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: An Unexpected Pregnancy
Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Loss of Control
Examples: 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
The parent of an already-large family
A family living in poverty
A business woman who has just gotten her dream job
A woman whose husband has just been laid off
A woman who doesn’t who who the father is (due to an affair, being a prostitute, etc.)
Minor Complications: Uncomfortable symptoms, having to put one’s plans on hold (graduating from high school, traveling, etc.), having to move back in with one’s parents, giving up a promotion so one can stay near family, being judged or criticized by friends and acquaintances
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, being abandoned by one’s partner, going off of a necessary medication to keep the baby safe
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, struggling with hormonal mood swings, trying to hide the pregnancy, not telling anyone and having to bear the burden alone, being pressured by others to do something one doesn’t want to do
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, dread, embarrassment, fear, guilt, humiliation, loneliness, moody, overwhelmed, panic, regret, reluctance, sadness, self-pity, shame, shock, vulnerability, worry
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Apathetic, childish, evasive, frivolous, ignorant, impulsive, indecisive, irresponsible, melodramatic, needy, nervous, pessimistic, spoiled, temperamental, uncooperative, vindictive, weak-willed
Positive Outcomes: Maturing and growing through the crucible of parenthood, learning to rely on oneself, learning to accept help from others, standing up for what one believes, taking responsibility for one’s actions, learning to put the needs of others before one’s own, discovering that one is capable of more than one realized, discovering who one’s true friends are
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.