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.
Editor and Author
An editor works with an author to strengthen their writing project. The author may privately seek out a freelance editor to improve their writing prior to submitting it to agents and publishing house editors. An editor working for a publishing entity may work with a contracted author on a manuscript that is already complete, for a proposed project that is not yet finished, or in a write-for-hire or ghostwriting capacity. The editor may support them through any number of edits, including copyedits, line edits, developmental edits, and more. The working relationship is built on trust, with an editor who needs to understand the author’s intent and possess the skills to sharpen the writing. The author needs to trust the editor’s judgment and be willing to heed their advice in order to make the suggested revisions. A willingness to compromise and communicate openly is crucial in making this relationship function. But with competing interests and external demands, the editor/author relationship can be a challenging one.
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.
An editor at a publishing house working with an author for the first time
A writer and an editor who are working on a series together
An editor working with an author with whom they have a long-standing, exclusive relationship
A relationship based on mutual trust and respect
An editor working with an author who has difficulty accepting criticism
An editor who takes it personally when suggestions aren’t accepted by the author
A relationship being stymied by a lack of communication or transparency on either side
A relationship between two people who are professional and proper but have personality conflicts
Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
Either party not responding to communication attempts by the other party
The author and editor having a different vision for a project
The editor giving the author harsh, conflicting, or unclear feedback
The author refusing to heed the guidance of the editor
The editor feeling as though the author’s manuscript is not yet ready (despite revision)
The author needing an extension on a deadline
The editor needing a manuscript on a tight deadline
The author feeling as though the editor was too hands-on in their approach
Wounds That Could Factor into The Relationship
A terminal illness diagnosis, A toxic relationship, A traumatic brain injury, An abuse of power, Battling a mental disorder, Being bullied, Being let down by a trusted organization or social system…
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
One party wanting to control the other
One party seeing the project as a series and the other seeing it as a stand-alone book
Both parties wanting different levels of communication
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations
Discreet and Gossipy, Independent and Needy, Controlling and Weak-Willed, Efficient and Scatterbrained, Generous and Greedy, Judgmental and Oversensitive, Persuasive and Gullible
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The parties going their separate ways and losing the relationship
The author feeling as though they have no choice but to give control to the editor
The editor having to fire the author
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A writing project having tremendous success (winning awards, exceeding sales expectations, etc.)
One party experiencing a personal difficulty that the other has experienced
Uniting to stand up to a trolling reviewer or a bully in the marketing department
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
The editor and author connecting on a personal level
Both parties learning from each other and wanting to continue working together
A party recognizing what the non-negotiables are in the relationship
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A fall from grace, A quest for knowledge, Beginnings, Betrayal, Deception, Depression, Disorder, Endings, Friendship, Greed, Inflexibility, Journeys, Knowledge, Obstacles, Perseverance, 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.
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.