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 the story, make a character’s goals harder to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome difficulties.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Conflict: Having Feelings for Someone One Shouldn’t
Category: Power Struggles, Failures and Mistakes, Relationship Friction, Duty and Responsibilities, Moral Dilemmas and Temptation
Desiring a family member’s spouse
Wanting a relationship with a friend’s significant other
A professor having feelings for a student (or vice-versa)…
Embarrassment if their feelings are made known and not returned
Friction in their other relationships (caused by guilt, shame, and secrets)
Disrupting their routine so they can spend more time around the other person…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
A spouse’s heartache at discovering these hidden feelings
A marriage breakdown if a line is crossed and an affair is discovered or admitted to
Losing one’s job if the feelings are uncovered and deemed inappropriate…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling guilt or shame for what they feel, even while allowing themselves to fantasize about fulfilling their desires
Struggling with questions about monogamy and whether it’s natural or not
Agonizing over the idea that they may be a deviant for what they feel…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family, friends, or people in a work, school, or social environment where they have contact with the person they desire
Resulting Emotions: admiration, adoration, anguish, anticipation, anxiety, apprehension, conflicted…
Realizing unhappiness is causing their wandering eye and so making the choice to work on themselves or an existing relationship to regain happiness
Discovering what they really want (either to stay in an existing relationship or to move on)
Regaining appreciation and respect for a loved one who is faithful (helping the character to realize they must also be faithful and let go of their emotional attachment to another)…
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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“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