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: 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.