“No man is an island, whole unto itself.” People are always part of a network of relationships, a community. For most it’s a web of familiar faces, with individual relationships growing or fading, much like the tides of the ocean. Characters can even engage relationships without interacting with the other person, through memory and imagination. Similarly, some characters may personify an animal, object, or force of nature. A character struggling to endure a storm may come to regard that storm as a rival, with a will and personality of its own.
Most relationships include a social aspect, but a true social relationship is rooted in coming together to share an experience. Social relationships are based on a common interest or shared experience. A social relationship can be casual, two strangers meeting at an event, or they can be intentional, two friends who specifically gather to meet each other.
When people hear the word relationship, most think of a romantic and/or sexual relationship, but it’s important to recognize that this represents a small fraction of the relationships that influence every character. In the context of this post, a relationship is any time that one character applies opinions or expectations onto another, whether the other person knows it or not.
Part of good storytelling is making the audience believe in the story, believe that the characters really existed, acting out events exactly as the author outlines them. This means everything the character says and does needs to be rooted in who the character is. An author must always be aware of why a character acts and reacts as they do, so that audiences never stop to consider the invisible hand behind the curtain.
The plot of a story is the various events that occur over the course of the story. A character’s journey is how those events affect a character. A plot is a combination of 1 or more character journeys, often using a character hierarchy, focusing on specific characters. Many stories contain pieces of a character’s journey, with other portions happening before, after, or “off camera”.