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: Facing a Challenge Beyond One’s Skill or Knowledge
Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Duty and Responsibilities, Loss of Control, No-Win Situations, Miscellaneous Challenges
Lead people to safety
Deliver a baby in an emergency
Survive a natural disaster…
Having to put other plans or needs on hold
Shakiness from an adrenaline rush
Discomfort with the task at hand (possibly dealing with blood and exposed bone, having to break the law out of necessity, feeling vulnerable and exposed, etc.)…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Making a mistake that hurts or kills someone (causing spinal damage while pulling a person from a burning car in an accident, not taking enough care when delivering a baby, or dressing a wound incorrectly and an infection occurs, etc.)
Failing to see a risk until it’s too late
Causing painful fallout to oneself or others
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
A moral tug-of-war over right and wrong in this situation (putting one’s needs about others to survive, abandoning one person to save the group, having to break the law for the right reasons, etc.)
Combating instinctual fight vs. flight as pressure mounts and one feels incapable in the situation
Difficulty reconciling with hindsight and what one could have done, said, or should have seen coming…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family, friends, innocent bystanders, the group of people one is with, anyone whose fate is in one’s hands
Resulting Emotions: anguish, anxiety, apprehension, conflicted, confusion, defensiveness, despair…
Learning that one is more capable than previously believed, feeling good at stepping up or helping out when it was needed most
Realizing one can lead others
Seeing mistakes as an opportunity to learn and as proof of a willingness to stick one’s neck out when required…
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.
“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.