Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Sabotaged

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 Sabotaged

Category: Power Struggles, Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Losing an Advantage, Loss of Control

Past secrets being made public by a competitor
A work or school project being destroyed or tampered with
A physical attack that sidelines the character
Theft of someone’s work or ideas
The destruction of a machine, facility, or system by an activist group
The public being influenced against the character through lies or manipulation
The character’s reputation being attacked
Deliberate underachieving and poor performance by co-workers or employees
Important supplies being purposely rerouted and lost
Official documents being destroyed
The media only reporting negative information (and ignoring anything positive) about a character, organization, or issue
The distribution of counterfeit correspondence (an email, transcript, affidavit, signed confession, press release, etc.) meant to discredit the sender
An ally being won over by the enemy or taken out of the game altogether

Minor Complications:
Having to start over
Lost revenue from having to pay for new supplies, repairs, labor, etc.
Expending energy and time on dispelling rumors instead of on important work that needs to be done
A decrease in responsibilities and opportunities, such as being demoted or removed from a project

Potentially Disastrous Results:
The character’s reputation being ruined
Family members being harassed or attacked
Losing an important ally, influencer, or business connection
The character being physically harmed by a saboteur
Loved ones turning against the character (because the believe the lies being told, because they’re tired of being dragged into the fray, etc.)
The enemy taking or destroying something that can be replaced (an original idea, a recipe or formula, someone’s life, etc.)
Getting fired
Being arrested for something the character didn’t do
Loss of influence; being unable to accomplish the good things that were the character’s original intention (bringing down a corrupt organization, righting a societal wrong, etc.)

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Difficulty trusting others
Becoming cynical and jaded
Being so paralyzed by fear that the character is reluctant to try again
Always worrying that others have believed the rumors and think badly of the character (if a reputation assassination was a factor)
Becoming an underachiever to avoid being targeted again
Struggling with feelings of disempowerment

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family members, co-workers, people benefitting from the character’s company or organization

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, defeat, defensiveness, despair, desperation, determination, devastation, disbelief, discouraged, disillusionment, fear, humiliation, hurt, indignation, insecurity, intimidated, paranoia, powerlessness, resentment, self-pity, shock, vulnerability, wariness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Cowardly, cynical, gullible, martyr, melodramatic, nervous, oversensitive, paranoid, reckless, resentful, sleazy, timid, vain, vindictive

Positive Outcomes: 
Increased resiliency
The character being able to identify the untrustworthy people in their life
The character seeing where they were too trusting or naïve, and making changes for the future
Seeing the sabotage as confirmation that the character is on the right path
Renewed determination to accomplish what they originally intended
Out-of-the-box thinking forcing the character to come up with even better ideas or methods the second time around

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

This could come in handy with my Almira character.

Jan Sikes
Jan Sikes
1 year ago

Excellent!! Thanks for sharing!