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: Being Ignored or Blown Off
Category: Power struggles, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, ego
Emails or texts going unanswered
Being talked over at a family dinner
Talking to someone who doesn’t bother to respond…
The character’s time being wasted
An assignment falling through the cracks when the character forgets that the other person didn’t get back to them
Venting to someone about the offending party, and them hearing about it…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Flying off the handle and saying things that damage the relationship or make the character look bad
Accusing the other person of deliberate disrespect when it was really a misunderstanding
The character prematurely deciding to cut the person out of their life…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Heightened insecurity as the character wonders what they’ve done wrong
The character believing that they’re as unimportant or undervalued as the person has made them feel…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Anyone having to wait while the character chases down the absentee party (e.g., partners on a work project), people who are also inconvenienced (such as a parent who has to pick up a teenager early when her friends don’t show up)
Resulting Emotions: Anger, annoyance, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, confusion, denial…
The character learning to be more assertive and stand up for him or herself
Being able to read superficial or insincere people more accurately
Confronting the individual and finding out that it was a misunderstanding, thereby learning the importance of communicating before jumping to conclusions…
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.