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: Being Offered an Easy Way Out
Categories: Power Struggles, Failures and Mistakes, Duty and Responsibilities, Moral Dilemmas and Temptation, Ego
An offer to retake a test after one’s poor performance
An offer to take over a difficult situation when one is struggling
A powerful connection offering to pay someone off and make one’s sticky situation go away
A friend willing to lie so one can escape repercussions
Having an inside man offer to fast-track a process or application
Being offered a position because of a connection, not because one earned it
Someone offering to call in a favor to ensure evidence is “lost”
An inside man offering to alter records to get one out of trouble
Being offered a solution in exchange for a favor down the road
Being offered a bribe or donation to look the other way after making a discovery that could be hazardous (to one’s job, health, etc.)
Minor Complications: Being forced to lie to people one cares about, having to lie on record, deciding to resist temptation and deal with the fallout, disappointing others when the truth comes out
Potentially Disastrous Results: Owing a person in power a favor, being blackmailed, the truth getting out and one’s reputation or standing being ruined, losing the trust of someone one cares deeply about, having to live a lie, being forced to do something outside one’s comfort zone (danger, morally wrong, etc.) in return
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict): Paranoia that someone will find out, an identity crisis over crossing a moral line, guilty feelings if there is fallout to others as a result of an action one took, self-hatred for being weak if one took the easy way out, trying to make up for what one did in a way that doesn’t reveal what truly happened but finding it doesn’t erase one’s guilt or shame
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the character themselves, family and friends who hold the character in high esteem or vouch for their honesty and skills, co-workers or others who are being penalized due to one’s unfair advantage, people who are victimized because justice is not served
Resulting Emotions: anguish, anxiety, conflicted, denial, depressed, despair, desperation, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, doubt, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, empathy, fear, gratitude, grief, guilt, humiliation, obsessed, overwhelmed, panic, paranoia, powerlessness, regret, relief, reluctance, remorse, resignation, self-loathing, shame, smugness, tormented, unease, vulnerability, worthlessness
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, cocky, confrontational, cowardly, cynical, defensive, disloyal, disorganized, flaky, foolish, forgetful, gossipy, greedy, gullible, impatient, impulsive, insecure, manipulative, melodramatic, paranoid, prejudiced, pushy, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, spoiled, subservient, uncooperative, unethical, weak-willed, whiny, worrywart
Positive Outcomes: resisting temptation and accepting responsibility, learning the value of being prepared, being determined to not make the same mistake again that landed one in trouble, redoubling one’s efforts to be ethical, moral, or honest moving forward, gaining respect for people who do accept responsibility even when it hurts them
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.