Spending as much time together as possible
Being each other’s wingman (or woman)
Talking often via phone or text
Calling the best friend first when advice is needed
Sharing personal milestones (celebrating birthdays together, going to a kid’s graduation, etc.)
Knowing the important people in each other’s lives (kids, spouses, etc.)
Actively supporting each other in times of trouble (when one person hospitalized, the death of a parent, etc.)
Sharing the same interests or hobbies
Sending random emails or texts
Defending each other in the face of criticism or attack
Knowing each other intimately
Being able to be honest and shoot straight with each other
Having a history together
Not talking often but being able to pick up right where they left off (if the relationship is long-distance, for instance)
Avoiding topics on which the two don’t see eye to eye
Having an affirming relationship where nothing unpleasant or difficult is discussed
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
One person wanting truth and honesty while the other only wants encouragement
Both parties going after the same thing (a love interest, a job, their kids trying out for the same student leadership position, etc.)
One person wanting to spend a lot of time together while the other wants more space
One party expecting blind and unconditional loyalty from a friend who tends to be more objective
One person wanting to know everything about a vulnerable friend who wants to keep to themselves
One friend seeking to expand their circle of friends while the other wants to keep things intimate
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Adventurous and Timid, Cautious and Reckless, Efficient and Scatterbrained, Extroverted and Introverted, Generous and Greedy, Independent and Needy, Optimistic and Pessimistic, Persuasive and Weak-Willed
Negative Outcomes of Friction
One person having increasingly negative thoughts about the other
Two friends distancing themselves and not being as close
One friend in a trio or quad being slowly pushed out
Friends becoming more different instead of more alike
Having more and more things that become taboo to talk about
The relationship becoming imbalanced, with one friend being more loyal, generous, or forgiving than the other
Drifting apart until the friendship eventually fades away
A “final straw” fight that causes a quick and hostile end to the friendship
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
Mutual respect making both parties more open to each other’s ideas
One friend seeking to become more like the other (in a positive way)
One friend lovingly pointing out an area of weakness that the other person is able to work on and improve
Friends who are very different expanding their knowledge (of each other’s culture, religion, nationality, etc.)
One friend encouraging the other to take a leap of faith or a big risk
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Beginnings, Betrayal, Coming of Age, Crossroads, Endings, Family, Friendship, Journeys, Love, Passage of Time, Refuge, 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.