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: 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)
Publicly having to admit one was wrong
Being forced to support a competitor’s goals, ambitions, or ideas
Having to cater to or serve the victor
Agreeing to step aside or step down (in a competition, a relationship, etc.)
Having to take on an extra burden or responsibility that requires time, money, or causes a hardship as a result
Having to take on added risk or danger as a result of losing
Minor Complications: being teased by others, never being able to live down what happened, becoming the butt end of a joke, damage to one’s reputation, losing esteem in the eyes of others, missing out on an opportunity, having to change one’s plans, having to ask for help to fix things which increases one’s embarrassment
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, a friendship being ruined in the aftermath, losing one’s job or a position of esteem because details of the bet are discovered by those in power, being forced to abandon a goal one really cares about, being blackmailed
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, second-guessing one’s choices that led to this situation and beating oneself up for them (hindsight is 20-20), guilt if others are impacted by one’s actions
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, defensiveness, defiant, denial, depressed, devastation, disappointment, disbelief, discouraged, disgust, disillusionment, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, flustered, frustration, humbled, humiliation, insecurity, intimidated, nervousness, panic, paranoia, powerlessness, pride, rage, regret, resentment, resignation, self-loathing, shame, shock, stunned, tormented, vengeful, vulnerability, worthlessness
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, confrontational, cowardly, flaky, foolish, hostile, ignorant, impatient, impulsive, inhibited, irrational, jealous, martyr, melodramatic, nervous, oversensitive, paranoid, resentful, stubborn, uncooperative, whiny, withdrawn
Positive Outcomes: 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.