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: Family Secrets Being Revealed
Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, ego, miscellaneous challenges
A parent’s extra-marital affair is uncovered
Discovering the existence of half siblings (say at the reading of a will or when someone shows up at the door claiming to be related)
Finding out a crime was covered up (someone was paid off, a family member was “sent away to school” to avoid consequences, etc.)…
Awkwardness now that another’s secret is out in the open
Family members taking sides…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Investigations, litigation, or other actions being taken against the family or one of its members
Having to course correct (pull the family out of debt, cover something up, make reparations for a family misdeed, pay blackmail)
Having one’s reputation destroyed due to a family member’s transgression…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with disillusionment; feeling like one’s life has been a lie
Love, anger, and disappointment facing off when a role model’s unsavory secret is revealed
Relief at having answers yet feeling anger at being kept in the dark…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family members, people who were victimized by someone in the family, the person(s) responsible for the transgression should word leak out, anyone whose reputation could be damaged due to their association with the one at the heart of the matter
Resulting Emotions: anger, appalled, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, confusion, connectedness, contempt, denial…
If the secret reveals a truth the character has always suspected, there can be relief in knowing
The discovery that a condition or struggle they have is shared by another may lead to feeling validated
Once a past wound comes out in full, there is the opportunity for everyone involved to begin to heal…
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.