Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Fling

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.

Description: A fling is a casual, sexual relationship between two people. Unlike one-night stands, a fling is more than one encounter, but wouldn’t be considered an affair because it lacks emotional attachment. Flings generally happen between two people who want something fun and ‘in the moment’ rather than to invest in each other with the intent of building something more.

Relationship Dynamics:
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 relationship based upon physical attraction and sexual desires
Choosing a partner who is fun in bed but not “marriage material”
Enjoying casual sexual encounters with no expectation of other involvement
Getting together only when the timing works out (often at the last minute)
Keeping conversation superficial to avoid getting too personal
Not discussing the future, just enjoying the present
Minimal contact between encounters
Making no commitments or demands
Not probing for information even when a partner seems interesting
Avoiding situations that could lead to vulnerability or openness
Experimenting sexually if it’s fun and consensual
Leaving once a sexual encounter is over
Enjoying teasing and innuendo
Becoming worried if there’s too much common ground
One person realizing they might be developing feelings
Knowing deep down it’s time to break things off, but finding excuses not to
Asking questions that are more personal (suggesting investment)
Reading into certain actions and seeing intimacy (which may or may not be the case)
Having deeper feelings about the other person (but keeping them a secret)
Feeling jealous of the partner’s other relationships and hiding it
Pretending it’s a casual encounter yet doing things considered intimate (cooking a romantic dinner, sharing feelings, getting personal, etc.)
A relationship where one person is emotionally invested while the other is not

Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
One person wanting to end things while the other does not
One partner pushing to try a committed relationship ‘to see what happens’
Wanting to expand the fling to include others but the partner does not
Both wanting something more, but one partner’s fears are preventing it
One participant pressuring the other to try things they aren’t comfortable with
One wanting to transition to a friendship, but the other liking things as is
Wanting to stay in touch after a fling ends but the partner does not
Threats to expose the fling if the other tries to end it
A partner who likes taking casual pictures or video together, but the other doesn’t want any evidence of the fling

Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Gossipy and Private, Apathetic and Passionate, Controlling and Timid, Mischievous and Humorless, Irrational and Sensible, Affectionate and Inhibited, Needy and Independent, Honest and Evasive

Negative Outcomes of Friction
Being unable to go back to a previous relationship before it became a flingArguments about whether to continue or end things
One party disclosing the fling to others without consulting their partner first
The fling being discovered, damaging reputations and causing fallout (at work, with family, etc.)
Being blackmailed or threatened by the other person or a third-party
Awkwardness in social or professional situations when partners run into each other
Losing a mutual friend who chooses a side when the fling ends badly
Becoming fixated on swaying the other person to want the same thing
Reduced self-esteem or feelings of regret (if the fling was a mistake)
An increased fear of commitment
Becoming used to having a mental wall of distance which makes it harder to be vulnerable in other relationships

Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Mutually wanting to turn the fling into a committed relationship
A pregnancy
Both knowing this relationship could ruin lives if discovered
Working together to keep the fling a secret
Bonding over pressure from outsiders to be in a committed relationship
A mutual friend needing their support
One party experiencing personal difficulties and the other stepping up to help
A shared traumatic experience, or discovering common ground regarding a past one
Both parties coming out of bad relationships simultaneously
Both people agreeing that they are better off as friends

Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Discovering layers of someone that go beyond what one previously knew
Getting to experience what clear boundaries are if this isn’t typical
Self-reflecting on one’s relationship choices to better understand what one wants
Learning the pros and cons of an uncommitted relationship
Exploring what one wants from a romantic partner and feeling safe to experiment
Feeling empowered to end an unhealthy relationship
Being able to safely process after-affects of a bad relationship, so baggage isn’t carried forward to the next committed relationship
Feeling empowered to make decisions that are right for them, not others
Discovering that a fling isn’t a good fit and so being able to focus fully on what is wanted and needed

Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A fall from grace, Betrayal, Coming of age, Crossroads, Deception, Depression, Freedom, Friendship, Hope, Innocence, Instability, Journeys, Loss, Love, Mystery, Pride, Purity, Rebellion, Recognition, Refuge, Religion, Stagnation, Transformation, Vanity, Vulnerability



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