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 your story, make a character’s goals more difficult to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome what stands in their way.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Conflict: An Unexpected Pregnancy
Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Loss of Control
Becoming a parent is a huge responsibility that profoundly changes a person’s life
Discovering that one is going to be a parent without planning or wanting to can cause all kinds of trouble for the mother, the father, grandparents—it could realistically be a problem for many different members of your cast.
If you’re thinking of adding this kind of conflict to your story, consider an unexpected pregnancy for one of the following:
A rape victim…
Having to put one’s plans on hold (graduating from high school, traveling, etc.)
Having to move back in with one’s parents…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Health complications that endanger the child’s or the mother’s life
Extreme symptoms that cause the mother to lose her job
Being rejected or shunned by one’s parents…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Moral quandaries over what one should do (keep the baby, have an abortion, give it up for adoption, etc.)
Worrying over finances
Worrying about what other people will say or think when they find out…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The mother, the father, grandparents who end up being caregivers, the character’s other children
Resulting Emotions: Anxiety, apprehension, denial, depressed, desperation, determination, devastation…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Apathetic, childish, evasive, frivolous, ignorant, impulsive…
Maturing and growing through the crucible of parenthood
Learning to rely on oneself
Learning to accept help from others…
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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The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles
This thesaurus is also in book form, a two-volume set. Each volume contains expert advice on how to use conflict to improve your story, and a plethora of conflict scenarios to provide ideas on how to best challenge your characters.
Each volume is a unique gateway into conflict, but looks at this important element from different angles. Together, they profile 225 conflict scenarios.
Find out more about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
“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
Visit Goodreads to read more reviews about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
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.
Hello! I love this, and hope some people comment even more ideas.
What about an unexpected pregnancy in a more middle-ages or fantasy setting? Less informed healthcare or maybe some magic-influenced treatments; interspecies mixes between magical/nonmagical races that might influence the length and symptoms of the situation; Traveling over water/land for long distances. Additionally: warzones, high-stakes diplomatic situations, and potentially devastating weather conditions.