Conflict Thesaurus Entry: A Deadline Being Moved Up

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 possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. 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: A Deadline Being Moved Up

Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks

Examples: Needing to have important paperwork completed, securing funds to pay off a debt, needing to have materials prepped for a earlier meeting than expected, being forced to complete plans for a rally or other event sooner, discovering the timeline to fulfill a promise has been bumped up, needing to secure resources sooner (for a battle, to prepare for imminent danger, etc.), finding out a window of opportunity is closing faster than anticipated (to escape, to overcome an obstacle, to impress the right people, to prove one’s innocence, to save someone’s life etc.)

Minor Complications: Disrupting one’s schedule and personal plans, inconveniencing other people if their support is needed to complete a task, losing sleep, having to sacrifice quality for efficiency, disappointing loved ones by placing their needs last, having to ask people for help that one may not want to (because it makes one look weak, they may expect something in return, or the other person is a rival), scrambling to make changes to fit the new timeline (cutting back on scope of the project, changing the venue, having to pay more to expedite things or obtain what one needs, etc.)

Potentially Disastrous Results: Rushing that leads to safety issues (and someone is injured), having to make a deal that carries a high personal cost (being forced to sacrifice a cherished goal, having to return a very expensive favor, being placed in harm’s way, etc.), being blamed for a poor turnout or sloppy end result, failing because the timeline cannot be met, having one’s reputation destroyed because one delivered subpar work, completely blowing a budget and being held accountable, treating someone poorly while stressed and damaging a relationship beyond repair, breaking the law to meet the deadline and getting caught

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict): Anxiety over how to meet the deadline, suffering a crisis of faith in one’s abilities, feeling guilt for putting others in a bad position through no fault of one’s own, feeling guilt at letting some people down to focus on the task at hand, anger (at the cause) that wars with feelings of duty and responsibility, struggling with the temptation to cut corners, break the law, lie, or cross an ethical line to get what one needs

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: One’s boss, co-workers and employees, family members, a political party or cause one is championing, people in one’s community, or anyone who will be impacted by the choices one makes in order to complete the objective in time, or if one fails, those who will be hurt by that failure

Resulting Emotions: Anger, Anxiety, Apprehension, Bitterness, Conflicted, Contempt, Defeat, Despair, Desperation, Determination, Doubt, Dread, Emasculated, Embarrassment, Flustered, Frustration, Guilt, Inadequate, Intimidated, Overwhelmed, Panic, Powerlessness, Resentment, Resignation, Self-pity, Shock, Skepticism, Stunned, Unappreciated, Worry

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, Cocky, Compulsive, Confrontational, Controlling, Disorganized, Extravagant, Fanatical, Flaky, Forgetful, Fussy, Gullible, Hypocritical, Impatient, Impulsive, Inattentive, Indecisive, Inflexible, Insecure, Irresponsible, Martyr, Melodramatic, Needy, Nervous, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pessimistic, Reckless, Resentful, Scatterbrained, Stingy, Tactless, Temperamental, Uncooperative, Weak-willed, Whiny, Worrywart

Positive Outcomes: Becoming better at time management, being able to hone one’s organizational and planning skills, becoming more adaptable when things go sideways, a chance to lead and gain valuable experience, becoming better at working with others, discovering who one’s friends truly are by seeing who sticks around to help and who does not, learning one is far more capable than believed by taking on a difficult challenge

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


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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David O Powell
David O Powell
1 year ago

Did you mention it will be in book format? Audible?


[…] Conflict Thesaurus: Earlier Deadline | Writers Helping Writers […]

Harmony Kent
1 year ago

Loving these conflict thesaurus posts. Thanks for sharing. Reblogged on:

1 year ago
Reply to  Harmony Kent

I’m so glad you’re liking them, Harmony!

Dover Whitecliff
Dover Whitecliff
1 year ago

Love this idea of the conflict thesaurus. Awesome entry! Having had this done to me numerous times in my career, I see one thing that might be added. You hit the nail right on the head for someone not used to it. Abject terror getting the email saying that something that was due next Friday is due in an hour. Stress and frustration (for me anger comes later). But once it’s happened 2 or 3 times, the effect us dulled. After awhile you come to expect it and plan your timeline accordingly, so an experienced character may not react the same way. You tend to, instead, get into the get ‘er done zone and take it as a personal “I’ll show you” sort of challenge. Thanks for listening and being so awesome with your resource sharing!

Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

Great entry!

Diana McDowell
Diana McDowell
1 year ago

Conflict Thesaurus… sounds wonderful.

Glory Wade
1 year ago

This sounds great, comprehensive like all your others. Thank you both for creating these.