Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Taking Advice from the Wrong Person

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

Whether you’re looking for minor friction options for a given scene or major conflicts to hamper the character’s overall story goal, this thesaurus can help. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Taking Advice from the Wrong Person

Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities


  • A character seeking advice from someone who is secretly working against them
  • The protagonist taking advice from someone whose top priority is him or herself
  • The character taking advice from someone with good intentions who doesn’t know what they’re talking about
  • The character seeking the advice of someone who will affirm their ideas rather than challenge them with an opposing viewpoint
  • The character seeking outside advice because it’s easier than them doing the footwork and research themselves

Minor Complications: Embarrassment when it’s made public that the character had the wrong information, experiencing a minor set-back in achieving the overall goal, relationship friction between the character and the advice-giver, losing credibility in the eyes of others, becoming complacent (because of the nature of the advice) when time is of the essence, over-reliance on the trustworthy people in the character’s life (since they’re the only ones that can safely be trusted)

Potentially Disastrous Results: Difficulty trusting others, not being trusted in the future with important projects or duties, purposely not seeking the advice of others (relying solely on one’s limited knowledge, missing out on the wisdom of others, etc.), the misinformation causing the loss of an important ally or benefactor, the setback creating a ticking clock situation that makes the overall goal very difficult to achieve, someone being harmed or killed because the character acted on incorrect information, getting fired, the character becoming defensive and digging in their heels to support the bad advice,

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict): Doubting one’s discernment and ability to read people, blaming oneself (for trusting the wrong person, for allowing oneself to be swayed despite initial suspicion, for not having enough information initially to recognize the advice as being faulty, etc.), being tempted to silence the accuser and bury one’s mistake, conflicted feelings about the guilty party (especially if they’re a valued person in the character’s life), becoming indecisive due to a new need to over-research and make sure one is making the right decision

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Allies, family members and friends, co-workers, mentors and benefactors

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anxiety, appalled, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, defensiveness, denial, disappointment, discouraged, disillusionment, doubt, embarrassment, fear, built, humbled, humiliation, hurt, inadequate, insecurity, intimidated, resentment, self-pity, skepticism, surprise

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Apathetic, cocky, defensive, gullible, insecure, martyr, melodramatic, oversensitive, perfectionist, tactless, volatile, weak-willed

Positive Outcomes: Realizing the importance of doing one’s own research, being more careful about who one trusts in the future, creating a checks-and-balance system by seeking out multiple people for advice, being better able to spot inauthentic or unreliable people due to one’s experience, being more inclined to trust one’s gut (because one didn’t in this situation)

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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[…]… “Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into […]


[…] Conflict Thesaurus: Advice from the Wrong Person | Writers Helping Writers […]

Harmony Kent
1 year ago

Great entry. Thanks for sharing. Reblogged on: I think I’m going to love these entries as much as I did the Occuptation Thesaurus posts 🙂

Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

Great entry!

1 year ago

I love this entry! Conflict is so important in making a story interesting. Having suggestions for types and sources of conflict would really improve my writing!!!

1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

So glad this one helps you!