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: Losing a Bet
Category: Failures and Mistakes, Duty and Responsibilities, Losing an Advantage, Ego, Miscellaneous Challenges
Being forced to suffer a humiliation that damages one’s reputation
Having to embarrass oneself (by hitting on a stranger, singing in public, wearing a costume that is humiliating, getting one’s head shaved, wearing a sign in public, having to wear a rival’s sports jersey, get a tattoo)
Having to give a prized possession to a rival (a car, a special backstage pass, a reservation that was impossible to secure, a specialized piece of equipment or type of technology)…
Being teased by others
Never being able to live down what happened
Becoming the butt end of a joke…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Having one’s humiliations filmed and uploaded to social media
Breaking the law in order to fulfill a punishment and being caught and charged
Someone being hurt as a result of one’s actions…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Diminished feelings of self-worth
Blaming oneself for losing or for making the bet in the first place
Struggles if one is forced to cross a moral line or sacrifice one’s values in order to follow through…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family, friends, people who have their reputation tied to the character
Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, defeat…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, confrontational, cowardly, flaky, foolish, hostile…
Gaining a better appreciation for thinking before reacting
Becoming more astute to manipulation in the future
Pride at taking responsibility no matter what…
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.
New to One Stop for Writers? Swing by and check out our video walkthrough, because it’s time to change the writing game.
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.
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.
Harmony Kent says
Great entry. I’m loving this conflict thesaurus as much as I did the occupation thesaurus. Thanks for sharing. Reblogged on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/conflict-thesaurus-entry-losing-a-bet-writers-helping-writers/
Elli Comeau says
Great entry! When I got to “struggles if one is forced to cross a moral line or sacrifice one’s values in order to follow through” I asked myself: and what if the character decided not to follow through?
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
CONFLICT, of course! Whether they follow through or not, conflict is created, and fallout which will make things harder for the character, which is exactly what we need, right? 🙂 Can’t make things too easy for a character, hahaha.