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 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…
Responding awkwardly, compounding embarrassment
Having to see the person regularly (at work, school, church, in the neighborhood, etc.)
Feeling reluctance to ask others out…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.