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: Unwanted Scrutiny
Category: Power Struggles, Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Relationship Friction, Duty and Responsibilities, Moral Dilemmas and Temptation, Ego, Miscellaneous Challenges
Being assigned an overseer to watch one’s every move
Drawing unwanted attention when trying to stay under the radar
Doing something by mistake that raises the suspicions of others…
Having very little privacy
Having to deal with more red tape
Needing to report one’s activities or actions in a way that one didn’t need to before…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Cracking under the pressure and making a big mistake
Being caught in a lie or doing something one was not supposed to do
Being unable to achieve a goal that leads to painful fallout…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Trying to forgive those who let their trust waver
Anger at oneself for screwing something up in the first place which led to the scrutiny
A loss of faith at a critical time…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family, friends, co-workers, a business or institution, other people who will be impacted by one’s failure
Resulting Emotions: agitation, anger, annoyance, betrayed, bitterness, contempt, defensiveness, defiant…
Being forced to slow down and think things through may improve one’s success rate
The character may learn who their friends really are, and if successful, navigating this challenge teaches self-reliance and helps the character to see they are more capable than they may have previously believed themselves to be…
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.
“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
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.