Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Turned Down by a Potential Love Interest

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: Being Turned Down by a Potential Love Interest

Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, loss of control, ego

Asking out a stranger or acquaintance and being turned down
Being “friend-zoned” when the character tries to take a friendship to the next level
Asking someone out for a second date and being rejected
Planning to ask someone out, then learning that they aren’t romantically interested (via an intercepted text or email message, overhearing a conversation, etc.)

Minor Complications:
Responding awkwardly, compounding embarrassment
Having to see the person regularly (at work, school, church, in the neighborhood, etc.)
Feeling reluctance to ask others out
Being embarrassed publicly (if the rejection happened in a public place or online)

Potentially Disastrous Results:
The character’s entire future falling apart before his or her eyes (because they’re in love with the other party)
Rebounding by jumping into an unhealthy relationship with anyone who is willing or available
The rejection triggering an addiction (if the character is a recovering addict) and contributing to a relapse
Doing something stupid in the aftermath as a way of compensating (picking a fight with someone, having a one-night stand, etc.)
Swearing off romantic relationships forever (if this was the latest in a series of rejections) and being alone
Not taking no for an answer (continuing to pursue the other party, stalking them, intimidating them, etc.)
Determining to win the love interest over (through accomplishment, lavishing gifts, being friends until they come around, etc.)

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt
Developing a fear of rejection
The character comparing him or herself to others and finding themselves lacking
Negative self-talk that contributes to low esteem (You’re so stupid, She was way out of your league, No one wants to be with you, etc.)

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the love interest, people the character interacts with negatively in the aftermath (other romantic parties, family, friends, etc.)

Resulting Emotions: Anger, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, depressed, desperation, determination, devastation, disappointment, discouraged, doubt, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, flustered, hurt, inadequate, indignation, insecurity, longing, reluctance, resentment, sadness, self-pity, stunned, uncertainty, unease, vulnerability

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, controlling, hostile, insecure, macho, martyr, possessive, self-destructive, volatile

Positive Outcomes: 
Knowing the other person isn’t interested (enabling the character to move on)
Recognizing mistakes in technique, and improving the process for next time (getting to know the person better first, changing the approach, etc.)
Recognizing that the other person wasn’t a fit, and being ok with that
Determining to be careful when rejecting others to avoid hurting them unnecessarily
Appreciating “singleness” and the benefits it brings

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


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Dominique Kenens
Dominique Kenens
10 months ago

I remembered one you forgot in “Potentially Disastrous Results”, that has the added benefit of encompassing true Character Growth: the “growing out of it”, resulting in a new (healthier?) relationship, helping to appreciate lessons learned etc…

Jan Sikes
Jan Sikes
10 months ago

Oh Lord! I’ve lived this scenario. You nailed it with all the possibilities!