Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Pulling the Plug on Someone

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: Pulling The Plug on Someone

Category: Increased pressure
and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, no-win situations

Making a medical choice for a loved one on life support
Choosing to not take measures to prolong someone’s life because it’s the right thing to do (the person wants to die, it would be cruel to let them live perhaps due to lifelong pain or some other circumstance, etc.)
Abandoning someone to their fate because it is the only choice
Putting a cherished pet down
Not intervening as someone is dying
Making a decision that will result in another person’s death
Choosing between two people when they can only save one
Assisted suicide

Minor Complications:
Angry relatives who believe it is the wrong decision
Having to set aside all other responsibilities and commitments
Having to explain the decision repeatedly to justify it to others involved
Rushing to take care of any red tape
Fast tracking any last wishes of the individual and their family (setting up an appointment with a lawyer, bringing loved ones in to visit, making funeral arrangements according to the wishes of the one dying)
Carrying the burden of guilt

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Threats and violence from those who opposed the decision
Discovering after the fact that there was another option
Causing a giant rift in the family
Being sued
Discovering they were used as a pawn by others who wanted this death to come about
The supporters, allies, or family tied to the victim coming for revenge
Nightmares, anxiety, and depression and other PTSD

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Overwhelming guilt even though it was the right decision
Second guessing one’s decision and actions in the aftermath
Worries about being judged spiritually for their actions
Feeling stupid and worthless for being duped (if this was the case)
Struggling with regret and remorse
Feeling shocked, betrayed, and angry at the reactions of others and their lack of empathy for being put in a no-win situation
Anger at the one who passed followed by shame for being angry

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The person who’s life was taken (if it was not their choice), family members and loved ones, people the victim left behind, a community (or cause, a group, etc.) that relied on the one who died

Resulting Emotions: anguish, anxiety, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, confusion, connectedness, defiant, depressed, despair, desperation, disillusionment, dread, grief, guilt, hurt, overwhelmed, powerlessness, reluctance, remorse, resignation, sadness, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, shock, somberness, tormented, unappreciated, vulnerability, worry, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, confrontational, cowardly, cynical, defensive, disrespectful, insecure, martyr, melodramatic, morbid, needy, paranoid, self-destructive, violent, vwithdrawn

Positive Outcomes: 
Relief at seeing someone’s suffering end
Realizing they are strong enough to make exceptionally hard decisions
A greater appreciation for life and the importance of living it in full
Having a closer relationship with people who were supportive throughout the process

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


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.
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