Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Mentor and Protégé

From Writers Helping Writers:

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.

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Mentor and Protégé

Description: This relationship consists of an experienced mentor who has achieved a measure of expertise in a given area and a protégé dedicated to learning from them and following in their footsteps. While a relationship can initially be established with this purpose in mind, the mentor/protégé dynamic typically grows out of an existing relationship (teacher/student, coach/athlete, boss/employee). The interactions between the two parties will differ based on many factors and may change over time.

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 mentor eagerly sharing the fruits of their knowledge with the protégé
A mentor taking a personal interest in their protégé
A mentor actively creating growth opportunities for the protégé—taking them to meetings and introducing them to other influencers, etc.
A mentor being open to learning from the protégé
A mentor jealously keeping the protégé to himself
A mentor who doesn’t want the protégé to move on (seeing him or her as a valuable resource rather than someone with potential) and doesn’t do what is needed to grow them
A mentor viewing the protégé as an underling to do their busy work
A brilliant mentor who isn’t necessarily good at teaching or dealing with people
A mento taking the protégé’s lack of interest or ability personally
A protégé recognizing what the mentor can provide and soaking up everything they can
A protégé seeing the relationship not just as one that benefits him but also looking for ways he can help the mentor
A protégé catching up with their mentor and growing past him or her
A protégé taking the opportunity seriously, being responsible and showing gratitude
An overconfident protégé not being open to feedback from the mentor
A protégé seeking constant instruction, feedback, and affirmation from the mentor
A reluctant protégé only putting in partial effort
An eager protégé being distracted by personal problems and not giving the relationship their all
An unwilling protégé being pushed into the relationship (by parents, a court order, etc.), resulting in apathy or resentment

Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
The mentor wanting something different for the protégé than the protégé wants
Either party wanting more time, energy, or personal attention than the other is willing or able to give
The mentor wanting to teach a protégé who is in the relationship for subversive reasons (to gain information for someone else, to set the mentor up for failure, to humiliate them, etc.)
A protégé wanting to learn from a mentor who wants to control and subdue
The protégé wanting to be taught and mentored while the mentor wants a lackey
Both parties wanting to be “top dog” in the relationship

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

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