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.
Below is a sample version of this entry that shows how conflict can deepen the story, make a character’s goals harder to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome difficulties.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Loss of Control
Oversleeping (due to an alarm not going off, a hangover, etc.)
A diaper explosion as the character is getting ready to leave
The dog escaping and having to be chased down…
Friction with others who are inconvenienced
One’s credibility being damaged
Forgetting something important because one is in a hurry…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being late to an interview and not getting the job
Missing a flight to an important event
Ruining a last chance at romance…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Berating oneself unnecessarily
Struggling with panic or anxiety
Denying one’s responsibility and blaming others…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Anyone waiting on the character: co-workers, the boss, clients, a spouse or partner, children, other relatives, a babysitter or nanny, friends
Resulting Emotions: Agitation, anger, annoyance, conflicted, defeat, defensiveness, desperation, determination…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, controlling, defensive, disorganized, flaky, foolish…
A chance encounter that wouldn’t have happened had the character been on time
Learning one’s lesson and planning better in the future
Taking responsibility for one’s mistake and being forgiven…
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.
Use Conflict To Transform Your Story
Readers have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting books, so make it easy for them to choose yours. Conflict will help you deliver a fresh story premise every time, drawing readers in through meaningful challenges that reveal a character’s innermost needs, fears, weaknesses, and strengths.
The Conflict Thesaurus is part of the largest, fiction-specific Description Database available. Access it here.
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“Many of the conflicts listed were ones I had never even thought of including in a story…” ~ Annie Lima
“Angela and Becca have done it again—and left no conflict stone unturned…” ~Jarm Boccio
“Ackerman-Puglisi’s thesaurus is so much more than just a “thesaurus”. It’s a tutor, a guide, and a writing mentor all crammed into one…” ~ Sacha Black
This book is amazing; another priceless resource…” ~ Brandi MacCurdy