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.
People Who Are Dating
Dating involves two people meeting socially, typically in an effort to identify a life partner. This is the early part of a romantic relationship, where those involved are getting to know one another by spending time together—very often, before much physical intimacy occurs. These dates are an opportunity to evaluate their compatibility and one another’s suitability for marriage, which is oftentimes the objective of courtship.
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 people who are eager to get to know each other
Two people who are highly compatible and interested in the same things
Two people who are very different, reinforcing the idea that opposites attract
One party portraying an image that isn’t an accurate reflection of who they are
A relationship that remains superficial, as those involved avoid topics that might ruin things
Both parties wanting it to work out so badly that they’re blind to the other person’s faults
Either party entering the relationship with recent, unresolved baggage (a breakup, the death of a loved one, being fired from a coveted job, etc.)
An uneven relationship, where one party wants more from the other person or wants to move more quickly
Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
The other person needing to relocate for work, school, or family
One party discovering that the other is seeing multiple people
An ex coming back into one’s life
One party failing to bond with a love interest’s children or pets
Secrets from one party’s past coming to light
One party becoming controlling, manipulative, or abusive
One person’s family or best friends not approving of the love interest
Being offered a job or school opportunity that requires increased focus, time, or energy
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
Both parties disagreeing on the frequency or type of communication
One party wanting children while the other does not
One or both parties not being ready to commit or advance the relationship
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations
Abrasive and Oversensitive, Controlling and Independent, Inflexible and Spontaneous, Proper and Rebellious, Adventurous and Timid, Extroverted and Introverted
Negative Outcomes of Friction
Arguments and fights
Experiencing anxiety or diminished self-worth
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Discovering a mutual dislike of the same person
Sharing an important hobby or interest
Embracing an unplanned pregnancy
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Mutual love and respect leading to compromise and increased satisfaction
Trying new activities and expanding one’s comfort zone
Both parties expanding their knowledge of one another’s culture, religion, nationality, etc.
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Beginnings, Betrayal, Endings, Family, Friendship, Innocence, Isolation, Journeys, Love, Stagnation, Teamwork, Vanity, Violence, Vulnerability
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.