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.
ONE-NIGHT STAND LOVERS
A relationship involving two or more people who are sexually intimate one time and have no further contact is considered a one-night stand. The intimacy may have been fueled by desire, emotional pain, alcohol, drugs, or sex addiction. It may also have stemmed from the thrill of having no strings attached. One-night stands may be chance encounters or they may be facilitated through an app or website.
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.
Two (or more) people hooking up for one night with no expectation of further involvement
A relationship where one person is emotionally invested while the other is not
The parties staying in contact, resulting in a longer-term relationship
One party trying to pursue a lasting relationship with a lover who isn’t interested
Having to hide the one-night stand from others (because the two work together, they’re involved in other romantic relationships, etc.)
Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
Encountering the other person after the fact
An unexpected pregnancy
A bystander or witness gossiping about the encounter
Attending the same social or professional event by coincidence
A spouse or partner finding out about the one-night stand
Getting caught leaving the site of the liaison
Being diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted disease after the fact
One person becoming curious about the other and trying to contact them
A third party discovering evidence (a hotel bill, condom wrapper, etc.) of the encounter
One person developing feelings for the other
Someone experiencing extreme guilt or shame over the encounter
Leaving something behind that the other lover has to return
One person accusing the other of sexual assault
Images, video, or another form of evidence of the act being shared publicly
One of the parties losing their job as a result of the encounter
An unrelated tragedy happening as the encounter occurred (a loved one dying in a car accident, someone in one party’s care being neglected, etc.)
One party having an ulterior motive for participating in the one-night stand, such as them wanting to blackmail the other person
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations
Mischievous and Humorless, Gossipy and Private, Irrational and Sensible, Apathetic and Passionate, Controlling and Timid, Honest and Evasive, Affectionate and Inhibited, Needy and Independent
Negative Outcomes of Friction (if the two parties disagree about ending the relationship)
Arguments arising when the other person wants to continue the relationship
Having to hide further conversations with the person from one’s partner
A needy party disclosing the liaison to the other person’s partner
Struggling with guilt or shame over the one-night stand
Difficulty returning to the place associated with the liaison
Secrets shared in confidence being made public, damaging the character’s reputation
Awkwardness in social situations where the other person is present
Being blackmailed or threatened by the other person if the character doesn’t comply with their demands
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Bonding over pressure from outsiders to be in a committed relationship
Deciding to turn the one-night stand into something more (a friendship, committed romance, or ongoing sexual relationship)
Having to work together to keep the one-night stand a secret
Both parties coming out of bad relationships at the same time
One party becoming pregnant
A chance business opportunity that benefits both parties
A mutual contact needing their support
The skills of one party being a fit for the needs of the other
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Learning that living spontaneously doesn’t always end well
Taking responsibility for harmful behavior
Understanding attraction on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level
Valuing others beyond their physical attributes
Developing a stronger sense of self-respect following the encounter
Learning to set safe boundaries
Understanding the gift of forgiveness and how to give and receive it
Recognizing an underlying reason for the one-night stand—if there is one—and addressing it (a sex addiction, seeking approval in unhealthy ways, sleeping with others to hurt someone else, etc.)
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Fall from Grace, Betrayal, Coming of age, Crossroads, Deception, Depression, Disorder, Endings, Freedom, Health, Instability, Isolation, Journeys, Love, Stagnation, 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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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.