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.
Principal and Teacher
A principal is the lead administrator at the primary, intermediate, and high school levels. As the boss, principals are responsible for evaluating a teacher’s work performance, as well as creating instructional policies and defining best educational practices within the environment. They may support a teacher through difficulties with students or parents, while also offering resources and development opportunities to strengthen their professional skills.
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 principal who respects the teacher’s professional judgment and gives them wide berth in carrying out instruction
A teacher who respects the leadership of the principal and follows their policies
A principal focused on the administrative side of things, leaving the education up to the teachers
A strictly professional relationship, where personal conversations and topics don’t come up
A micromanaging principal who does not respect the professional judgment of the teacher
A teacher who challenges the principals’ authority and decisions
A relationship with vastly different communication styles that lead to conflict
A cozier relationship—professional, but each person knowing and caring about the other’s personal life
Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
The principal abruptly or sharply changing school policies
A teacher receiving a poor evaluation (whether it’s warranted or not)
The principal playing favorites with other staff members
The teacher being overlooked for promotion or recognition
The two parties disagreeing on how to handle a difficult student or parents
One party needing to step away from professional duties to handle personal matters
One party engaging in an inappropriate relationship with another staff member or a student’s parent
The teacher needing critical supplies and being told that funds aren’t available
Wounds That Could Factor into The Relationship
A child dying on one’s watch, A learning disability, A school shooting, A sibling’s betrayal, A terrorist attack, A toxic relationship, An abuse of power, Battling a mental disorder, Being bullied, Being disappointed by a role model, Being disowned or shunned, Being falsely accused of a crime, Being fired or laid off, Being forced tBeing legitimately incarcerated for a crime…
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
Each wanting control of educational practices
The principal wanting a particularly demanding student in the care of the teacher
The teacher not respecting professional boundaries and the principal’s role
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations
Cautious and Reckless, Efficient and Scatterbrained, Independent and Needy, Persuasive and Weak-Willed, Controlling and Rebellious, Dishonest and Honorable, Confrontational and Timid
Negative Outcomes of Friction
One party being fired or quitting
Negative energy impacting the students’ learning environment
One party receiving a poor performance because of bias or a history between the two characters
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Coming together to implement an educational initiative or professional development
Teaming up to face a demanding or discriminatory parent
Coming together to support a child with unusual needs
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Respecting one another’s professional judgment and learning from each other
Forging a friendship beyond work
Self-reflecting after receiving a poor performance review, leading to growth
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A fall from grace, Alienation, A quest for knowledge, Betrayal, Borders, Crossroads, Depression, Disorder, Friendship, Greed, Inflexibility, Isolation, Journeys, Knowledge, Obstacles, Order, Perseverance, Pride, Rebellion, Recognition, Sacrifice, Stagnation, Suffering, Teamwork, Transformation, 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.
If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.
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.