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: A Car Accident
Category: Increased Pressure and Ticking Clocks, Failures and Mistakes, Losing an Advantage, Loss of Control, No-Win Situations
Examples: A minor fender bender
A major accident with another vehicle that results in physical harm
Hitting an animal or pedestrian…
Being made late due to having to wait for a police officer or tow truck
Boredom while waiting on paperwork to be finished
Having to deal with rambunctious children during the wait…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Sustaining life-threatening injuries, such as internal bleeding, a collapsed lung, or damage to vital organs
Injuries that result in chronic pain or disability (paralysis, traumatic head injury, back pain, etc.)
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Being tempted to evade responsibility (by leaving the scene, lying to shift the blame to the other driver, etc.)
The character second-guessing themselves and wondering what they could have done to avoid the accident
Struggling with wanting to get revenge (if a loved one was killed due to someone else’s irresponsibility)…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Those involved in the accident, their loved ones, first responders (police officers and EMTs), anyone else inconvenienced by the accident (employees who have to cover a shift when their co-worker doesn’t show up, a sports team having to compete without their best player, a date being stood up at a restaurant, etc.)
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apprehension, bitterness, concern, defensiveness…
Gratitude that things didn’t turn out as badly as they could have
Being reminded of what’s important in life
Becoming a more cautious and patient driver (if the character was to blame for a minor accident)…
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
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.