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: Being Given Bad News
Category: Power Struggles, Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Relationship Friction, Duty and Responsibilities, Moral Dilemmas and Temptation, Losing an Advantage, Loss of Control, Ego, No-Win Situations, Miscellaneous Challenges
Being told a loved one was in an accident
That one has cancer or another disease
A promotion went to someone else…
Rearranging one’s schedule
Dropping what one’s doing and re-prioritizing
Potentially Disastrous Results:
A money shortage that causes one to default on a mortgage or loan, being unable to cope without the thing that is now missing ( a loved one, steady employment, a place to live)
Giving up on a direction in life because this news was such a setback or disappointment
Jumping into the wrong opportunity out of fear or a need for security without considering possible repercussions and fallout of that choice…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Internal struggles with guilt, regret, and feelings of failure
Bouts of depression or anxiety
Worrying about protecting others (dependents, a spouse, the people one leads, etc.)…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family members, one’s spouse, extended family, co-workers, neighbors (this will depend on the type of bad news).
Resulting Emotions: agitation, anguish, anxiety, appalled, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, denial…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, addictive, antisocial, controlling, cowardly…
Gaining perspective about what’s really important in life
Feeling heartened than the outcome wasn’t worse
Realizing one needs an emergency plan and then creating one…
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.
Jan Sikes says
Fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing!